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Developing curiosity: The six lead questions that promote Language and Learning

By Maureen Penko

In looking ahead to September 2021 and preparing our child to enter school either in person on through a virtual platform, one of the ways to promote speech, language and learning development is to nurture our children's curiosity. The what? where? who? when? why and how? questions encourage a child to explore and further develop what they are innately born with and that is CURIOSITY. The task of learning through experience and exposure has changed with the restrictions of COVID 19 in particular the opportunities of learning by watching other children and interacting with them. However, it has allowed us parents to be much more involved in the whole learning process and to explore with your child using technology as a tool. The dynamic opportunity of hands on experience, partnered with watching how to do something on YouTube has expanded what a child can see, hear, do and experience. This dynamic learning has opened the doors to sustained curiosity from early years to adulthood.

Children's brains are designed to learn and when conditions allow children to satisfy curiosity through safe self-initiated playful exploration, learning occurs naturally. From the time a child is born, parents set the stage for creating an environment with intrigues. Creating the intrigue takes trial and error through play. So, watch your child, and learn what they like to do and build on their curiosity. Children are natural explorers from birth your child reacts to songs, cuddles, and smiles. You then, gradually open up the senses of touch, taste, vision and sounds through meaningful experiences. This is called dynamic learning.

Following children's curiosity in the indoor and outdoor environments allows you the parent to comment, point, show and most of all gives an opportunity to model and begin a series of question and answer games. You start off with "Look, I wonder What that is? Oh a rainbow!"

I hear a sound! Who made that sound? That is a woodpecker. Where did that sun go? Down to bed and here comes the moon. Why is the sky orange and pink? Maybe it is because.

How did the rain become snow? It must be getting colder.

As your child develops, you can guide their curiosity with other mediums such as photographs, stories and educational shows/videos. You will develop their curiosity in a book and eventually this may form a love of a series by a particular author.

Have you noticed how many questions your child starts to ask from the age of two beginning with "what's that? and in time the why?" This particular question is connected to further learning and determining if there is a logical answer. This would be the time to model and promote.. Let's find out together. Why is the question that builds curiosity and develops problem-solving skills? It begins in play and grabs your child's attention and focus. The investigative statements such as "I wonder what will happen if we did this or that and why did that happen?" develops their discovery tools and language especially as they near entry into the school phase.

The child's ability to ask questions and have the parent answer is their method of gathering information and feeding their intellect. Your continual nurturing will have opened up their desire to embrace learning in so many areas: vocabulary, science, math and literature.

Most recently I listened to a pod cast on CBC Quirks and Quarks with host Bob McDonald. The significant messages from that show was "Humans are very unique in the sense that we are learning animals. We have a natural ability to both learn and teach, and that is called parenting" the other message was that despite the COVID crises, we can still develop our children's curiosity through online learning a little bit at a time. Projects can be done by learning about a topic through YouTube and combined with taking that visual learning into application provides the opportunity for asking more probing questions. As parents you are making it dynamic (touching, seeing, hearing, experimenting) and it is this process that builds language, imagination and curiosity while having loads of fun. Research shows us that learning through many avenues enables the brain to store the information and apply it when needed. So how do books fit it?

Books are a tool we use to, build vocabulary, model speech sound accuracy, develop ideas and thinking by using a variety of sentences. Books help us to nurture and develop the use of questions and exploring possible outcomes. All these strategies are necessary for building curiosity and most of all conversational skills.

Let me share with you some of my favourite books that I read to my children allowing us both to share the learning time and build imagination.

  • Where Oh Where is Kipper Bear? Mike Inkpen
  • Where does the sun go at night? Mirra Ginsberg
  • Bugs, Beetles and Butterflies Harriet Ziefert
    Curious George
    H.A Rey
  • You are the Earth David Suzuki

"Helping children learn to satisfy curiosity through exploration requires adult participation and is one of the best skills you'll ever nurture". Parent Exchange

This type of nurturing provides your child with the tools they need to enter school. Why don't you start creating "curiosity collections" with your child to show and share? Think about how when you sing a beautiful simple tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, how I wonder what you are? will set the stage for lifelong inquiry.

Maureen Penko is a Speech Language Pathologist. In addition to her experience in working in the school and medical systems, she is in private practice seeing pre-school and school-aged children. For more information call Penko & Assciates at 204-510-7556 or contact them by e-mail.

Feature Articles:

Focus on Education 2021

Developing curiosity: The six lead questions that promote Language and Learning

Family Literacy Day 2021

Remaining Connected When Disconnected During a Pandemic

Be a Better Parent in 2021

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