Thank you for all your feedback from these ‘joys’. Looking forward to more. Here is Part 4:
PRESERVING THE JOY OF INTEREST & CURIOSITY
The Child’s Perspective
I remember sitting once, off to the side in a busy shopping mall, looking at passing people–watching to see who was watching. The adults were preoccupied with their jobs, their problems, themselves. Their eyes never met mine. Their eyes saw only what was necessary to navigate through the crowded corridor.
But the children saw everything. Each child looked straight at me for at least a moment, & for a moment at everything. Their eyes & ears were receptors, taking in all the data, seeing, hearing, questioning.
It is no wonder that we learn as much in our first five years as in the rest of our lives. We see more, feel more. We are born with a natural & joyful curiosity & interest. What happens to it? Where did those adults drop it? When would those children lose theirs?
One study showed that babies spend one-fifth of the waking hours in motionless, focused gazing, simply figuring things out with their eyes. Their minds are so malleable, so impressionable! Parents can perhaps change their children’s minds more, for better or for worse, than they can change either their bodies or their spirits.
Learn from children’s example. Participate with & encourage them. My wife & I observed our three-year-old through the back window playing alone among the flowers on a warm, early-spring day. Her delight & intense interest showed so clearly that we felt it, & I whispered, “How can we keep that in her forever?” My wife replied, “By watching her watching, & watching what she watches.”
Since then, we have come to know that that’s the secret. Children are the teachers, the experts; we are the learners, the students. Instead of pulling them away from their activity (jumping in leaves) & into yours (cleaning house), how about occasionally leaving yours to join in theirs? (Don’t worry, the leaves will brush out of your hair.)
Answer & ask. While you are in those leaves, your teacher (your child) may ask, “Did a caterpillar make this hole in this leaf?” You might consider these responses: Thanking him for teaching you to have an interest in that hole; answering him by saying, “Yes, a caterpillar probably did”; & opening a chance for more teaching by asking, “And where do you suppose that caterpillar is right now?”
How precious a question is! An alert mind that asks is the first step to answers, discoveries, solutions. Never ignore or criticise a question.
With a questioning child, one or two similar mistakes usually occurs: (1) Ignoring, brushing off, not noticing the beauty & potential of that moment, & (2) answering instead of reasoning together, helping, or asking questions of the child that will help him answer his own. When we take the time to discuss a question, we help the child to understand the wonderful concepts of reasoning, conceptualising, researching.
Stimulation. As soon as babies can see, they need visual stimulation: Mobiles, bright colours, moving objects to observe. Parents should show them things, talk to them, give their new eyes & ears & bodies chances to see & hear & feel widely different things.
The question game. At dinner or some other convenient time, explain that being able to ask good questions is sometimes more important than giving right answers. Tell the children that you will give them a category & see how good a question they can think of to ask. Then name a category (anything from “clouds” or “cars” to “daddy’s office”). As you play this game several times, you may want to explain to the children that there are “what,” “when,” “where,” “who” & “how” questions.
The Family Interest Book
Children who are made to feel proud of their interest & curiosity quickly want to share what they have noticed. If they have a way to share the discoveries or fruits of their curiosity & interest, that becomes an additional motivation to continue to be curious & interested.
In our family, we have an “interest book,” not for finances or money, but for interest. It is nothing more than a simple, hardbound book of blank paper in which any family member can make a note of something interesting that he has observed or discovered. Preschoolers, of course, dictate their observations for a grown-up to write. Reading back through the interest book is a continual joy.
“A blue & black bird is building a nest in the tree by the corner of the house.” (Saren, age four.)
“Barney (our dog) can get over to his friend’s house because there is a hole in the fence where it goes behind the shed.” (Shawni, age three.)
Our interest book hangs on a hook in the family room. We are aware of it, so we like to share in it. Every month or so we read all the entries that have been made. Like certain other types of interest books, ours grows in value with the passage of time.