Cultivating Curiosity in Montessori
Curiosity is the ability to seek and acquire new knowledge, skills and ways of understanding the world. It is at the heart of what motivates children to learn and keeps them learning throughout their lives.
A core goal of Montessori education is building a lifelong love of learning in our children. In a Montessori environment, children are given the trust and respect to:
* Make their own choices and judgments.
* Explore their interests at the pace they’re comfortable with.
* Think differently, to nurture and allow discovery of their abilities.
Children absorb knowledge from their surroundings. They seek ways to manipulate their environments. Because of the concept of vertical grouping, children learn to master projects by watching older children and then they, in turn, are happy to teach younger ones what they’ve learned. So, the children learn by thinking conceptually and then by doing.
The Power of a Curious Child
Daily, children process new information all around them. The sights, sounds and motions of daily life whiz past them—in a car, in a classroom, via mass media and in the air. As children are capturing this information and creating an internal ‘need to know,’ their brains connect bits and pieces toward building knowledge, discovery and understanding. Being inquisitive and asking questions create a natural knowledge flow towards achieving an ‘aha moment’ when a knowing smile on a child’s face replaces a furrowed brow.
In a Montessori classroom, children learn by asking questions. Once they learn the answers to those questions, they apply that knowledge with a sense of purpose. As a result, the children understand situations and people more thoroughly.
How Parents can Spark and Build Curiosity in their Children
When they are very young, children take in everything around them—collecting endless data from their surroundings. They begin to store, categorise, quantify and sort the data to process the world with countless repetitions of questions - who, what, when, where and why? One of our jobs as parents is to build a world of joy and wonder where our children’s curiosity is let loose and encouraged. In this world, children think and determine reasons why things are the way they are; they reflect on those discoveries and ask deeper questions once their initial questions are answered.
Create an Experiential Learning Environment
Children, from birth to age six, are in a stage where they want to experience things for themselves. At this stage, they want to dress themselves up, brush their teeth, etc.
As parents, our work is not to teach them, but to guide them to do it. This experiential learning helps children learn more about the world around them. When your child wants to figure something out, guide them in learning how they can do it by themselves. Create a structure to reach their learning goals and allow them the freedom to act as individuals.
Children learn initially by observing the world and the people in it. Every action and reaction you make create an impact on your child’s development. So, when something new or interesting comes up, be curious and investigate it further with them. If you don’t know the answer to something, let your child help you figure it out. Show your curiosity and let your child be involved in the process.
Don’t be Afraid or Tired of the Children’s Questions
It is crucial to children’s healthy development that they feel safe and free to ask any kind of question, and feel confident in their ability to get answers. Answer as many questions as your child may have, and ask your child open-ended questions to stimulate his/her reasoning skills.
A Different Way Every Day
Find ways to keep your child’s curiosity active every day at least once. Whether it is an experiment from online sources, or a book about strange new topics, make an effort to discover what interests your child. Additionally, find materials that go into more depth about what your child is curious about. Pay attention to what your child is receptive to, and follow his/her lead.
Children are dedicated, persistent and relentless inquisitors. They ask questions about everything: the sky, their breakfast, Mr Taiwo’s car, the leaves on the trees, the names of the different trees, that man walking in a funny way… nothing is spared when it comes to the curiosity of children! Asking questions is the primary method children use to learn. So when adults meet their questions with statements like, ‘what a great question!,’ we are sending multiple, powerful, positive messages to the children and teaching them:
* that they are allowed to actively participate in, and even take control of, their learning;
* that their curiosity, their drive to know more and more about the world, is a positive and wonderful thing; and
*that their voice matters and is being heard.
The above benefits build the children’s confidence in a big way. Remember that when you say ‘what a great question!’, you are actually withholding an answer. The easiest thing to do would be to just give the child an answer or to change the subject or even be silent. But when you do this, it puts a stop to his learning. Instead of silencing the child, let it be the beginning of your conversations with the child. Give the child prompts to further engage him in his experiential learning.
The ultimate goal must be to foster a genuine, exciting, lifelong desire and ability to learn.