Curiosity is a curious thing.
It’s innate in small children as their brains learn to process and understand the world around them.
As a parent, this nascent curiosity can be as contagious as it can be frustrating. “Why is it snowing?” can just as well inspire an engrossing conversation about how the water cycle works (say, on a leisurely walk home from the school bus stop) as it can lead to a guttural groan of sheer frustration (say, as I’m trying to make a left turn in the middle of a snowstorm at rush hour).
As a parent and a teacher, (and parents are their children’s first teachers) one of the traits I most strive to cultivate in my children is curiosity. I see curiosity as a quality that both inspires intrinsic motivation to learn (and therefore, to succeed in academic endeavours) and increases emotional intelligence (and therefore, strong social connections). Turns out, I’m right! An April 2018 Pediatric Research study found that regardless of sex or socioeconomic status, children who were rated as highly curious by their caregivers showed better academic achievement. Emotional intelligence and empathy go hand in hand, and empathy expands when we are curious and inquisitive about people different from ourselves.
Getting My Curiosity Back
When #adulting hits, we suddenly have a lot less mental energy for curiosity, and asking “why” often takes a back seat to figuring out the who and the when and the how much is this going to cost?
While I have most definitely lost brain cells since having children (particularly whichever cells are responsible for not leaving my keys in the door), I have also regained a lot of the curiosity and wonder about the world as I view it through their eyes.
As fantabulous (and dumpster firey) as the internet is, I still like to dive into books with my kids to satiate our curiosity rather than go online. I am as easily distracted by sidebar ads or emojis in text messages as they are, so books are best!
Here are some new titles in our library helping the kids and grown-ups in our house get curious:
Children are suckers for choosing an immediate reward over delaying gratification. (So are grown ups.)
Desperate to watch just one more YouTube clip, my 7-year-old asserted that he would have no more screen time for the rest of the week if he could just watch one more show. I confirmed that it was Monday, and that he understood how many more days remained in the week. I made a video of his promise in case I needed evidence. And then he watched his 15-minute show, and I wondered how the rest of the week would go. (During a normal week, he gets an hour of screen time per day, usually split before and after school, and some extra time as an incentive for good behaviour.)
Well, the rest of the week was (surprisingly) awesome. One of the things Cub did instead of watch YouTube was pore over our Cross-Sections titles. He loves “search and find” type books à la Where’s Waldo, and each of our four Cross-Sections titles features a sneaky character hidden within the twenty or so elaborate diagrams. The kids’ favourite such character is the man on the toilet (of course).
Because each page features so much detail, every examination leads to a new discovery. Whether it’s military history, engineering, architecture, geography or anatomy that’s on your mind, there’s a page in one of Stephen Biesty’s Cross-Section books for you!
Our other Cross-Section titles:
Our living room is currently a disaster of toys, crumbs, spills and stains. But one day, when the kids are older and we finally move to a home with a bit more space, we’ll move our much abused couch down to the basement and replace it with something cleaner, and we’ll finally have a coffee table. (At this point, a coffee table is just a health and safety hazard.)
And on that coffee table shall sit books like Smithsonian Zoology. It has occurred to me that coffee-table books may have lost popularity now that we carry the entire world in our pockets, but when I finally have a coffee table, IT SHALL HAVE BOOKS!
A good coffee-table book has beautiful and engrossing images and can be read by simply flipping to any random page and getting lost for a few minutes or hours. A good coffee-table book can hold the interest of anyone who might pick it up.
Smithsonian Zoology is as close as you can get to the wide-eyed awe of observing a creature in its natural habitat from the comfort of your (clean or crumb-filled) couch.
Do you love the podcast Stuff You Should Know? I do! It’s definitely one I enjoy listening to with my kids.
If the word “Explanatorium” in the title wasn’t enough to tip you off, I can assure you that most of your kids’ most pressing (often ill-timed) science questions are answered here! In the dry-air of Calgary, we often get electric shocks or crazy, fly-away hair. WHY? Well, just check out “How Static Electricity Works” on page 156! With our twins born with blond hair and blue-green eyes, we’ve been talking a lot about genetics in our house. “How Inheritance Works” is a fun page for us.
Wolves are my son’s favourite animal (obviously), and he has a gripe about how wolves are treated in myths, legends, and fairy tales. They’re always the bad guys!
Me being me, I have two responses to this concern. One is to talk about why humans cast the wolf in the “bad guy” role, and the other is to ask him what kind of story he could tell where the wolf would be the hero. (Before I decided to teach French as a second language, can you tell I wanted to be an English teacher?)
Thanks to Myths & Legends, I found a myth for him where the wolf is the hero. In the Slavic myth of the firebird, a stable boy is helped (rather than having his house blown down or his sheep eaten) by a magical wolf.
And let’s not forget the she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus … names I jokingly proposed for our own little wolf cubs!
What curiosity-inspiring book would you most love to receive this holiday season?
To win a fabulous DK Canada title for yourself:
- Visit DK Canada’s Wonders of Gift Giving Page
- Tag @DKCANADA and use the #DKGIFTGIVING hashtag to tweet which title you’d most love to receive
That’s it! Between Dec. 1-12, DK Canada will select one tweet each day to win their selected title!