Nurturing Curiosity

透過孩子好奇的眼光來體驗生活或許是當父母最大的樂趣之一,但萬一在面臨小朋友排山倒海的問題時不知如何回答該怎麼辦?本文作者Elana A. Halberstadt積極地尋找方法來鼓勵、激發她兒子的好奇心。


Experiencing life through a child's curious eyes may be one of the great joys of parenting. But what's a mom to do when she doesn't have answers to her child's steady stream of questions? Elana A. Halberstadt looks for ways to encourage her son's natural curiosity.

What? Where? How?

One recent evening, my 3-year-old son Max ran around the house, clutching a toy train while pretending to BE a train on imaginary tracks. I was making dinner and doing dishes.

Max zoomed by loudly, "Whoo, whoo! Choo, choo!"

"STOP THE TRAIN!" announced Max, screeching to a halt. He grabbed a book about trains from the table and flipped through the pages. Seconds later he asked, "What's this, Mommy?"

I stopped cooking to look at an illustration of a cactus in a desert scene with a train on the tracks. "That's a cactus. It's a plant that usually grows in warm, dry places, like the desert."

Max blurted, "Where's the desert? Can we go there? Can we go tomorrow?"

"Whoa, Max. Great questions! We'll look at a map to see where a desert is. And yes, maybe someday we'll go see one. But I'm sorry, not tomorrow."

It's ideal when I can respond with real-life examples to answer Max's many questions, but that isn't always possible. So, while a desert trip wasn't in our immediate plans, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to respond quickly. I left my kitchen work and we looked at a map. I showed Max where the desert was. Taking some quiet time to answer his question fulfilled his curiosity AND calmed him for dinner.

A few days later, we visited a greenhouse. When Max saw cacti and other warm-weather plants up close, especially miniature ones in small pots, he exclaimed, "Just like in the book!"

In a flash, Max reached out to grab a cactus. Luckily I was fast enough, catching his hands before he got hurt. I showed him the prickles, and then guided him to touch them gently, so he didn’t get poked (or squash the plant). Max enjoyed the new sensation (it tickled) and we talked about different plants and how they grow. To support your child's curiosity about nature, see Sesame Street's Nature collection to find videos, games, and more.

Expanding Max's Interests

Max has a passion for trains. The great thing is that while playing with his trains, he is seamlessly learning about all kinds of things: motion, cause and effect, gravity, energy, speed, colors, different places and environments, and much more. When Max expresses an interest in something -- like trains -- I try to find ways to expand on his interest. For example, we borrow train books from the library and check out train video clips, such as Sesame Street's T: Train and Ballad of Casey MacPhee. From old steam engines to the fastest modern trains in the world -- moving images satisfy Max's cravings for trains in action. We also print out coloring sheets and pictures. We make trains with clay and build bridges, tunnels, towns, and farms with blocks. Visiting a train station is a fun (and free) field trip.

Once when we took a commuter train into the city, we walked the train's length on the platform. At the front, the engineer was busy checking the controls. Upon seeing Max's excitement, he rang the bell and blew the horn. Max noted, "Engineer Jim is wearing a hat just like in the books and videos!"

Then the engineer asked if we wanted to step inside. Max jumped for joy. With Max on my lap, we sat in the driver's seat and Max peppered Engineer Jim with questions: "How does the train go? Where is the bell? Can I do that?"

The engineer let Max push the button that rings the bell. Max spent the train ride home reliving his experience: "I'm an engineer! I rang the bell!" Later, when he played with his toy trains, he had a new sense of purpose, copying everything he had seen earlier: "I'm checking the controls... The horn works; the bell works... ding ding ding!"

Questions to Go

Preparing Max for school can be hectic, so mornings are the one time of day that I can't always give full attention to his daily barrage of questions. I listen and say: "Max, you have excellent questions! We have to get ready to go, but we'll talk about your questions in the car." Once we're out the door, he has outside questions: "Mommy, why is the moon in the sky if it's morning?" "What's that sound?" "What's inside the tree?"

Since Max needs answers NOW, I figure it's OK to be brief in order to keep us moving. Otherwise, Max could stay on our front stoop and we'd never leave! See How to Handle Your Child's Questions and Nurture Your Child's Scientific Curiosity for helpful tips on answering all of your little one's questions.

Our car rides are a wonderful time for chats, and it works both ways. I also ask Max questions, and I'm better able to focus on him, knowing we're on the way to wherever it is we need to be.

When I don't know an answer, I'll say, "Good question! I don't know the answer, but I'll find out and let you know soon." Or I turn it back to him, "Max, what do you think?" Or, "That's a great question for Daddy." Or, "Let's find out together."

Every Little Thing

Lately, Max is trying to show me what he knows. We were reading a book at bedtime, when he pointed to the pictures and asked, "What's this?" When I answered, he got angry, and said, "No, Mommy! You say, 'what’s this?'" I realized he wanted me to ask HIM, "What is this?" So that he could give me the answer. We tried again.

"What's this?" And he pointed in the book.

I pointed and replied, "What's this, Max?"

Max answered proudly, "It's the train going over the mountain to bring food and toys to little boys and girls."

Max has always enjoyed reading time, but now he wants to know what every single word is. He wants me to read the front and back jackets. He even points to the tiny print with the publishing information and ISBN numbers and wants to know what these are! "What's this word? What are those numbers? Read it again! Read it backwards. Please!"

So, I do this when I can, say for ONE of the books at bedtime, but if I read every bit of print for all the books he'd like to read then, well, sleep would never come, and I'd lose my voice!

Keeping a Beginner's Mind

There's never a dull moment with a 3 year old. The way Max sees and experiences the world gives me a new perspective on everything I see and experience, too. Max reminds me that it's never too early or too late to learn. Life with Max is filled with learning for both of us. I hope that Max's curiosity is something he never outgrows!


Elana A. Halberstadt
Sesame Workshop


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