When I was a kid, I thought a lot about what made me different from the other kids. I don’t think I was smarter than them and I certainly wasn’t more talented. And I definitely can’t claim I was a harder worker — I’ve never worked particularly hard, I’ve always just tried doing things I find fun. Instead, what I concluded was that I was more curious — but not because I had been born that way. If you watch little kids, they are intensely curious, always exploring and trying to figure out how things work. The problem is that school drives all that curiosity out. Instead of letting you explore things for yourself, it tells you that you have to read these particular books and answer these particular questions. And if you try to do something else instead, you’ll get in trouble. Very few people’s curiosity can survive that. But, due to some accident, mine did. I kept being curious and just followed my curiosity.
Nurturing Opportunities For Curious Minds
Today’s Solar Eclipse, the moon passing between the sun and the earth, was an opportunity for children to discover something rare by experience. I hardly gave it thought until our spontaneous morning turned science on us, leading to many curious questions from Mr Four along with some random experiments.
Grabbing my camera I attempted a few quick photos without any prior planning, preparation or knowledge of how to do it. Meanwhile Mr Four excitedly picked up two balls he found outside trying to work out what was happening from the little I had explained to him on the go.
Unfortunately without viewing glasses we just observed the photos straight on the camera itself. I explained it’s hard to capture because we don’t have a special filter to view safely through. Inspired, we scrambled around finding many materials like coloured cellophane, foil and paper to use as experimental lens filters. In the limited time we had, Mr Four enjoyed finding the materials to try out and creating various effects, before it was all over.
Sometimes lack of knowledge or preparation can make for more creative explorations because we were testing and working it out together. We discovered the thick clouds formed our best filter to see the eclipse clearly.
Following some endless questions - “Is the sun bigger than the moon”? “How fast does it go”? “Why does everything look funny outside”? “Is it dangerous”? “Where does the moon go”?…. We took the opportunity to do some research online together to find some fun answers that I could benefit from too.
These, in hindsight are often the most exciting opportunities to feed kids curiousity. Sharing the discovery together, not having all the answers and creatively experimenting on the go. It’s always the hands-on real-time experiences that get the imagination and questions flowing while building strong memories with little effort.
Never Stop Questioning
- Mr Six: Does hair have 'feel buds'? If I squeeze your hair can you feel it?
- Exploring with questions. >> Do you have an imaginative question from a child you would like to contribute? Please use the submit button above.
Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the Great Mystery into which we were born.
Curious About Disassembly
Nothing gets discarded in our house before the six year old has it disassembled, sometimes reassembled or maybe even recreated into something curiously strange.
Just Because Something Isn’t Possible Now, Doesn’t Mean It’s Impossible
Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi who helped popularise Zen Buddhism was quoted “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Children dream up the wildest ideas. I try to refrain from telling my kids that it can’t work or it won’t happen, or it doesn’t exist. Their imaginary world full of creative thinking and crazy ideas is a place much desired by many.
Imagination - A World Where Anything Is Possible
A pair of painted-on ‘super-action-shoes’ are the latest rage in our house. “They are a lot faster because they are not heavy and I have better grip with my toes.” My six-year-old is so convinced they are superior to shoes and bare feet that his younger brother requested a pair too. Those super-action-shoes helped them climb trees higher too and of course they are much more fun to put on than regular shoes.
While driving one day an excited voice announced “My windmill is making you go faster.” Positioning a toy windmill out the car window it generates visible motion, to him, comparable to generating energy to speed up the car? Like a propellor my three-year-old is convinced when it spins the car goes faster, not when the car drives faster the windmill spins faster as more air is pushed through it.
If he doesn’t have his windmill with him he uses his out-stretched arm like a gliding wing, helping us to fly along. Their facial expressions are almost as convincing and just priceless with that look of sheer excitement and fresh discovery all rolled into one.
Sometimes ideas flow from possible explanations, answers or suggestions to a question such as those contrails from a jet’s exhaust in summer - “Maybe that’s the edge of the sky?” Thoughts and ideas generated in this way provide a great launching pad into imagining the many things it could be. You can always follow up with some research to actually find out more, or maybe not! Does everything have, or really need, an answer? It’s the curiousity that keeps the imagination firing.
My hungry three-year-old asked me how they got the food in the recipe book while he sat staring at a glossy realistic photo of something delicious he was drooling for. I asked him if he knew how, he took a sniff of the photo “they smell so yummy, they must have squashed the food flat in some very heavy books.” Just like the food-press of flower-presses and with such a powerfully convincing imagination he could even smell the food in the photo.
Age and Experience: Growing A Judgemental Mindset
The way children think - their creative ideas, that free thinking - comes with an open mind, a fresh imagination, a new life with limited experiences, not having the specific knowledge or ability to combine factual answers to make sense of things. Kids are not hindered by the constraints of reality, recognising or understanding something is not possible. To them, everything is potentially possible. Children have no inhibitions, they are more open to criticism, sharing their ideas and taking on board new ideas.
Having preconceived judgements can restrict the flow of ideas. As young children grow older they tend to become more self conscious of their creativity, feeling judged and instead prefer to conform to just fit in and be accepted. Too often success becomes focused on knowing what is wanted, not what is interesting. Just because something isn’t possible now, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
As renowned entrepreneur, designer and visionary David Kelley from IDEO says; “everything you need to know you learn it in kindergarten because that’s when you had innate confidence in your own creative power”.
A child’s mind is an innovative mind- children don’t know what they don’t know, vs the limitations of age and experience.
Children’s ability to use their imagination, to think and generate creative ideas so efficiently, is an inherent skill they embody with such innocent passion. It’s often a long-lost skill much desired upon by any adult.
You don’t always need age, expertise or knowledge to be the most creative person in the room.
The new wave of educational technology will leverage our greatest natural resource: the curiosity inherent in every child.