“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
We are born with an innate curiosity to discover the world around us. Curiosity is the way in which we initially learn, as babies it is through curiosity that make initial contact with the world. New borns orient to faces and sounds in their environment. It is through this curiosity that a child has the desire to investigate, explore and discover new things.
We develop and embrace curiosity through observing and studying our environment. Curiosity opens our children’s eyes and minds to what is happening around them. Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) consists of many techniques when it comes to transferring and encouraging the development of new skills. It ranges from structured teaching to natural teaching by creating opportunities to learn in their environment. This is called Natural Environment Training (NET). NET makes use of naturally occurring opportunities within the child’s environment to encourage learning skills in a natural and experiential way. It encourages learning by having the child experience first-hand opportunities and guiding them through new experiences. This also encourages ample opportunities for curiosity and developing an interest in many different areas of importance.
As ABA instructors we constantly draw on our children’s environments to encourage experiential learning opportunities. Learning through experience not only encourages curiosity but also encourages other cognitive processes. Once we have experienced a new activity we reflect on this experience. This reflection helps us to conceptualize what we have learnt and internalize the new information/experience. (Kolbs model). Every day we as instructors also experience new environments with our children in the classrooms, play groups and outing groups. In order to ensure that we encourage a lifelong learning passion within our children we need to strive to make learning as practical and accessible as possible for our children.
There are multiple ways in which one can stir up curiosity in a child. Firstly, lead by example, if your child sees that you are interested in the world around you they are more likely to share these interests and become curious about what’s going on around them. Let your child develop their own interests and hobbies. Parents should expose their children to different activities for the child to get a feel of what they like and want to pursue. A great example to look at is our Case Manager Monique Erasmus who is constantly planning fun learning opportunities for her son. She plans activities such as baking, painting, obstacle courses and experiments. Encourage your child to ask you questions and in turn ask them questions to stimulate their minds. For example, questions like “Why is this your favourite place to play?”, “How does it make you feel?” Ensure that your child understands the answers you give them. Create a space where the child feels comfortable to ask any question. When a child shows interest in new things praise them for doing so. Provide an enriched environment for your child to experiment and investigate his/her surroundings.
Curiosity is a driving force for learning. It is important that we develop curiosity in our children not only to expose them to a vast spectrum of knowledge and experiences but also to develop their minds, build their confidence and a sense of self. Curiosity and experience go hand in hand. We cannot hope to encourage and develop new creative thinkers if we do not encourage internalisation of experiences and development of a sense of self. We as parents, instructors and even teachers need to take our role as “lead explorers” very seriously if we truly want to encourage lifelong learning and out of the box thinking. Being a kid is not just for those who wish to grow up, but also for those who are serious about learning.