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Cultivating Curiosity: The Key to Raising Empathetic Kids

May 18, 2022

I deeply believe that our differences make this world a beautiful and colorful place. But, this is only true if we see other people through a lens of empathy. As parents, teachers, and/or grandparents, we know this, but how do we teach our kids to be empathetic and open-minded? Raising kind, empathetic children is a big undertaking! 

Judging is a natural instinct, after all, and the sad truth is that children begin judging others based on physical appearances and differences as young as 3 years old. I believe that curiosity enables empathy. 

The importance of being curious

Curiosity is defined simply as “a strong desire to know or learn something.” Psych Central sites several studies that show how life is simply better when you’re curious and noted four science-based reasons:

  1. Curiosity primes the brain for learning. 
  2. Curiosity nurtures healthy relationships. 
  3. Curiosity counteracts boredom. 
  4. Curiosity exercises open-mindedness. 

We all want our kids to learn efficiently, develop healthy relationships, discover purpose and happiness and embrace new viewpoints and opportunities, right? Being curious about others leads to better understanding of their lives, experiences and perspectives – even if they are different from our own. The more curious a child is, the more he/she learns and empathizes, which is why curiosity is so important. Let’s cultivate it! 

How to cultivate curiosity in kids

The good news is that while judgment comes naturally, babies are also born with unbridled curiosity. Just consider how newborns begin to follow sounds and faces with their eyes or how toddlers grab and touch everything they can reach or how older kids ask questions endlessly.  They want to figure out how the world works! As parents, it’s our job to foster, encourage and inspire this natural-born curiosity as they grow up. Here are 7 tips for cultivating curiosity: 

  1. Demonstrate curiosity. Let your kids see you pursuing interests of your own. Ask questions, wonder out loud, look things up, and investigate the world around you. Curious children usually have curious parents! 
  1. Answer their questions thoughtfully. Avoid dismissing their questions (even if it’s the hundredth question) and provide satisfying answers that further peak their curiosity. Like, “why do you think _?” Asking questions is one way kids demonstrate curiosity, and our responses can encourage them to investigate further or not. If we constantly provide unsatisfactory answers, they may stop asking questions altogether. 
  1. Ask open-ended questions. Ask open-ended questions to encourage your children to develop their own thoughts and ideas: “How do you feel about…..”, “What was (such and such experience) like for you? “Tell me about what happened in school today,” etc. 
  1. Encourage what captures their interests. Children can learn so much more through activities and topics that capture their attention. If she likes to color and draw, give her a new coloring book. Does he like music? Play instruments together.   
  1. Explore new places. Take field trips! Whether it’s a new park, museum or area of town or an entirely new city, take your child to new places that remove them from their comfort zone. Unfamiliar places not only nurture their curiosity, but also expose them to diverse people and places. 
  1. Learn through trial and error. As adults, we often recognize a solution before our kids do, but try to encourage their problem-solving skills rather than jumping in with the answer. By sharing our ideas, we eliminate a valuable and rewarding part of the learning process. The sense of accomplishment kids feel after figuring out a challenging problem on their own is worth the wait!
  1. Read with your child often. Children’s books are great tools for inspiring curiosity. Reading opens their minds to new possibilities, ideas and worlds, sparking their desire to explore and wonder. 

About Guion The Lion

Raising my firstborn son, Guion, who happens to have Down syndrome, opened my eyes to not only how quick we can be to judge others based on their differences, but also to the beauty that comes through curiosity, adventure and empathy. Guion inspired me to write the children’s book, Guion The Lion. 

Guion The Lion is about an imaginative little lion who sees things differently from his friends. 

Using colorful illustrations and charming animal characters, the story shows that new perspectives can open the door to unexpected fun. My vision is for this book to present a message of empathy, curiosity, and adventure before children begin making their own judgments and assumptions. Learn more about the book and join the adventure!

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For media inquiry, please contact Kelley DeVincentes of Southard Communications: Kelley@southardinc.com