U.S. astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says the best way to encourage exploration in children is to get out of the way. Children are naturally curious about the world around them; they're hardwired to discover and learn. The activities you encourage can celebrate that curiosity and make them even more likely to learn about and explore.
Toys and Games
Though you don't have to buy new toys and games for your child each time you leave the house, every new belonging is an opportunity for young children to explore a new phenomenon in their environment. Child development resource ETLLearning.com recommends encouraging curious exploration by changing toys or games, such as changing a doll's clothes or combining two toys into a new game.
Something's always new outside. Children can make an afternoon of exploration out of looking under one rock, or comparing the leaves of a single copse of trees. In "Last Child in the Woods," journalist and child development expert Richard Louv suggests a combination of free, unstructured outdoors time and focused exploration with specific concepts in mind.
A visit to a museum, fire station, park or any other building encourages exploration in two ways. Scholastic.com reports that entering an unfamiliar place will make your child curious about where she is and what she can do in the new surroundings. Once she's adjusted, ETLLearning recommends guided exploration of particular points you think are important or that you know will pique her interest.
According to Dr. Ari Brown and Denise Fields, co-authors of "Toddler 411," reading is the ultimate exploration tool, granting access to exploration of places and concepts we couldn't otherwise reach. Reading with your child, and reading for yourself where your child can see you, models the value of this kind of exploration. It's also a good idea to keep a well-rounded library in your home, and to help your child look for answers in appropriate books when questions come up.
Giving Strategic Answers
It's easy to simply provide and answer your child's questions, but it can encourage exploration more to give answers that help him find the answer for himself. The Socratic Method helps a child arrive at an answer by finding the solutions to a series of questions. You can also answer by naming resources where you child can look up the information he needs.
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