Researchers at the University of Michigan found that inquisitive kids perform better in reading and maths tests - and the effect was more pronounced in curious children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Curiosity is characterised by the joy of discovery, the desire for exploration and the motivation to seek answers to the unknown,” said lead researcher Prachi Shah. “Promoting curiosity in children, especially those from environments of economic disadvantage may be an important, underrecognised way to address the achievement gap.”
The researchers analysed data from 6,200 children at nine months and two years old, and again when they started school at around five. They measured curiosity by asking their parents to complete a behavioural questionnaire and assessed their reading and maths achievement when they started school.
Even children who struggled to stay focused in class, performed better in maths and reading if they were curious. Shah suggests this means rather than solely focusing on devloping attention, teachers and parents should also consider the importance of cultivating curiosity.
So how can you encourage your kids to be curious?
Don’t rush to provide answers when they ask: why?
“Parents can encourage curiosity by asking children ‘what do you think?’ when they ask questions,” advises psychologist Amanda Gummer, founder of Fundamentally Children. “It’s also important to admit when you don’t know something and suggest trying to find out the answer together.
“Asking open ended questions to fuel the imagination are good too. For example: ‘What do you think the clouds feel like?’ or ‘I wonder how the leaves stay on the trees?’”
Chloe Goddard, a British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy member and integrative counsellor adds: “The best thing a parent can do is to notice and engage when they come to you. Even if you are doing something, put aside any feelings of impatience, try not to say ‘Not now darling I’m too busy’. Curiosity thrives when you can just be with your child.”