Curiosity is what takes us to new levels of learning. It is the combination of critical thinking and reasoning. We can instill curiosity in our children by puzzling them, using perplexity to evoke good questions. Questions that have no known answers or several answers, questions that will challenge us all to look for answers. Usually these questions will originate new questions, and as Albert Einstein explained: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
The joy of exploration is what inspires solid learning and we get to help our children in this process, creating confusion, making questions, more questions, using trial and error to get to answers, analyzing what we just did to see if it worked or not. If something can be tried in a different way, try that out and again review what was done to see if this time it worked and gave some answers and questions or just new questions.
Skepticism is something we can include in this process, by having them not believe automatically a straight forward explanation of something. We make them think about it, question it, analyze if it makes sense or not or to try explaining the question in a different way with a different perspective. When they come upon a convincing answer, they will own it. It becomes knowledge hard to be forgotten.
We can use many different opportunities to do this. Try doing this while cooking dinner: We can start by going grocery shopping and asking them what to buy and how that will make the dinner menu; or we can just open our fridge and pantry and see what ingredients and condiments are available and asking our kids what they think they can cook with those. We can make the menu together with our main ingredients, then we can start cooking one of the dishes. Let’s say we decide to make chicken, start with questions like: How should we cook this? Should we use the oven or a skillet? What should we use to make the chicken not stick to the bottom? Is that really necessary? We can ask for the effects of adding one ingredient or another, ask for suggestions, make them think what the outcome will be with each idea, imagine it yourself. “Should we marinade the chicken before cooking it? Or should we just add condiments as we cook it?” Then dare to try it out, even when you think it will not taste so good. It would be a good idea to use chicken cutlets so as to cook each one in a different way as ideas and questions arise, keep track of what condiments and other ingredients were added to each cutlet.
Once cooking is done, try them all out by tasting and comparing flavours. Analyze which combination of ingredients and spices yielded the better tasting piece and why; which one did not work out so good and again, why? Work out together an idea of how to combine them differently, adding more or less pepper the next time, or wondering how adding some lemon would enhance or spoil the recipe. Write it down to try it out in the future, and perhaps name the dish in honor of its inventor. For example “Chicken a la Carolyne.” This is a messy process, but it is fun and it is a learning experience you will not forget.
Be curious yourself. With its contagious nature you will be inspiring curiosity around you. You will be creating thinkers, makers who are curious and enthusiastic; inventors that will fantasize with new ideas and will take action to make them happen. And the best part: It’s fun!