As a poet and grandma I find much to wonder about. But what about our children and grandchildren?
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Small children often encourage us to wonder – What are stars made of? Where does sand come from?
We probably all have many examples of such questions from the children in our lives. But at what age might children start to lose their sense of wonder?
How can we help children to hold onto their curiosity about the world? And why is this important?
We need plays, stories, movies, games, teachers, parents, uncles and aunts that encourage children to continue to wonder about the natural and man-made world.
As kids’ lives get busier, more sociable and noisier they may rarely experience silence (fertile ground for wonder) or ‘down’ time by themselves or with others.
What are the questions we can ask to further kids’ amazement and surprise about the world?
More importantly, do we hear and respond to the questions that children ask us about how something works or why something happened. Or in our busyness and distraction do we reply vaguely or dismiss the question as another annoying “Why?” question.
It’s easy as adults to lose the capacity to be amazed by all that makes up our lives or, as Richard Dawkins says, to look at the world in unfamiliar ways. Often it is children who remind us of this, who ask a left field question and ‘wake us up’ out of our habitual way of being and seeing. And if children see and hear us wondering about the world with other adults, they will be more likely to continue to do this.
Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles need to be confident in telling children stories about how the world was when they were kids.
We often think that they won’t be interested, they are so caught up in the everyday technology, speediness and complexity of their lives. But it is not only an opportunity for intimacy, but also for children to develop a historical perspective which may spark curiosity about other earlier ways of doing things or events that happened a long time ago.
History teaches us about not only the achievements of world leaders but also the dreadful mistakes humans can make; learning about inventions and scientific discoveries can keep the door open to curiosity, creativity and invention – especially if kids are hearing about it from somebody they know and love.
Wondering opens up kids’ horizons, loosens up their minds. Yet children can easily fall into the expectation that everything can be controlled, found out about and explained through their Smartphone. It’s important that they are reminded that there are still many aspects of life that are mysteries, that are impossible to explain, that we don’t understand or even have words for.
Do computer games encourage wonder? Kids’ television programs? The books that your child reads? I don’t know, but one way we can encourage wonder is to ask the children in our lives, “What is your ‘wow’ for today?”
What types of questions do your kids come up with? Please share in the comments below.