6 easy activities to encourage curiosity in kids and toddlers
Babies are born curious, soaking up information about the world around them like black holes. As kids get older, the daily grind of school and home life can crush some of that curiosity. Exploring the world, trying something new, failing and trying again, learning, developing a passion… these are all fantastic traits for children and adults, and they’re all super-charged by curiosity. Below you’ll find some easy to set up games and activities for toddlers and primary school age children designed to encourage curiosity.
1. Make a cabinet of curiosities
Curious kids tend to gather bits and bobs they’re interested in or working on. Make an official space for these treasures to show they matter – and also keep them from taking over your house. Clear off a shelf, empty a drawer or choose box and tell your curious child that they are now curator of their own museum. Depending on their age, this may be a pile of rocks or it may turn into a carefully labelled collection of treasures. You can encourage curation and set house rules (‘Nothing alive, nothing mouldy’, for example) but don’t throw any of it away without permission.
2. Have a theme week
Show your kid you value their interests by having a theme day or week, where the whole family can dive into dinosaurs or binge on ballet. Even toddlers will love this, and it doesn’t need to involve a lot of effort, as you probably already have a house full of relevant items. Decide on the theme – let your kids choose, if possible – and set a start date. Find a space in your home where you can display some things – perhaps clear off a shelf or take over the coffee table. Spread out books and toys related to that interest. A quick online search for ‘dinosaur printables’ or ‘space worksheets’ or ‘unicorn colouring pages’ will give you some new things to add, and you’re done. You can, of course, add more if you want to – perhaps a special meal or a trip out, but simply making space is already a big boost.
3. Junk modelling challenges
A box of scrap cardboard, clean yogurt pots, toilet rolls and other bits and bobs is a great resource for a creative, curious mind. Many kids will simply take over the scrap, and you’ll find your laundry basket turned into a boat with a pirate brandishing a kitchen roll telescope. Others might need a prompt, so set a simple challenge to do alone or together like ‘let’s make a bed for your doll’ or ‘a garage for your cars’. To keep the junk from taking over, choose a single container for scrap and a space to display finished items; anything that doesn’t fit gets thrown away.
4. Put together a trivia scavenger hunt
Instead of clues to a location, set a series of challenge questions that require children to find something out. This could just be a challenge with a prize when all the questions are answered, or the answers could be clues to where the treasure is found. Older children will be able to read and research on their own, while younger ones might need help. You can also use this to build connection – perhaps one question is ‘What colour was Grandma’s school uniform?’ or ‘Where was Aunty born?’
5. Try some simple science
There are dozens of ways to explore science at home for kids of all ages, so it’s easy to find one that’s right for you. Kits are a great way to start as they are self contained and don’t need much extra effort. Choose something with extra play value, such as a bath bomb making kit or bubble lab. For toddlers, you might want to keep it super simple: ‘will it float or sink?’ is fun, as is mixing colours (water plus food colouring).
6. Make a pick and mix meal
Getting curious about food is a great way to encourage kids to eat a varied, healthy diet. Instead of serving a complete dish, offer a deconstructed meal and give everyone a small bowl. Encourage everyone at the table – including adults – to make a dish, then take another serving and try something new. Keep it simple and this can be quicker than cooking. For example: plain pasta plus bowls of sweetcorn, peas, carrots or other vegetables, chopped ham, bacon, egg, tuna or other protein, grated or powdered cheese, plus a few sauces or condiments you often use, such as pesto, tomato sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard.