LeVar Burton on Fostering Creativity in Your Child

Curiosity didn't kill the cat, it spurred learning

Curiosity killed the cat, they say. Personally, I don’t believe that. I think curiosity—that desire and passion to learn, to discover, to figure things out—is what makes us happy and successful humans. It’s the curiosity, the wondering about new possibilities, which helped man go from looking at the moon for thousands of years to one day walking on it. For centuries we wanted to fly like the birds, and then the Wright brothers were curious enough to try and try again, until they actually flew. Now we all can.

Our children are born curious because they have an entire world to learn about in a very short amount of time: That face means happy. This face means sad. Fire is HOT! This dog bites. That tastes great. All of this, plus a million other curiosities must be satisfied just to keep them safe in their first couple of years.

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As they grow up, fostering curiosity in children evolves from survival to development. Yet in too many young kids curiosity begins to wane in favor of the safety and predictability of routine. We all know that our kids want to watch the same movie over and over again, eat the same foods each day and play with the same friends. When we suggest a change, something new that we know they will like, it’s as if we've suggested a root canal. Our job as parents is to be aware that kids need the comfort of routine and yet also need to be guided into wondering and trying something new. So how do we do that? How do we get them to step outside of mac & cheese and try linguini and clam sauce?

Taking a break and giving in to your curiosity can be a great thing.

Firstly, of course, kids model us. If we build adventure and wonderment into our day, they will develop curiosity as well, seeing it as a positive. One of my favorite ways of doing this was to put the kids in the car and not say where we were going, just that we were going on an adventure. Maybe it’s for a quick hike, or we’d take the subway a few stops down, get out and walk into a different place to eat. The trip became a new experience that broadened their perception of the world around them. Next time you’re driving to the grocery store, try taking a different route. “I wonder what’s down that street. Do you think it’s faster to take the freeway or the side streets? Let’s find out.”

Secondly, make your kids PART of your own curious adventures. Next time you are in front of the computer or reading a book, and your kids wander next to you, offer to explore the vast universe with them. “Let’s see a picture of the biggest building in the world.” “I wonder what the smallest kind of dog is?” “Listen to this fun fact.” Demonstrate with a few minutes of your time that taking a break and giving in to your curiosity can be a great thing.

As long as our kids feel safe, they will be curious. Go ahead and explore, then retreat to safety, and explore again. Look up at the moon, let them know that men walked there once; and maybe, if they are curious enough, they may one day walk there, too.

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LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow’s mission is to inspire a love of reading in children and connect them to the world they live in through quality literature so they believe that they can “go anywhere, be anything.”

Try our FREE iPad app in the App Store, download any of our classic Reading Rainbow episodes on iTunes or learn more about Reading Rainbow and all our digital products at www.readingrainbow.com.

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