Summer is here, and that means that school’s out. The summer is the time of so many amazing opportunities. It can be tricky for parents to find a good balance. As one of my graduate school professors once told me, “Summer is the dumping ground for good intentions.” Summer is a time where we try to do it all. We’re going to plan that awesome trip, enjoy tons of time by the water, and reconnect with family. Some parents might start their summer already fearing the “My Summer Vacation” essay prompt that starts the next school year. However, cultivating your child’s curiosity doesn’t require signing up for every special camp or trip on the horizon. Curiosity is an everyday habit that can easily be fostered using some simple strategies.
Play. Imaginative play is our first teacher. When we play, we connect to ourselves deeply and fully. Encourage kids to play by themselves. Investigate places where other kids might be playing like parks and community centers. Play as a family. As adults, we can support kids’ imaginations by giving them a glimpse into our own. Reconnect with your own inner child as you let your imaginations run loose. Who should we invite to our tea party? Should we sing a song to let people know we’re playing? What do you think the dog is thinking right now? How would you like to be able to fly like an eagle? Consider creating a question jar full of imaginative questions with your kids, so they always know where they can find a great playtime question. Playing with kids is an amazing way to affirm and celebrate their way of looking at the world. Turning everyday experiences into opportunities to play can be a fantastic vehicle for curiosity.
Collect. Everyday materials like cardboard boxes and plastic bottles can supercharge summer playtime. Filling your recycling bin to overflowing is a great way to have all of the toys for imaginative play. Cardboard can take on a life of its own. Kids (and cats for that matter) have a special relationship with boxes. “If I fit, I sit!” applies just as much to most 5-year-old kids as it does to most cats. Grocery stores and places like Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs are great for finding free large boxes for playtime. Philips screwdrivers tend to work best to punch holes in corrugated cardboard. Kitchen scissors are surprisingly effective at cutting through most recyclable plastics, especially plastic numbers 1, 2, and 6. Dairy products tend to leave a residue in the container, so I strongly recommend soaking any plastic container used for dairy products and thoroughly washing these containers before using them for creations. With a little preparation, you can easily find more than enough material to keep young creators creating.
Wander. Summer (or any seasonal change) is a great way to revisit routines. People tend to slow down in the summer. Explore paths less travelled. If you always take the interstate when traveling between two places, consider showing your kids how to read a map to find fun back roads. Pull over when you see something interesting. Look for instant vacation spots in your local area, creating special memories in your community and backyard. Find a place to dig a hole. Spend time outside. Change up how you spend time inside. Have a family movie night in a different room in the house. Explore a new book series… via audio books if you want to push more on your limits. The possibilities are endless. Asking yourself, “How can I do something different today?” is an excellent way to open up your own curiosity.
I love curiosity. I believe that curiosity well-encouraged becomes the force that unlocks opportunity. I encourage kids of all ages to ask questions about their everyday curiosity. As we play together, we find projects where kids want to go deeper into learning. I’d love to hear about how you cultivate your child’s curiosity!