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How Can I Encorage My Kids To Be Curious About The World Around Them?
March 25, 2011 12:16 PM   Subscribe

How Can I Encorage My Kids To Be Curious About The World Around Them? It seems like mefites are, in general, interested in learning new things, curious about the world, open to new ideas and that's how I'd like my kids to be. At the very least, I'd like them to be curious about everything from flowers to airplanes and whatever else they might encounter. How can I encourage them? Just encourage questions? Force them to read Wikipedia?

And really I'm not thinking this in some wonderful, idealistic view of the world full of rainbows and people holding hands. I believe my influence as a parent is rather limited with most things, but I think I might be able to encourage the type of behavior that I'm thinking of here. I just want them to look around and understand what they're looking at. "Hey that's an Airbus 380" "Hey that's a 2003 Chevy Tahoe" "Hey that's a very rare wild flower called (some damn rare flower). They're young, all under 5.
posted by Blake to Education (42 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
 
Feynman on The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

Particular on the difference between knowing the names of things and knowing things.
posted by empath at 12:23 PM on March 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Start by leading by example. If YOU are curious about the world and share your curiosity with them, you'll get the result you want.
posted by spicynuts at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Be curious around them. Get excited about things. Monkey see, monkey do.
posted by valkyryn at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


My parents, especially my mom, and my grandma talked to me all the time. "This is Mr. So-and-so, he fought the fascists in Spain with your grandfather" and "this is what the galaxy looks like when you're out in the country with no lights" and such. My stepdad read stuff to my sisters - the Lord of the Rings, a world atlas, conspiracy theories, etc. My dad took my brother by the hand in parking lots and told him the make and model of each car as we passed it (he was three or four by the time he could do it himself.) All of us kids had access to unlimited books and were expected to be reading them most of the time. Joe Kennedy gave his kids an article to read and form/defend opinions on by dinner time.

Which is to say: engage with your children, and that should be sufficient.
posted by SMPA at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think my mom just lead by example, basically. (It helps that she's very ADD in nature and thus is kind of interested in everything and constantly scanning her surroundings.) She'd tell me when she was wondering about how something worked and would pull me into the investigative process. And she always had interesting, random things around - I remember her bringing home things like a plumb-bob or the counterweight from inside a window, and asking me to guess what it was. She'd bring home lots of books about random things from the library and leave them on our "library table" in the living room. In pre-internet days we kept the encyclopedia in our dining room within arm's reach and would grab a volume to investigate whatever we were discussing at meals and then (often) browse entries near that that had interesting pictures.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:25 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


My dad is a trivia encyclopedia and he would always point out interesting tidbits about whatever what at hand. See that tree? That's a Metasequoia glyptostroboides, he would say, sounding like a wizard casting a spell. They used to think it was extinct, but then someone found just a few of them way out in the middle of China. They brought back some seeds, and now you can find them everywhere.
posted by theodolite at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2011


I have been quite curious about the world around me from the time I was very young, but I wouldn't know an Airbus 380 or a Chevy Tahoe. That kind of thing doesn't even cross my radar.

Read to them. Let them see you reading for pleasure. Travel. Take them to new places (whether that be the next county or the next country). Talk to people around you. Go to art museums and cultural events and new restaurants of varied cuisines. Expose them to tons of different people, places, things. Enjoy life.
posted by valeries at 12:28 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


To summarize the feynman video, the important thing is to not portray the world as a list of items to catalog and name, but as an interlocking set of systems that has rules that can be understood.

In other words, don't just point at a cloud and say they're cumulonimbus clouds, but explain the water cycle and evaporation and how clouds are formed and weather and chaos theory and the butterfly effect, or whatever.. use questions as an excuse to explain how things fit together and are related to each other. Those kinds of things are absolutely mind-blowing to learn about and encourage more questions.
posted by empath at 12:29 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


(and as a bonus, can be a good excuse to learn things yourself)
posted by empath at 12:30 PM on March 25, 2011


Don't overexplain, and don't overquestion.

My dad is a research scientist, and as such was equipped to answer questions for me in incredible breadth and depth. But he didn't. He gave me really, REALLY minimalist and occasionally vague answers, lacking desperately in appropriate context. He never followed up one of my questions with another question, either. He just answered exactly the question I asked, no simplifications, no layers of context.

I never had to sit through lectures, eyes glazing over. . . but I always wanted to know what he meant. So I asked question after question after question. And he answered every single one. And if he didn't know? He'd go look it up.

My mom, a biologist, is the same way. I looked at an overflowing rain ditch on our way home from school and said "I wonder what's in that water." Mom, bless her heart, pulled the car over, dumped out a McDonald's cup, got a sample, and took it home and made slides that we looked at together under a microscope.

Or, man, my neighbor. She and I were talking, and her 11-year-old son kept bopping into the conversation. "Mom, do we have a bucket I can use?" "Yes, look in the shed."

Five minutes later: "Do we have anything I can use to filter with?" "Probably a paper towel, or we have some old T-shirts in the rag bag."

Five minutes later: "Do you know where I can get some nitrate-rich soil?"

"Wait. Gabe, what are you doing?"

"I'm trying to make potassium nitrate from these instructions I found on the internet."

"Oh. Um, try digging up the bed I planted peas in last year?"

Show your kids that their questions are answerable and won't come with a lecture, and they'll be moved to answer them.
posted by KathrynT at 12:31 PM on March 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


My mom, a biologist, is the same way. I looked at an overflowing rain ditch on our way home from school and said "I wonder what's in that water." Mom, bless her heart, pulled the car over, dumped out a McDonald's cup, got a sample, and took it home and made slides that we looked at together under a microscope

Exactly. Encourage curiosity by being curious yourself.
posted by empath at 12:34 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, this is very specific but I think it's worth it: if you ever bake with them, with Crisco, use the displacement method to measure it (without making a big deal or lecturing about how it works). Not only is it practical, it sows seeds for really understanding volume later on.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:35 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your kids are pretty young. They might have questions that they use their imaginations to silently answer.

Your question reminds me of a David Sedaris story about his engineer father who was always interested in answering all kinds of questions like how many grains of sand are there on the beach and it was very believable how Sedaris said it made him not want to to ask his father anything out loud lest it lead to some boring lecture. Here's the excerpt (from Me Talk Pretty One Day) where Sedaris's father corners him to talk:

I tried to creep by unnoticed, but he stopped me, claiming that I was just the fellow he’d been looking for. “Do you have any idea how many grains of sand there are in the world?” he asked. It was a question that had never occured to me. Unlike guessing the number of picked eggs in a jar or the amount of human brains it might take to equal the weight of a portable television set, this equation was bound to involve the hateful word googolplex, a term I’d heard him use once or twice before. It was an idea of a number and was, therefore, of no use whatsoever.

I’d heard once in school that if a single bird were to transport all the sand, grain by grain, from the eastern seaboard to the west coast of Africa, it would take…I didn’t catch the number of years, preferring to concentrate on the single bird chosen to perform this thankless task. It hardly seemed fair, because, unlike a horse or a Seeing Eye dog, the whole glory of being a bird is that nobody would ever put you to work. Birds search for grubs and build their nests, but their leisure time is theirs to spend as they see fit. I pictured this bird looking down from the branches to say, “You want me to do what?” before flying off, laughing at the foolish story he now had to tell his friends. How many grains of sand are there in the world? A lot. Case closed.

posted by anniecat at 12:39 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know any curious kids who aren't also avid readers. The more deeply engrossed they become in fictional or foreign worlds, the more inviting this world somehow becomes too.
posted by estlin at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


You need to set the example. If you see something curious, ask the question out loud in the presence of your children. For example, "I wonder how 24 hour grocery stores restock their shelves with food? " or "I wonder why that person reacted the way they did."

Asking questions will provoke them to come up with an answer. It's okay if you don't know the answer, it will still encourage them to be imaginative.
posted by nikkorizz at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2011


Let them try things. Don't be that parent who says "you're too small," "you can't do it", "that's for Big Kids." Encourage their interest, encourage them to explore their abilities and world.
posted by Ys at 12:43 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


If they're all under five, I'm surprised you're not finding that they're plenty curious as it is! ("Daddy, what's inside trees?" "Daddy, how does water float?" "Daddy, how do eyes work?")

You may just be getting to this stage though. So when they do...let them. Don't try to pretend you know the answers to everything, though -- turn it into a "let's find out together" -- your kid asks the question, you say, "hmm, I don't know, but I know how we can find out," and then together you go to Wikipedia or something. Maybe you can wonder something aloud when you do -- "hmm. so this says that frogs eat bugs. I wonder what kind of bugs?" And now there's a new thing to be curious about.

Also, don't put too many limits on your child's exploration. My parents had a set of the TIME-LIFE Science Library book set from the 1960's, and when I was six and seven and eight I devoured those things, even though they were woefully out of date, at least ten years beyond my reading level, and -- frankly -- a weird thing for a kid to be reading. They didn't teach me too much about science -- but they fed my fascination, and that was the point.

And when your kid gets all crazy-excited about something, and wants to tell you EVERY! LAST! DETAIL! ABOUT IT!, let them -- or at least, don't try too hard to shut them up. One of my family's favorite stories about me when I was very small was when I was about six and had just read an article about African tree frogs, and then we went to visit my grandparents; I very excitedly started telling my grandfather all about the different kinds of tree frogs I'd read about, and he listened as patiently as he could for about three or four minutes while I ran down the litany of all the tree frogs I'd read about, and finally out of desperation just started walking away -- but I chased after him, prattling on with, "and then there's the gray tree frog, and you know what, Grandpa?..."

If he'd told me to stop, I'd have probably been crushed. But he just let me talk, as tedious as it must have been for him. Because to me it was the coolest thing ever, and letting me get excited about that was exactly the right thing to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


My parents never went to college. I never saw my father voluntarily read anything other than the newspaper, and my mother's literary tastes didn't stray far from romance novels and paperback best sellers.

But they were really, really good at saying this:

"I don't know. Let's find out!"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:46 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Not to beat a dead horse here, but leading by example is how my parents did it. When we went on hikes as a family, they always took along tree and flower ID books and constantly pointed out and identified new specimens.

Also: they never told me that any subject was "off limits" to me, or than any book I was reading was "too old" or "too young" for me, or that I might not like it. I spent a lot of time reading weird crap as a kid (Funk and Wagnalls Family Health Encyclopedia?), and never a peep from them about it.
posted by Knicke at 12:47 PM on March 25, 2011


When I was a kid, summer holidays were very long and boring. I've read all the children books we had and all there was left to read were technical encyclopedias and art history books. So I've read those and images from these books are still stuck in my head. I would encourage boredom and limit choices.
posted by leigh1 at 12:50 PM on March 25, 2011


Not exactly about curiosity specifically, but this is a great article. The gist of it is that rather than praising your kids for "being smart," it's more effective to praise the amount of effort and time that they put into their work, reinforcing that intelligence isn't some innate thing that you're just born with, it's something you work on and cultivate. It says that students who are just told that they're naturally smart often far underestimate their own abilities.
posted by ella_minnow at 12:50 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


My mom used to sing about the day's events at the end of the day, as she was putting me to bed. When I baby-sat, I subsequently did the same thing. I know this sounds like it could be daunting, but really, you need precisely ZERO skill to do this. Just a little singsong that's like,

"Today we saw a bird with a nest
And the bird picked up a piece of lint,
And then there was another bird
And the bird made a sound like a whistle
So after that we went to the grocery store
Where we saw that giant pile of oranges..."
etc

I think this little summary/rundown was actually really good for encouraging curiosity, oddly; it keeps the kid thinking about the stuff they saw and did, and they turn it all over in their mind long after it happens, pondering, meditating on it all.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:51 PM on March 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


I don't know any curious kids who aren't also avid readers.
My two weren't big readers, but they were and are hugely curious. My son was into dinosaurs in an almost scary level of interest. We got VHS recordings of shows, went to museums--anything to feed our budding paleontologist and this started at 4. He's not a paleontologist, but at 24 he still knows tons about dinosaurs, probably because we encouraged the fixation and let him gas on about them all the time.
And we were also very relaxed about taking stuff apart--cars, toys, household items--to see how they worked or what they were made of. You can always buy cheap stuff at a thrift store just to take it apart.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:52 PM on March 25, 2011


I find the linked dialogue to be both wildly unhelpful, and somewhat helpful:

A DIALOGUE WITH SARAH, AGED 3

Two different concepts are at work, "curiousity as entertainment" and "curiousity leading to enlightenment". They might overlap, but it is probably most important to accept a pretty high signal-to-noise ratio when they're young.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 12:58 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


A few things, sort of adding to what others have said.

Never tell them to shut up when they ask a question. Even if it is the thousandth question you have answered.
If you don't know the answer, find out the answer together.
Read everything to them you can - not just books.
Take them to museums and show them around, then let them pick the labels they want read.
Teach them how to find their own answers about things, slowly. Critical thinking skills are important to curiosity.
Ask them, at the end of the day, what new thing they learned that day. They should always have one thing, at least, they learned.
Pretend you don't know stuff, and get them to explain things to you. Question them on the answers they give.
posted by strixus at 1:02 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the most important thing you can remember is that basically, adults who are not curious about everything around them had to be taught to be that way. Children are naturally curious. The thing to do is to make sure you don't stomp on that curiosity, and to protect them from other people who might do that.

The suggestions you're getting above are really good. But the short version really is to just not get in their way.
posted by bardophile at 1:03 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You might find the philosophy of Maria Montessori interesting. There are a whole bunch of free Montessori ebooks on google books. You could also contrast the Waldorf versus Montessori methods to see what resonates with you. There is also the idea of free range parenting.

There are some who mourn the lost art of finding out information at the library versus the instant gratification of googling the answer. One of the fondest memories of my childhood is going to the public library every Saturday to check out new books with my dad.

In my experience, the most interesting and curious kids are able to entertain themselves without tv/ computer/ video games. That's not to say that they aren't exposed to the media at all, but rather that they do other things besides being passively entertained by things requiring electricity.

Also, it's a lot easier for kids to be curious when you encourage them instead of worrying about you/ them/ the home getting dirty.
posted by oceano at 1:08 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think my parents did a great job of encouraging me to be curious about things (perhaps too great a job, because in the age of the internet it's easy to lose solid hours on random Wikipedia searches). They started by having a huuuuuge library of books on almost every conceivable topic and putting few limits on my use of the books. The only books I remember being forbidden to read were my mother's Harlequin romances but everything else was fair game -- all the "classics", strange fantasies, histories of sex in Japan, feminist literature, innumerable dictionaries and encyclopedias and many many books on my parents' latest obsessions -- Scrabble or crosswords for my dad, organic farming or domestic violence.
I'm trying to remember what my parents did when I asked questions -- I honestly can't remember anything so explicit as a question-answer session. But I feel that they always treated my questions respectfully and I was expected to act as a full adult in discussions long before I was a teenager. As an only child I spent a lot of time sitting in the same room as my parents, doing my homework, with half a mind on whatever they were discussing. Later on, there was the Internet -- with its vast capabilities for finding out stuff. I was allowed a lot of unsupervised time on the Internet. Sometimes when I read questions about parents being worried about what their teenaged kids are getting up to online, I marvel that my parents trusted me so much. But still, they did, and all that unstructured time on the internet allowed me to figure out this new world of information far better than any amount of structured hand-holding could have.
On preview, I was also in a Montessori school until the 10th grade and highly recommend the experience (at least in the lower grades).
posted by peacheater at 1:11 PM on March 25, 2011


Read this article. It talks about two groups of children and some toys that made noise. When a teacher explained exactly how they worked to one group, the children were much less curious and weren't as creative in their uses for the toys than the group that didn't get the explanation. Good thing to keep in mind with general life lessons.

Invest in memberships to the local art museum, children's museum, zoo, etc. If these places have activities or talks aimed at kids, attend them. Watch your kids to see what "sticks" and provide them the tools to follow that interest. You can combine some interests, too. Have a child that likes nature and art? Take them to the park with some paper and unwrapped crayons and tell them to make texture rubbings. My 3-year-old really enjoyed this activity.

Skip the toy kitchen and let your kids help you out in your real kitchen. I have an 18-month old and she loves to help brownies. She can dump out the packet of mix and help stir. My six-year-old can crack eggs like a champ. Food is kind of like science.

If you have girls, don't assume that they're only going to like princessy crap. Get them crystal-growing kits and fossils and an easel with paints.

Grow some of your own food, even if it's just a little container garden. My daughters love fresh peas and enjoy helping to plant and harvest.

If you've got really little ones, don't lock up all of your kitchen cabinets. LEave some unlocked with pots and pans and spoons that they can stack and bang on. Little stuff like this encourages exploration.
posted by Ostara at 1:15 PM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Well, I was born in the age before TVs in the backseats of minivans. So my parents talked to me. On one car ride (I couldn't have been more than 4. My sister wasn't born yet.) My Dad taught me about odd and even numbers.
My Mom would always walk me to the library to look things up when we wanted to know more about a bug I saw or why flowers are different colors.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:28 PM on March 25, 2011


When I was a child, the adults in my life encouraged my curiosity by demonstrating their own curiosity. I was very aware as a kid that my dad was into X, my mom was into Y, grandpa had shelves of books on Z and would debate you on it for hours if you brought it up, etc. etc. for pretty much my whole family. It just never occurred to me that people might not have a varied set of interests that kept them constantly engaged with new ideas and the world around us.

There was no forcing involved.
posted by Sara C. at 1:43 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is going to sound really wacky, but... Encourage your kids to breathe and pay attention to their bodies. Breathing -- really breathing -- fosters attention to what you're doing with your body, and inevitably, to what the rest of the world is doing with its body (or bodies). That's the best kind of curiosity to have, IMO. You can drag kids to as many museums as you like, but if they're not there, it's not worth a damn. So, to add to what others have been saying, but with a twist: get them breathing, and then get out of their way.
posted by Paris Elk at 2:18 PM on March 25, 2011


Get and old-fashioned style encyclopedia. When they have a question you can't answer, look it up with them. Once they can read, instruct them to look up the answers to their own questions.

Ours was a 50s World Book, but it doesn't really matter. The process of physically combing through all that information really got me hooked long before I had access to wikipedia.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:07 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


My brothers and I were never discouraged from taking things apart, so we did. Often. Usually we succeeded in putting them back together. We had a shit-ton of books (How Why and Wonder books, science books etc) and I memorized tons of things about insects and dinosaurs.

We asked questions and we got answers. If we didn't like the answer, we did an experiment.

This carried through to adulthood. Dad brought me his old microwave after I got my first job out of college. He also brought a microwave meter to make sure the door sealed properly and didn't leak (it was an old microwave with a lot of literal miles on it). It didn't, so I asked the obvious question, "how do you know the meter works?" So we put it *in* the microwave and in its last gasp of life, we saw the needle whack all the way to the far end.

With my kids, I answer things simply and am ready for other questions. I will often answer 'why' questions with "what do YOU think?" just to get a sense of where they're coming from. Sometimes my son doesn't like my answers to questions ("NO it's NOT!") and I usually ask him what he thinks (or he tells me) and I just let him think that. He is allowed to discover that he's mistaken on his own. I think that's more effective. At any rate, I'm just trying to slow him down a bit, because he will take over our planet and keep us all as lap dogs soon enough.

And Stuart, when you read this, understand that I hold your views in the highest regard.
posted by plinth at 5:31 PM on March 25, 2011


When I was a kid my parents refused to have a TV in the home. Instead there was plenty of books and music. We'd do nature-y type things and go for walks in the woods and we'd do culture-y things and go to museums, do sightseeing, go to concerts. My mom always had information on stuff. She'd get guides for identifying trees and mushrooms, she'd collect rocks, she'd have guide books for cities and on the history of the stuff we would be looking at.
But, as others have mentioned, none of it ever came with lectures. Questions were answered if possible and when I showed signs of interest in something there'd be a willingness to support it without overdoing it. I got into a phase when I'd draw a lot... there'd be pencils and paper available if I wanted them. I got interested in science and nature... they'd start giving me a few books here and there with fitting subjects. I was always allowed to grab pretty much any book and read it. We had a big traditional 12 volume encyclopedia and I read most of it. Probably because I had seen them use it to look stuff up.
As has been pointed out: I think I learned my curiosity (or rather was prevented from losing it) at least as much if not more from watching them be interested in all kinds of stuff and their interactions about it than from their support of my own interests.

I think barring special circumstances all kids are naturally curious (though the level of expressiveness probably varies based on other aspects of personality). It's rather that kids unlearn it over time if they have neither opportunity nor examples that guide them and encourage them to continue following their interests and cultivating their curiosity. I believe that active things foster and nourish curiosity and interest while passive things such as excessive consumption of TV etc diminish them and ultimately kill them off.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:36 PM on March 25, 2011


Get a set of encyclopedia. Have lots of dictionaries around. If they have a question about something, suggest that they look it up and explain it to you instead.
I have a friend who, last summer vacation, ran her own summer camp for her son. One week was space week, one week was dinosaur week, one week was cooking week, etc.
I have a niece and nephew whom I used to taunt with odd historical facts (they're pre-teens now, so there's really no talking to them). "Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was renowned for his wrestling skills?" or "One of the main reason the Pilgrims decided to land at Plymouth was because they were out of beer." They never believed me, so they would go and look it up themselves.
posted by Gilbert at 7:18 PM on March 25, 2011


My parents always responded to questions with, "Go look it up." We had a pretty cool collection of reference books, including an old school multi-volume encyclopedia and other fun stuff like crossword dictionaries, art encyclopedias, etc. I also remember they had a box set of news reports/recordings of famous events, like the Hindenburg disaster ("Oh the humanity!") and the Scopes Trial. I learned a LOT of random information about things by listening to those records. But I'm digressing. I learned how to be resourceful and find information in different places and then could ask further questions/discuss with my parents. Also, we watched Jeopardy together every night (it was the only thing we could watch during dinner if the timing was right,) which made me want to learn more about stuff I didn't know. I am, to this day, quite a researcher.
posted by buzzkillington at 9:38 PM on March 25, 2011


I try to emulate one of the other parents in my Humanist family group. His kids are a little older than mine (his are 4 and 6; mine is 2), and he's always asking them questions. Not just questions that he knows the answers to, but questions about everything, like what makes the dirt brown. Right now, I'm teaching my kid some basic science stuff, so when I ask him what makes things fall down, he'll say, "Gravity! Fall down!" I think pointing out interesting things (like helicopters or hot air balloons) really excites him, and as he gets older, I'll ask him to formulate his own hypotheses about things (like what will happen if we roll this lighter ball toward this heavier ball). I think if you demonstrate curiosity about the world around you, your kids will follow suit. Keep asking them questions, and help them find answers to their questions. I really liked this recent blog post by Dale McGowan about keeping his kids and himself "awake."
posted by lexicakes at 10:42 PM on March 25, 2011


I grew up in a household with television, but my sister and I weren't allowed to watch it. My mother didn't believe in letting young, impressionable kids watch any telly at all. Bored, we turned to books. In all fairness, we weren't that bored. My mother cultivated our reading habits very early on by reading with us. After a while when she was sure we understood the basic words, she just left us to our own devices when it came to books. She never questioned our choice of books, nor dictated what we could and couldn't read (though it was with a slightly disapproving glance that she looked at our novels - she always believed in non-fiction books). In this way our reading list grew longer and longer.

My father was, and still is, a very street-smart man. He didn't have much in the way of formal education, but he didn't let that stop him from building his knowledge. I remember asking him a lot of questions as a kid, and it was a rare question that he couldn't answer. When I was about 11 or 12, I asked him why Japan seemed to be in a recession since forever. Mind you, he didn't have any education past junior high, but he explained the mechanics of deflation and how it affected the economy. His answers weren't always right, of course, but they usually hewed close enough to the accepted answer that it was quite alright. His fount of knowledge has always been a source of inspiration. He's still teaching me, even today.

As my sister and I grew older, our reading list grew steadily more advanced, and I daresay that we know a lot than our parents ever did. But this was directly as a result of the way that they brought us up - encouraging us to ask questions by not shooting them down, developing a love for books that still lasts today and generally just providing a very conducive environment to learn in.
posted by titantoppler at 5:18 AM on March 26, 2011


Fifty Dangerous Things (you should let your children do). Gever Tully is your guy for this sort of thing - watch his TED talks for a bit of his philosophy.
posted by judith at 4:07 PM on March 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


My parents and their friends had a lot of game nights when I was younger, and as the oldest kid in the group I usually got to participate. They played a lot of trivia games, like Split Second or Trivial Pursuit, and even though I never knew much everyone was always very kind about tolerating me and teaching me. Those games created a fun place to learn and ask questions, and demonstrated how valuable random bits of information could be.

My parents also read, a lot. A lot of my early memories of my parents are them reading, and the stacks of books that needed to be read or were already read. I had free access to those books whenever I wanted; I can only think of two I was ever banned from reading (Angela's Ashes and A Child Called It, both of which I tried to read when I was 12). Those were powerful behavior models for me.
posted by lilac girl at 10:51 PM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I came in to recommend Feynman as well.
posted by jpdoane at 5:54 AM on March 30, 2011


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