Whenever I Google anything surrounding curiosity, I am always amazed at how many of the top sites focus solely on nurturing curiosity in kids.

It has made me curious!

Childhood represents such a short part of our lifespan. So why the imbalance?

Why are adults so interested in nurturing curiosity in their kids but much less so in themselves? Particularly when, as a parent of two teenagers and formerly of two young kids, I am struck at how their curiosity has diminished thus far over their short lives.

It truly feels like we are born innately curious and grow out of it. I, for one, have yet to meet a baby who needs to have their curiosity stimulated. And yet, I’ve coached enough young boys to know that by age 10, a significant number already display the signs of mental tiredness we associate with adults.

All children are born curious – the challenge is remaining curious as we age.

In the language of Carl Jung, the psychoanalyst, this thus feels like a manifestation of society’s shadow around curiosity (and play and other activities considered primarily childish). We are pushing on others (children) what we are denying about ourselves. In some ways, it seems like a collective cry to nurture our own curiosity, which we’ve decided is more suited for children.

In parallel, there is certainly a concern that children be curious about “the right things”. This is in a way anti-curiosity because curiosity, much like play, has no agenda and no purpose beyond itself. And yet, from this formless, shapeless activity comes countless benefits (Curiosity: A Short Manifesto further expands on this point).

My invitation, if you truly want to nurture your kids’ curiosity, is to model it. Nurture your own curiosity. Kids may or may not do what we say but they certainly mimic what we do. Play their games. Let go of your adult tiredness and see the world afresh. Let them teach you how to be curious and build a practice of curiosity that can in turn nourish and inspire theirs as they age.

Ideas for Cocreating Curiosity

Create a Curiosity Corner: A small space in the house filled with books, interesting objects, maps or anything that can spark curiosity in children or adults.

Question Together: When children ask questions, instead of giving them an answer right away, involve them in the process of finding out. Also, explore the question with them. Is there a deeper question “behind the question“? What does the question assume? What are they not questioning? This can make them appreciate the value of curiosity.

Explore the Outdoors: Nature is an endless source of wonder. Spend time outside, observing, asking questions and fostering a sense of wonder about the world.

Encourage Open-Ended Questions: Teach them – and remind yourself – how to ask questions that require more than a yes-or-no answer and how to avoid binary questions. This fosters deeper connection and conversations and more exploratory thought.

Further Reading for the Curious

  • George Loewenstein’s “The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation“: This seminal 24-page paper provides an overview of the psychology of curiosity and elaborates on the conditions that evoke curiosity.
  • Susan Engel’s “The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood” discusses the natural curiosity of children and how it is often discouraged by educational systems. Engel notes that although children are naturally curious, they can lose this trait when it is not fostered.
  • Todd B. Kashdan’s “Curious?” covers the role of curiosity in a fulfilling life. The author argues that curiosity is an essential ingredient for a fulfilling life, suggesting that adults would do well to nurture it in themselves, not just in their children.

Questions in the Image:

  • Why do I want my kids to be more curious?
  • What would I like to teach them?
  • What do they see me doing?
  • What if we were curious together?

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day – moments of tiredness might prompt us to ask Where might I get some rest? How might I be trying too hard?

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.