Creative Childcare Consulting
Call Today! 403-818-9305 or 403-607-3133
Call Today! 403-818-9305

Children’s Curiosity and Brain Development

In the May/June issue of The Exchange, Wendy L. Ostroff penned an article, “The Cognitive Science and Neuroscience of Young Children’s Curiosity.”

Anyone who works with children will tell you that they are ceaselessly curious. This curiosity, this need to explore and understand, is hardwired into children’s brains so they can learn about their world. In a child’s first three years of life, their brains are literal sponges. They absorb anything and everything around them. Children’s brains are ripe for learning, and it is up to us to provide environments that support their brain development.

Newness in a child’s environment immediately spawns curiosity. I’ve always said that children have a special radar that allows them to see the tiniest change in their environment. Ms. Ostroff refers to it as “novelty seeking.” As educators, we can make regular changes to our classroom environments that will support children’s curiosity and learning. Easy and affordable changes to your room can include:

  • Rearranging your room
  • Rotating materials and toys
  • Turning a centre upside down
  • Hide small surprises (shiny rocks, exciting textures, etc.) around the room
  • Add loose parts that the staff and parents contribute
  • Ask the children how they would like to arrange the room
  • Intentionally set up problems for the children to solve

Not surprisingly, curiosity is correlated to learning and intelligence. So, the more curious a child is, the more they learn, and the more their knowledge grows. Curiosity can take the form of exploring with all the senses or asking questions.

There was a study done with preschool children where they were recorded at home during the day. Children asked an average of 76 questions PER HOUR about things they were curious about. More research has determined that the number of questions a child asks dramatically drops off when they entered the school system.

76 questions per hour? Wow.

How do you respond to the endless questions a child has? Do you become frustrated or annoyed? Your response will set the tone for learning. If you are warm, patient, and supportive, you will be nurturing their brain development. When a child asks a question, you do not necessarily need to answer it for her.

You can:

  • Give them time to wonder by saying; I don’t know; I need to think about that
  • Ask them what they think the answer is
  • Invite them to research with you (i.e., I have a book about pandas, maybe we can find the answer here.)
  • Plan an experiment around the question (i.e., let’s see if those rocks will float.)

Finally, you want to encourage curiosity because it releases Dopamine.

Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that sends signals to tell your body. It is responsible for motivation and focus. Kids who have low Dopamine are often unmotivated, poorly focused, and struggle with a whole host of other issues. When Dopamine is released, children understand what they are doing more deeply and remember better. Dopamine directly impacts the Hippocampus of the brain; Dopamine helps it function better.

You can offer more Dopamine producing experiences by:

  • Observing and documenting what children are asking about and incorporating it into the program
  • Offer emergent experiences that grow and change with the children’s curiosity
  • Build on the children’s current interests by offering new and unexplored opportunities
  • Learn what the process of scientific inquiry is, and use it to research with the children
  • Teach the children that it’s alright to make mistakes. Do this by role modelling.

Visit us on our Facebook page at  and let us know how you are supporting curiosity in your program.

Signup for our Newsletter!