Encouraging Curiosity for Better Learning
When children exhibit curiosity, they are actually exhibiting an interest in learning. This innate interest in learning and exploring their world helps children retain information, and is an asset to their later development and success in school. The more curious children are about the things they see, hear and think—and the more questions they ask!—the better off they are in later learning.
From the moment a baby fixes her gaze on a new object, she is exercising her curiosity to help her learn. Even if a child is too young to use words, her brain is actively working to understand what she is experiencing and to help her make sense of it. According to brain research, the brain’s chemistry actually changes when curiosity is piqued, and helps a person remember not just what they’re curious about, but any other information they come across during that highly charged learning time.
Curiosity is not unique to human beings, but it is one of our strongest innate abilities, and guides and motivates us to acquire new information.
Parents can encourage their children’s natural curiosity in several ways. For example, parents of young babies can encourage their children’s interest in a particular object or sounding by showing interest in what their babies notice, and talking to them about what they see or hear, even if the child cannot yet talk back. Parents and caregivers can also provide their babies with safe, new objects that can be explored with hands, mouths, eyes or ears. For older toddlers who may ask a lot of questions, parents can encourage their children by answering as many questions as they can, or looking for answers together in a book.
Resources for Sharing:
- This article from NPR explains recent research that shows the importance of fostering curiosity in young children.
- Tips for parents on how to foster curiosity, from ZERO TO THREE.
- Toddlers can ask up to 76 questions an hour, points out a researcher in this Huffington Post article!
- 6 ways to foster curiosity, from parent blog Momvelous.
An animated video from Great Schools about nurturing curiosity—and learning—in young children. >>
Celebrating Black History and Diversity Builds Self-Esteem and Empathy
Every February, teachers across America highlight the important contributions that African Americans have made to United States history, culture, and economy. Integral to these conversations is the importance of diversity, and teaching children to appreciate the differences—and commonalities—among their fellow human beings. But children can begin learning about diversity and celebrating African American history before they begin school. In fact, parents and caregivers can help children understand early on that appreciating the differences among us enriches all our lives.
Young children often pick up on the differences among human beings early on, but can learn that difference is a positive trait, rather than a negative one. A positive view of diversity is taught by building self-concept, or self-esteem, as well as empathy. When young children are taught to empathize with others—or, to put themselves in others’ shoes—they learn important social and emotional skills that benefit their relationships, communication skills and personal development. Additionally, children can develop positive self-esteem by learning to take pride in their accomplishments and talents, as well as those of their peers.
Parents and caregivers can use Black History Month as an opportunity to discuss difference and diversity in a positive way, and to encourage children to be proud of how they look and what they can achieve. By using stories from history, songs and dances that celebrate diversity and encourage self-esteem, parents can help ensure that their children will grow up with a positive outlook for life and respect for the world around them.
Resources for Sharing:
- These articles, activities and even recipes from PBS will help parents and caregivers celebrate diversity with their children year round.
- Books and activities for sharing with kids, from Reading Rockets.
- Ideas for books, songs and art activities—as well as a personal story about celebrating diversity—from the Artful Parent blog.
Test your Black History skills with this infographic from You Parent! >>
How Bonding Builds Babies’ Brains
Often, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the cognitive or physical skills young children pick up—how to roll over, walk, or recite a nursery rhyme, for example. But in truth, social and emotional skills are just as important to early brain development, and for reasons that scientists are just beginning to understand. And this type of early social-emotional development has a direct connection to how parents and caregivers interact with their children early on.
Scientists believe that the attachment that parents form with their young children helps ensure a sense of safety in children and builds their self-esteem. Newborns usually seek nurturing from their parents and caregivers from the moment of birth, and when their basic needs are met with gentleness and affection, their sense of security increases, and stress levels decrease. These chemical changes in the brain have long-lasting, positive effects on the brain, and can improve early learning and the ability to form positive relationships with others.
Loving moments experienced between parents and children—from birth through adolescence—contribute to feelings of closeness between the two. Parents can use daily activities, like changing a diaper or preparing a toddler for bed, to enjoy quiet moments that reassure a child that he or she is loved. Eye-to-eye contact, holding a baby’s hand, and talking to him throughout the day (even if he’s not yet talking back!) are all ways that parents and caregivers can help their children grow up to be confident, loving adults.
Resources for Sharing:
- This cute Sesame Street video for parents explains how showing interest in your young child’s activities improves bonding and builds self-esteem!
- Great tips for parents on activities that encourage bonding with young babies, using everyday activities.
- How singing (yes, singing!) can help your baby bond with you, and learn.
Find more videos from Sesame Street on our website, talkingisteaching.org. >>
Early Communication Builds Language and Social Skills
Human beings use many forms of communication to share thoughts, feelings and ideas with others. Language is a skill that is learned from birth by the back-and-forth dialogue that parents and other caregivers develop with their babies and toddlers. However, babies and toddlers communicate in a variety of ways before they are able to speak—including through coos, babbling, physical touch and even crying. The more parents and caregivers encourage early communication, the more their young children learn about how to express themselves.
According to the Urban Child Institute, the first form of communication that babies learn is touch. In countries where babies are often tied to a mother throughout the day, babies root and nurse when they’re hungry, long before they are ready to cry. Experts have found that the more responsive parents are to their children’s earliest needs by touching, talking gently and picking them up when upset, the more stable those children will be. In addition, children begin to learn actual language much before they are able to use words. In fact, research shows that children understand words and tones long before their first birthday.
There are many ways that parents and caregivers can help their children improve their early communication skills. ZERO TO THREE encourages parents to respond to a baby’s gestures and sounds by talking and cooing back to him, and picking him up when he lifts his arms. Also, parents can help their children build language skills by asking questions and exploring answers together, and by taking time to read, talk and sing with young children every day.
- This article from the Urban Child Institute explains how babies respond to touch, and use it to communicate with parents.
- Learn about babies’ early language development in this article from PBS.
- Check out these 11 tips for parents and caregivers on how to encourage early communication with children.
A fascinating video from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, about how parents stimulate children’s early brain development through “serve and return”. >>
More than 20 years of global data compiled by No Ceilings shows that while progress is possible, more must be done to achieve ‘full and equal participation’ of women and girls worldwide
New York, NY – Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton will join global and community leaders for the official release of the No Ceilings Full Participation Report on Monday, March 9, in New York City. The event will coincide with the start of the 59th session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women.
The No Ceilings Full Participation Report is the culmination of a year-long, global data aggregation effort by the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with The Economist Intelligence Unit, UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center and Fathom Information Design. The report identifies the significant gains women and girls have made – and the gaps that still remain – since the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, when Secretary Clinton called on the international community to ensure “women’s rights are human rights.” Benchmarking process since that landmark event, No Ceilings is making the data open and accessible, and is pairing the report with an interactive, shareable collection of data visualizations. The data visualizations will highlight key findings from the data through interactive stories, as well as allow users the ability to explore the data on their own.
More event details:
Who: Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
Melinda Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Chelsea Clinton, Vice Chair, Clinton Foundation
Additional participants to be announced
What: The No Ceilings Full Participation Report Release
When: Monday, March 9, 2015 at 11:00 AM ET
Where: Best Buy Theater
1515 Broadway (side entrance on 44th Street)
New York, NY
Livestream of this event can also be found at www.clintonfoundation.org/noceilings.
The hashtag for the event and report release is #NoCeilings.