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13 Ways To Encourage Curiosity In Children That Most Parents Ignore

13 Ways To Encourage Curiosity In Children That Most Parents Ignore

Do you still think that curiosity killed the cat? After reading this article, you may be rephrasing this idiom to ‘curiosity actually saved the cat’!

Curiosity is what drives us to learn new things, which is why curiosity is essential in the education process. As adults, there are ways to stimulate us to stay curious, but it is critical to encourage curiosity from a very early age too.

According to research conducted by the Association for Psychological Science, curiosity is a big part of academic performance. “If you’re intellectually curious, you’ll go home, you’ll read the books. If you’re perceptually curious, you might go traveling to foreign countries and try different foods” and both of these, explained Sophie von Stumm, co-author of the paper, could help you do better in school.

Many kids are naturally curious and are always actively looking to explore and discover new things. However, I’m sure you know more than one kid who hasn’t developed this instinct to the same degree and it becomes their parents and educators’ role to identify this issue and help them cultivate their curiosity. These are 13 exciting ways to awaken kids’ curiosity that a number of parents may ignore:

1. Change their routine

It is important for kids to have a daily routine but occasional small changes in their daily habits can stimulate their brain to think in different ways, which will provoke curiosity. It can be something as simple as changing the bar of soap they normally use, for foam soap and let them discover the new texture, play with it and determine which they prefer.

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2. Surprise them

Positive surprises can enhance a child’s curiosity. You could leave a good morning note under their pillow, organize a treasure hunt for a snack, or invite someone they like for lunch and don’t tell them until the loved person arrives.

3. ‘Kidnap’ your child from school

If you can take a day off work and ‘kidnap’ your child from school, they will remember it his entire life. You can spend some enjoyable time together: take them to the local bookstore and eat their favorite ice cream. Your child will have such a lovely time that they’ll want to do it again and again. You will need to make clear that it is an exceptional day. Just be sure to know they aren’t missing out on anything that day at school!

4. Bake a cake together

Kids love cake. But not all of them know how to make a cake. Experiencing the process of making a cake – from the ingredients to the final result – can be quite amazing for a child. And, doing it themselves, will awaken all their senses: hearing how to do it, seeing the transformation and colors, touching unusual textures, smelling the cake while it is baking and finally tasting it!

5. Open-ended stories

Reading a tale before bedtime is a good habit to get kids to sleep. However, always reading the same stories can get monotonous. To make it more fun, you can tell them stories with open ends so they can use their imagination to finish the story. Other ways to help them develop their creativity with tales is by asking them to come up with a new title, encourage them to start the story or continue with it. You can also find different ends for the same stories to grab their attention and keep them interested to see what happens this time.

6. Be prepared to answer their questions

Kids are continuously asking questions and sometimes they can be quite tough to answer. To be able to give them a constructive response it is necessary to understand why are they asking that question. For instance, when they ask you ‘why do you have to go to work?’ they don’t want to hear a list of reasons. They have a desire to spend more time with you. Understanding what they really mean will help you clarify their doubts.

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7. Encourage kids to ask (even) more

Curiosity can lead to more curiosity. When your child asks you something like ‘why does it rain?’, you can explain to them the cycle of rain and at the end of your rationalization, you may mention the forms of water without explaining it in detail. If they are interested, it may call their curiosity to ask you more about that subject. This is because if we know nothing about a subject, we cannot be curious about it but as soon as we know a little bit about something, our curiosity is picked up. So encourage more questions!

8. Be the one who asks the questions

By asking questions to your kids, you will pick their brain and make them think about different possible solutions to a problem or matter. Remember always to ask them to give you a reason. Be prepared to hear all sorts of fascinating answers. Some questions ideas are:

“Do you think you are a good friend?”

“Where is your favorite place in the world?”

“If you could invent something that would make life easier for people, what would you invent?”

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“If you had super powers, what would they be?”

“If you had your own country, what would it be called?”

9. Take your kids to an ethnic restaurant

Discovering new cultures is a great way to nurture curiosity. And local food is an excellent way to find out more about a new culture, its flavors, manners, and tradition. Take your kids for a lovely meal in an authentic Japanese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese or Spanish restaurant, whatever you think they will enjoy more.

10. Travel and visit new places

It is highly recommended to take your kids to a foreign country to experience new cultures, see diverse places and meet new people. Do this as frequently as you can. One of the main reasons why we travel is to satisfy our curiosity and traveling makes us more curious. So getting your kids into this stimulating circle at an early age, will help them get pleasure from visiting new places during their whole live.

11. Encourage your children to study music

You probably already think that it would be good for your kid to learn how to play an instrument, but you may not have thought about the actual reasons behind it.

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Do you know how music affects your brain? We all use either more of our right side or left side of the brain, but people who study music actually tend to use both sides of their brain. This makes them better at lateral thinking, which means being able to solve problems through a creative approach. Having a creative mind will make your child more curious about the world around them.

12. Observe their interests

We all have different interests, and there is proof that we are only predisposed to learn new things when we are interested in them. As a parent, you may observe what your child likes and dislikes, so focus on encouraging his curiosity for those areas of knowledge he prefers.

13. Let your kid be a kid

As a parent, it can sometimes be tough to let your kids do what they want. They can often want to do most inconvenient things. But as long as their latest idea isn’t dangerous, it is better to let them explore the world their own way. At a certain age, toddlers develop the desire to do things by themselves, and it is recommended to let them try. Saying things like “that’s not how you should do it” can negatively affect their curiosity. You may better let them make mistakes and learn from them.

Do you have your own strategies to cultivate curiosity in children? We would love to hear your suggestions.

Featured photo credit: Flickr: Raul Pop via flickr.com

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Maria Onzain

Content Marketing Freelancer

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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