In this two minute video science superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson answers a question that he frequently gets from parents: “How can I get my child interested in science?”
He doesn’t recommend buying books. He doesn’t suggest classes or camps. His advice is simple, to the point, and somehow incredibly moving. What does he tell parents to do to get their children excited about exploring their world?
“Get out of their way.“
Tyson makes the point that kids are born curious, and it’s up to us as parents to let them exercise that curiosity. We need to let them make messes and try things out on their own. It seems like such simple advice, but in practice it can be tough.
A kid’s world can be full of nos, and it’s up to us as parents to create yes environments where they can flex their curiosity. Setting up yes spaces can be a hassle, but once it’s done, it’s so gratifying to watch your child delve into it.
This video actually reminds me of something I read in a parenting book once about child proofing your house. The book suggests that you need to go beyond plug covers and create spaces that are safe for your baby and toddler to explore.
After reading that book, I went into the kitchen and moved everything around, creating drawers and cabinets full of “yesses.” Everything breakable is out of reach, and these cabinets and drawers are full of things that he can play with safely: reusable plastic coffee cups, metal measuring bowls, tins of cat and dog food. My one-year-old loves to open, shut, stack, throw, and examine the treasures in here as much as the toys in his toybox. Sometimes even more.
Obviously, you don’t need to go that far for older kids, but I think the premise is the same. Kids are innately curious, and all we need to do to foster their curiosity is let them use it.
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Bill Ward