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'The Ability to Ask Good Questions Might Be the Most Important Tool for Learning'
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  • If you've lived with a preschool-age kid, you know how they ask hundreds of questions every day on many different topics. The "whys" just never end to the point where we sometimes just give up and say, "I don't know, dear!"

    It is not wrong to admit to your kids that you don't have the answer to everything. Kids will appreciate the honesty and will learn to do the same. Secondly, if you feel like you're getting impatient and about to snap at the successive queries, don't. Think of it this way: an inquisitive child is a learning child.

    "Curiosity is essential for keeping kids engaged in learning," Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, told Parents.

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    How to keep your child curious

    Berger adds, "The ability to ask good questions might be the most important tool for discovery and lifelong learning." Now that makes it easier to appreciate your child's curiosity. Here's another good news: like a muscle, curiosity can be exercised and strengthened, enough to make your child focused on learning. Here are a few things you can do.

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    Be all ears

    Give your child your full attention when he tells you something. "Active listening will help you to better understand your child's perspective, and you'll also model what it feels like to be seen, heard, and understood," says Kirsten Siggins, who co-wrote The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations That Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding.

    So the next time your child eagerly shows you, say, a picture of a train, don't just nod and smile — ask questions! Say something like, "I wonder how big this train is in real life!" or "What do you think is the fastest train ever made?" You'll help her find the right questions to ask, and will give her confidence about finding out the answers.

    Help your child sift through big questions

    Often, young kids have the ability to stump us adults with their innocent questions which they don't realize are actually very difficult to answer. For example, if you don't quite know how to answer the question "Why are dinosaurs extinct?" the Parents article suggests to break it down into several smaller topics that aren't as difficult, such as "What did the dinosaurs eat?", which will eventually help him ask more sophisticated questions.

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    Let him play

    Play is so underrated as a learning tool, yet a child who is exposed to unstructured play will learn so much from it. Because it involves exploration and imagination, it also involves a lot of trial and error, which teaches them to be creative. "As kids make up games, they learn to roll with new rules that they define in the moment, " says Richard Rende, Ph.D. and co-author of Raising Can-Do Kids: Giving Children the Tools to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World. Let him dabble with puzzles or open-ended toys which gives them opportunities to "solve" problems. "Children learn best by using mutiple senses and by being experiential. They need to be active explorers of their world," he adds.

    Be curious yourself

    Parenting is all about modeling behavior, isn't it? The same goes for raising curious minds — you need to be curious yourself. Seek out activities the family can do that exercise both body and mind. In everyday dealings, instead of being content with "the way things are," shake things up a bit by asking, "What would happen if we ..." Show unfaltering determination in finding answers and you'll have set the groundwork for a child who is attuned to learning. 

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