Griffith University researchers uncover the primary factor that enhances children's cognitive and emotional growth: curiosity.

Dr. Christa van Aswegen, lead researcher from the Griffith’s School of Education and Professional Studies, noted that while children are inherently curious, for them to have continued interest in a topic requires a catalyst or spark, and that this should be nurtured during a child's formative years.

“Those years are the most important for developing interest because the brain is at its most malleable and impressionable,” said van Aswegen.

Researchers found that the initial stimulus often arises from social interactions with parents, guardians, teachers, or peers, who can provide children captivating insights or experiences. For instance, parents can foster interest in nature by identifying birds in a garden and noting the different sounds they make. This can instill in the child both knowledge and emotional connection to the said topic.

The study emphasizes two fundamental aspects in fostering genuine interest: knowledge and emotion. Dr. van Aswegen further explains that children need both a foundational understanding of topics and an emotional connection to be truly engaged in them. Experiences with family and friends are important, but the study showed that using different types of learning materials such as pictures, stories, movies, art, and music can also help children enhance their curiosity and drive for exploration.

Initially, children’s interest may be sparked by external factors, but as they get more curious, they start wanting to learn more about things on their own and come up with their own questions.

Dr. van Aswegen asserted, “The more interesting a topic became to a child, the more questions they would ask, or seek answers to independently, leading to a cycle of repeated engagement and a culture of learning.”


Picture: Transforming early learning through curiosity and interest (Griffith University)