How to raise curious kids?

by / Jul 29, 2022


This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Little Book About Curiosity, Jonathan Simcoe. 




What does it look like to be curious?


I think being curious to me is about being open. It's about being willing to explore new things, ask more questions, and it's also about being ready to change our mind about ourselves.

As we learn things about ourselves, we need to be willing to change our perspective. And also it's being willing to change. Our mind about the world around us and, and other people because sometimes we get things wrong. Sometimes we think we understand something and we don't. And so that openness, that being willing to change, [is] a fundamental part of curiosity and what it means to be curious. 

I love that. So why don't I start off by asking you, what does it feel like to you to be curious?


Yeah. Well, for me, first off, curiosity is just fun. You know, it's really fun to explore new things. I liken it to an adventure where you never know what you might discover next. And I think that to me is a big part of it. I think one way I was thinking about [curiosity] this is a word that comes to mind is mystery.


I love good mystery stories I always have, or any movie that has a mystery component to it is fascinating to me. And especially like, as clues are revealed, and pieces start to fall into place. But it always seems like with a good Nestor, even when those pieces are falling into place, you never really know.


I know where it's going to go until the last minute and that, that twist and that turn. And I think, good mysteries leave us guessing until the very end. And I think curiosity is a little bit like that where we don't quite know what we're going to discover next. We don't know when we're going to have a breakthrough. 


We don't know when we're going to change our mind. And I think that being on the edge of that newness is really exciting. 





I think being able to delight in the uncomfortableness of not knowing like when, like in a good mystery, I don't know how this is going to go, but that's part of the reason why I'm sticking with it. There's something there. Hey Jonathan, is everyone curious? Is there a time when, when in life we are more curious or not, or I don't know, in circumstances we're more curious or not. What's your reflection on curiosity? 


Yeah, that's a great question. So having watched each of my own and a lot of nieces and nephews, I can say, anecdotally, I can confirm that most kids that I've observed are naturally curious. 


However, we often have these narratives that we tell to ourselves, or we tell the kids, we say curiosity killed the cat. That's one of the ones that we hear a lot. And, and I've pondered that phrase as I've worked on this book, just kind of, why don't we tell kids that like.




Doesn’t it seem awful? Curiosity killed the cat. I'm sorry? It did? Curiosity killed childhood is what you mean to say.


Totally. Absolutely. Or we often will say, stop asking so many questions, you know, or why do you have to ask so many questions? And so I think those things can work out against our natural instincts to be curious. 


Then we can grow and to be adults, but I've also found myself that when I'm struggling with depression or anxiety or dealing with larger amounts of stress, I tend to close off from the world around me. I get smaller and curiosity for me, it starts to wither. So the opposite of that to me is that openness that I've mentioned earlier, is that when we're healthy and we're open, we're open to asking questions. We're open to learning. We're open to engage in our curiosity. And for me, that's actually helped me in my own journey. Just challenge myself when I'm closed off. And also keep searching for a way back to asking those why questions again and being curious. And so I think, I think there are times where it ebbs and flows and it's a good way for us to pay attention.



Hey, so I'm curious—not to have a pun on words—but I'm curious about what it was like for you to create a book for our very youngest readers. Can you tell me about that?


Yeah, I can. It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. I've written things before and I've designed things before, but it was actually challenging. So I first started out with the basic words, the base, that kind of structure.


And I knew the rough idea of what I wanted to say. So I worked on that and revised that. But I really struggled to find a metaphor. That's a big word for how to explain something. How do we explain what's a visual way, or a concept, that we can use to explain curiosity?


And so I was actually really bummed out in the middle of the process and was sitting in my room and it was just trying to work through those emotions of feeling like I'm failing at this. And I looked up at the door in my room. And then this light bulb went off and I was like, oh, that's it. And I realized it was like the perfect picture or image or concept to use, to display or to show curiosity. 


And so then I went to work going, okay, how could this concept of a door, in someone opening a door, be like curiosity, and what's behind the door and then how do we convey that? And so that really drove the  rest of the book. And from that point, it was like all that energy started to build and there were still ups and downs in the process. 


But I think that was, that was a big part of it for me, was getting to that point of, how can I get this across? 



Well, I can't wait for those young readers. To read this book and especially for our listeners to read the books with those young readers and, and see what they'll experience too.


I think curiosity is something that ideally is something that we stay tapped into our whole life. So I want to close with you by asking if there's a message about curiosity that you'd like to leave with [not only] those listeners, but those readers.


Yeah. That's thanks for that, Matthew. That, yeah, I actually.  


There is a message that I wanted to share about curiosity and I think the biggest driver for me, yeah. From this book, especially given all that of the turmoil that our world has experienced over the past year and a half, it's just been watching people misunderstand each other and for me. As I thought about curiosity, I thought about the moral aspect of it or the, you know, that curiosity is a value that I want to instill in my children.


And I also want to. That value with tons of other children and families. And I think we often misunderstand each other because we're not listening. We're not actually taking the time to be curious about them, about why—why did they vote the way they did? Why did they act the way they did toward each other and all those things? 


That lead into conflict and hurt, there's a reality behind it. If we took the time to understand each other, we may not all end up agreeing in the end because we're not going to agree on everything, but we could at least develop empathy and work together. And I think for me, that's what I've really wanted to see happen with, with curiosity. 


I want to see kids not being afraid to learn about people that are different than themselves, or even to learn why they are the way they are, because a lot of times we can carry a shame for being a certain way and my message to them would be, be curious. You know, try to understand your upbringing, try to understand what happened to you and try to understand the world around you.


‘Cause it's going to make you a better person full of empathy and love.  



Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. Continuing on with our special series of episodes featuring authors and illustrators of our A Little Book About Series, today we have Jonathan Simcoe, the author of A Little Book About Curiosity