I am curious to any research or theories to where children develop their intellectual curiosity. I want to be able to do everything I can to help nurture this.

  • 1
    I don't have any pointers to research, but my own approach is just to model it myself: "I don't know, but let's try to find out" is something my son hears from us without hesitation.
    – lgritz
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 20:29

4 Answers 4


This article has some interesting insights to why humans are curious, but if by intellectual curiosity you mean academic curiosity, I think everyone has a bit of it in them; it's just a matter of allowing them to choose what they want to discover.

For example, for someone who wants to program video games, physics (and in turn calculus), art, and sometimes anatomy/biology to understand how to create realistic characters are required. While video games might not seem very intellectual, most academic subjects are related to other things (in my example physics, calculus, art, and anatomy/biology are related to video game programming).

I think the only thing that needs to be done to nurture curiosity is to make sure resources are available to your child, which could mean anything from going to the library, to showing him/her how to find answers to questions on the internet or through books, or going to a museum every now and then. Allowing the child to explore what they want when they want to is what's most important because that's what will cause them to retain information.

The Sudbury Valley model of schooling and unschooling may also be of interest of you're curious about nurturing a child's intellectual curiosity.

Click here for another interesting article on education and curiosity


You can encourage curiosity - for most of the early formative years you are your children's best role model, so they will take on habits from you.

  • If you are curious about everything and include them in your excitement and enthusiasm, they can be encouraged to be curious too.
  • If you show cynicism about everything, then they may well end up pretty cynical.
  • If you show utter apathy and give them no opportunity to know the excitement of finding out something new (to them) then their only hope is that a teacher in school, or something on TV sparks their interest.

Now, you can't just drag them along to everything you want to do - that could very easily make them switch off - it mustn't be a chore for them. Be excited. Be enthusiastic. Treat things as new. Don't show - but show how to find out things.

It can be staggeringly exciting for you as a parent to nurture and see them develop into inquisitive individuals.


I don't know whether I could wave my hand here or not. If this doesn't satisfy anyone, please downvote or comment and I'll delete this...

A child's curiosity starts occurring predominantly from around the age of 5 or 6 and starts decreasing exponentially with increase in knowledge. I mean, the curiosity behavior depends on various factors like,

  • which field he likes (i.e) spending most of time
  • whether he gets rewarded, motivated, anticipated or encouraged in that field by someone (parent, guardian, friend, brother or some sort of stranger - like we've seen in many movies)

At the start (around 5 years), they're curious of everything. Like when you're walking on the road, they wonder about everything and start bugging, "How does this car go fast?", "How does that plane go so high?", "What is this one?, that one?". Most probably, Children don't care of nature, etc (very rare smart cases will ask about everything). Their questions mostly arise in technology or mechanics.

Whenever they ask a question to you, just try to explain them. If you can't (for example, if he asks "What is the temperature of sun?" - a question arriving around 8 years), ask your friends, take him to a planetarium or some astronomical park (like that), hang along with him and find the answer and explain it to him (even though it takes a month)..!

This sort of searching may sometimes make them think, "Our mom/dad will definitely answer whatever we ask them..." as they become mature. This is one kind of encouragement which I could recall.

Around 10, (they get to know the answers to most of the things via interaction in schools) - In that duration, the questions they arouse on parents would be somewhat low in quantity.

A sidenote: As a parent, you must be curious in knowing "What his interested field might be?" between the age of 5 and 10 (I really bet that it wouldn't be too hard to find out). But, finding it would be too late after he has crossed the barrier. Coz around 10-15, there would some fluctuations in his field (teenage) and hence your investigation would be difficult to succeed. Once he has crossed 16, you don't even need to answer him. Coz, he/she might be solving the problems situations in your home.


One thing I've learned from my past. A quote I'd like to plagiarize from my professor's speech. A quote which I won't forget..!

"This education system is awful. We are always curious in "How to learn it?" and not "Why to learn this?" My belief: Better focusing the children in the WHY? part (by parents) may nurture his curiosity.


The information I've seen all shows that intellectual curiosity isn't something you develop. It's something all children are born with. The problem is more accurately phrased as how can you keep from unintentionally squelching that innate curiosity.

Mostly that involves not making learning a "chore," giving a child intellectual freedom to explore the things he finds interesting, and exposing him to lots of new things to learn about. Do a search for "unschooling" and you will find a ton of examples of people who are really good at doing this.

The thing to realize is playing is serious business. Don't stifle a child's interests even if he's interested in stuff that isn't "academic," because he will learn much more effectively if it stems from his own interests.

For example, in less than a year my son went from hating reading to reading above grade level, mostly because his school teacher made him read boring stuff and we let him read about Star Wars and ninjas. If we had continued to force him to read only serious academic writing, he probably still wouldn't like reading at all. Instead, because we nurtured the subjects that interest him, he incidentally developed the skills that enable him to do more serious work.

I'll also add that it's important for a child to know how to fail gracefully. Intellectual curiosity requires taking risks in areas you are not already familiar with. If you are afraid to fail, you won't take those risks.

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