Salim Solaiman


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How should kids curiosity be handled optimally ?

Kids have the instinct power of curiosity. This makes them more creative and also enables them to shake up status quo with some brilliant questions. The way we answer to their questions can be counter productive to their curiosity. Please find the thread below lot of thoughts from TED-sters.

Even not being a parent, many times we face (I faced a number of time) questions from kids which are very difficult to answer or even we adults are unable to answer because we just don't know the answer.

Some other time we are so time poor that we don't have enough time to handle those questions so just try to escape by saying something which might not be convincing at all i.e. "Once you grow up you will know" kind of thing without admitting our limitation. Is that right ?

We also try to impose our believes in them through our answers which not all the time is right one.
Worst thing we also do are something like , "Don't talk much", "Keep Quiet", "Don't be silly" etc etc

Now my question to what should be the best way of handling kids enormous curiousity so that we don't kill their curiosity , neither we limit their potential with our own beliefs ?
The answer will be of great help because KIDs are our future.

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    May 29 2011: Let us talk about the kids´ curiosity again. I want to contribute to your search by pointing out a project realized by the European Capital of Culture last year I had the honour to work for.

    "arts for education" is a means to increase curiosity and creativity - from the authentic view of the children, emancipating themselves from pre-thought concepts of the adult teachers. "The event was made authentic by those who were concerned – they were present and an active part of it: 100 pupils from 33 European countries and Israel represented the target group and at the same time were part of the organisation of the conference. They took the symposium by storm, they sang on the stage, they ran through the audience, they danced between the seats and embraced one another." We did a great film (english subtitles) on the event:

    I hope this helps also to find solutions for the misery Ken Robinson descriped. He is my favorite speaker anyway.
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      May 30 2011: Thanks Bernd for sharing the link & information. It's a very good initiative & your were part of it , sounds great really.

      Checked the link , it's interesting. Just wondering in your next initiative whether you can include kids starting from say 4-5 years of age.
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        Jun 1 2011: good point thanks - I will favor this the next time
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        Jun 1 2011: Hi Salim, yes I agree with kids curiosity 4-5 years old. Is there anything known in your country what parents 'teach' their toddlers before going to school?
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          Jun 8 2011: Hi Paul
          Thanks for your ineterst about my country. It's actually difficult to give a generalised answer to your question because of existing vast disparity of wealth distribution which impacts even the education system.

          Say vast majority of village students go to the government school (poor infra structure and teaching staffs) at pretty older age e.g. at the age 6-7 years of age, and parents mostly send them to school as government supported by aid agencies giving food f kids go to school , specially for girls. So main thing they get from parents be regular to school, study to pass so you are in school , even than drop out rate is high.In urban areas kids of lower middle class to certain extent of middle class try to get into again in national curriculum but good govt schools, here getting an admission is highly competetive , so at an early age parents make them prepare to succeed in admission war. So they learn it's number game and win and loose game , that I am very disappointed about , as that early age kids are open to a tough competition , which is killer to their curiosity and creativity .

          In urban upper middle class and above kids go to international school at very early age, so parents main worry whether kid can socialize or not as they come from micro familiy unit and are not regularly exposed to others kids until they go to school. So main tips they get is to be freindly to other kid and tecahers.

          In a nut shell this is scenario.
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        Jun 11 2011: So basically the system offers means to survive by offering learning to let the system survive, a vicious circle. Governments exist because companies give them tax money to take care of their interest with force. It is in their interest to have workers in their companies, so robots are being delivered by public school systems everywhere. As long as there are no 'other companies' who have more interest in children being curious than being drilled, the system will not change. Luckily slowly these 'organic companies are appearing who ask for curious graduates rather than machine workers.
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    May 21 2011: Kids should be always encouraged to inquire more than just curiosity. Inquiring means asking and making conections between concepts. Kids are much more awake than us adults, they can see things we can't, they don't have the veil of prejudice. Also they discover through playing, Bruno Munari used to say that children can change from fantasy to reality in a blink, they transport the things they learn from one to the another in order to understand them better. They use knowledge. The best is to encourage them to ask, to discover and find from themselves, us adults are the guide, but only to indicate the path, not to take them by the hand all the time.
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      May 24 2011: Great points Adriana , "Kids are much more awake than us adults" yes I observed lot of things we adults fail to see Kids don't.
      Agreed hand holding all the time is not the way as it can be the barrier to be their ownself.
      Thanks for your good thoughts . Would love to hear more from you.
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        May 24 2011: My worry is that children are passionate about everything they do until about 5-6 years old, elswise they cry their longs out. By the time they have to go to school and start to ask 'why this and why that', we do not have sufficient answers for them, their curiousity and passion is slowly numbed down out of our (also my) incapability to give answers to their important questions.

        So we need to find a way we can address their questions. So their truth in following passion is not disrupted. So how in practice? Let's give answers To Ken Robinson his calling.
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          May 24 2011: This is precisely why I believe that integrating learning into video game format would be so great. A child could learn at his/her own pace, not be able to go past a level until a skill was mastered and have access to a database pertaining to the subject matter for instant access. Then all we need to do is wind them up with a few instructions and let them go to follow their own curiousity. Human teacher would be there for ensuring the hard questions were answered, any frustration was directed to some more productive approach and for intermitent group learning and physical tasks.
          Every question that goes unanswered is a step toward the extinction of the abilty to be curious.
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          May 24 2011: Well said Paul !!!
          I share the same worry incapabillity that's why opened up discussion to learn from collective wisdom and intelligence.

          I want our future generation remain curious and ceative as long as they can for the overall betterment humankind and nature.
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        May 27 2011: I just love this quote;

        If we only teach our children what we know, then they can only do as bad as we do. (Gunter Pauli)
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          May 28 2011: Thanks for sharing, that's cool one.
          You know as Kid I used to hear a rhyme from my mom , which still echos in my head. It's kiddie rhyme with kiddie questions of a kid to his Mom......... which are as below (trying to translate the main meaning only)

          Mom , hey Mom , can I get your answer
          Why it's so black so dark night?
          From where sun gets, lights so bright ?
          Many colours dancing on flower
          Leaves stayed green........

          and so on .......... (sorry unable to translate whole right now)

          Answer was there in that rhyme
          can you guess the answer Paul ?
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        May 28 2011: @ Debra ; yes games will improve, though the problem is the stuff we should put into those games is not organized well. It also relates to the quote of Gunther Pauli I posted above; a computer is as smart as we tell it to be. I'd like to work on this problem more if I can.

        @ Salim ; Am lost in translation I think; because the sun does not shine around the corner?
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    Jun 7 2011: I have a new logic! As I see my son grow, 2y3m old.

    curious 1 : Kids start with (1) empathy, they feel with others, they mirror others, thus curious to others.
    curious 2 : Than (2) compassion kicks in, they have been pleased for years with all kinds of love, care and realize they are able to also give care and love to others, as they do on the playground. They are curious what their effect on others is, just passing on experience.
    curious 3 : self esteem kicks in as they are also confronted with things they do not like (bullies, food, questions, tasks) so they are curious how to manipulate things to get their way and also to deal with bullies etc.

    All 3 curiosities are naturally developing, and remain in school breaks developing, do are absent in the 7 hours sitting down in school.

    So if we can embed these 3 developments more into school curricula, their natural curiosity stays alive on topics going beond the sandbox and playground.
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      Jun 11 2011: good observation !!
      Yesthe challenge is not only to incorporate those elements in school only but as whole society, as society starts imposing it's norms and belief on kids after certain age which may become counter productive to kids instinct curiosity.
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        Jun 12 2011: good observation !!

        Children and (should be) leaders are open for insights. The grownup in the middle are and should keep the system going, it is as big as a responsibility as getting education right and helping leaders with insight. About children/education we have a lot of talk on TEDc, which means we are really concerned and care.

        To get to the 'whole society' ; On leaders, we look 'up' to them, and that is false. They are lonely at the top though can't be. A leader becomes a leader because he/she is passionate about solving a challenge. Once he/she crowdsurfed to the top, all these hands carying her/him to the crown, having the position to have impact, a lot of leaders are not able to cope. They do not admit publicly as they are their employees and peoples hope, but they suffer from great brainfreeze like athletes do when they have to much stress. This brainfreeze is really in the brain, so nobody notices. At the same time the on going system needs to be run, taking all the time 'away' from the leader.

        Therefore having political parties and presidents and directors of companies in pyramid shape is not the future for change. Netcentric leadership should come in place. Just like in school, the teacher should not be only at the top as he/she cannot be the all knowing oracle any longer.

        To wrap up; childrens curiosity can be enhanced by liberating the schoolsystem 50% from 'lectures'. And to change a whole society as you put it, (should be) leaders should be 50% liberated to have time and space to be as curious as they once were starting a political or corporate career, as basically they are being fulltime 'lectured' as well.
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    May 25 2011: Jamie Lubin
    Where are your posts?
    May I know why you deleted those important posts?
    Is it me or any my act here in TED made you to decide to step out of my discussion erasing your step behind ?
    Please tell me , if so I need to learn from my mistakes.
    Or it's something else ?
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      May 25 2011: Salim, I have been in contact with Jaime and he is fine. i am sure that you had nothing whatsoever to do with it. and he would want you to know that. Try emailing him through TED email. I am sure he would love to hear from you!
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        May 25 2011: Debra you are Great!!!
        Thanks my friend, I will do so.
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        May 25 2011: Debra

        I tried numbers of time to email Jaimie and got message that my message couldn't be sent.

        What's going on TED?

        May be all these above post will get deleted being so called "Off Topic"!!!
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        May 25 2011: It's same result Debra, tried and failed even to mail you.
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          May 27 2011: Hi Salim,

          think of it that some people see this as 'bartalk'. The most creative intelligent discussions take place in the pub. You will remember what is useful :) Or need to make own notes..

          I also wished I wrote some of Jaime's notes down on the back of a beverage coaster
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        May 28 2011: Hi Paul
        Thanks for thoughts about 'bar talk' . Can't agree more.

        You know in my country bars are not allowed so the place is taken by Tea Shops. To me so far best creative generation in art , literature , social, philosophical thoughts of my country is in the hands of a group of people of generation 60s & 70s (indicating the time when their creative works and thoughts flourished). In terms so called university education they were back benchers or never went there. But their regular endless exchange of thoughts used to happen in a tea stall in their early as well as middle age and they are still leading those fields.

        I love bar talk may be my hidden desire to be creative which I am yet to be. But will not give though now a days busy due to other necessity of life.
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          May 28 2011: It is the tea house which build the world as it was meant to be.... It is the bar (alcohol) which turned the tides to selfish survival. So I should have said teahouse!

          A lot is written the tea house should find it's way back in society, probably first virtual like on TED. Later real meetingplaces... who knows ..
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        May 28 2011: I liked your "BarTalk" more as tea talk doesn't capture real essence of...........
        Bar house due to cultural reason became tea house in my country while in Cairo it's Coffee cum Shisha house...........

        About TED now I am skeptic.
        Well, Paul what is your thoughts of having similar virtual kind of shop for KIDs ?
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          May 28 2011: There are conversations on whether we should involve kids in real world problems, change education etc.

          I believe we should only let them experience "The Matrix", parents/teachers abserve, though let them play and so develop their brain. To discover the matrix is a quest for every child and 'AppleJuice Houses" should exist online and in reality for that.
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      May 22 2011: You are welcome Jamie..... enjoying your thoughtful posts thanks.

      I always wonder about the challenges of questions Kids come up with all their curiosity from their "amazing world".
  • May 21 2011: I have always thought that the average 3-year old shows us what optimal learning should be - curiosity, spontaneity, exploration and wonder. If parents or teachers don't answer their questions, it is likely that they do not know the answers and cover up their own ignorance with dominance - be quiet, don't talk so much etc. Parents can't have all the answers but should be able to say "I don't know but Aunt Jane might know. Let's ask her". If the parent cannot take the time to nurture their children, who will?

    Schools are designed (supposedly) for knowledge and if a teacher does not have an answer, he/she should be able to say "I don't know, let's go find out". Unfortunately schools are not structured for spontaneity or creativity.
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    May 21 2011: Working around academia is difficult indeed! The curriculum must be met but also teachers (a good amount of the time) do not have the time to go over material extensively with children.

    For questions that cannot be answered due to time; have them write those questions down, compile them and nit pick the most challenging questions for the following day (try to have all children's questions read over time as to feel as a participator). OR Dictate children to write down their questions, so you can get through the material as quick as possible and have ample time to read their questions and focus on them. Tell children to not repeat questions and to always be thinking about their own questions, as this will speed up the process.

    For questions that are difficult for you the educator: I do not know your budget, but any source of internet will allow search engines; nearly infinite answers to be search, some specific for children. Usually schools give a computer per classroom depending on area of world. If this is not the case, for those questions you do not know, give a few points extra credit for them to do research on their own and to give a short presentation on the answer and question. (Public speaking skills + research practicing + peer learning)

    "Worst thing we also do are something like , "Don't talk much", "Keep Quiet", "Don't be silly" etc etc"

    I agree. I would like to note though, "rewarding" can be just as damaging as ordering a child to behave a certain way. The reward should be peeking curiosity and having fun doing so, that is incredibly difficult in academia. Possibly the most challenging thing to consider is "how to not reward while keeping interest high" What does anyone think about that? Any tips or ideas on how to not reward while keep interest high?

    I would say rebuild the entire education system to match all the ways in which kids learn. Only a few are able to memorize efficiently leaving the rest who can't hating education altogether
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      May 21 2011: And we have a great opportunity! Teachers AND Kids AND Parents are complaining for the first time in history all together. They all want to embrace a new way and are not affraid anymore of technological support.

      The first generation of children are born and now having an iPad when they are born. We just need to make the killer environments for them by the time they enter school. In short; it will save the teachers time on the boring stuff and they can focus on guiding the kids on what is important and can't be squuezed in a robot (ipad)
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        May 21 2011: Challenge = opportunity. I love your optimistic perspective Paul!
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      May 22 2011: Hi Nicholas
      Yes sometimes I say them "let's find the answer from internet "....or " let me see whether you can find answer from the books in home".
      That works well at times once they get it they come out so jubillant !
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        May 22 2011: Yes!

        I was only responding the to the points of "how to not stop questioning" because I have considered that a lot! It is difficult, again, in the current academia so educators have to work around that, so do so.

        Truly parents should be more of the information sources than most people (including myself) make teachers out to be. I mean that by, parents need to not only encourage asking questions from their kids but be happy to answer them!
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    May 21 2011: Curiosity is one of the most precious characteristics of the human mind. I have shared before that i have 5 now adult kids and as a very curious person myself it was so much fun for me to encounter their curiousity. I believe that we should try to answer every question a child asks but that sometimes it is really best to say ' I don't know." I think that empowers them to realize that a state of 'not knowing' is not a shameful thing- that can be remedied - often just by Googling the question (what an awesome resource for kids and adults!) What cannot be remedied is the sense that we 'have to appear to know'. That is recipe for human and individual disaster. Modelling that it is not only OK to not know (especially if you have the intention of finding out) but that 'even mommy or daddy do not know everthing" empowers them and humanizes us as parents.
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      May 21 2011: Hi Debra

      Agree with you what you told.

      Having 2 curious kids who challenge me often with bombshell questions many a times I answered "I really don't know , you can find out yourself once". They love to hear my kid time stories, I try not to porject me as a super kid , tell them my failures as kid , though in my culture all mums and dads were "First in Class" and Best of Their Time" so worry whether they feel inferior or not.......

      Other point is that don't know what they hear from others around because they ask questions not only to me but also to everyone they come across. I am away from them now for sometime so worry more as don't want that if their beautiful cuiosity is killed by some dumb answers..............
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        May 21 2011: Kids are astoundingly resiliant! We as parents worry too much (but when they grow up and tell you what they really did- maybe not enough!). They also have a great ability to discern when things do not add up. They can be led astray but not for long. Kids are utter learning machines and their curiousity is tough to kill unless they get a solid diet of it.
        Even in cases of terrible abuse the stories of overcoming show us that even ONE person who believed in the child is enough to help them surmount it ---- so a bit of bad advice is not going to crush them- but it will help them know who to trust and what to trust.
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        May 21 2011: Jaime Lubin!
        This is really your area and Adriana's area of expertise given that you have established the Asombratorium. I hope the two of you will share more insights because Salim is an earnest learner too and he still has small children.

        I loved Adriana's point below that we should be encouraging iniquiry rather than just curiosity. The two of you use words so precisely and i am enjoying the reminder of the power of the right word. It is no accident that your grand daughter's name is SOPHIA!
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    May 21 2011: Would love to hear more from TED Community..........
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    May 14 2011: Kids are important as they hold the future in their hands.We try as hard as possible to educate them in a way that the future will be a safer place for the younger generations.I agree with Salim's opinion.Indeed, the questions that kids impose on us can sometimes be out of this world! however, it is our job as adults ( i put as educators) to educate them in a manner that does not destroy their morale.Restriction hurts their innocent curiosity.We should answer their questions properly and with respect to other sensitivities.This in turn will give birth to a generation that is educated and has a high degree of morality.
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      May 15 2011: As you rightly said "innocent curiosity" of kids, yes for that reason we can't say the "impose questions" on us. Actually they are not in a position to impose rather we adults impose on them our thoughts, beliefs, stigma and so on either by our answers or by behavior.

      Kids ask question as they want to know.......they observe , they wonder, they ponder, they ask questions ......... they are like sponge just want to suck every bit of knowledge arround them through asking questions that's their instinct.
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    May 14 2011: in my opinion, the best thing to control kids curiosity is by real education from their childhood and of course attention from their parents... But in a way, it's really great that kids are curious because it means that their thinking ability are there... It's just that parents should put some restriction on what things that they can ask until appropriate time.
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      May 14 2011: Dear Idris
      Thanks for your thoughts.
      Well , I am really not in favour of controlling kids through restriction (that's what society is doing all the time) and that's the killer of kids curiosity.
      Do we adults really know what is right and wrong ? What is appropriate & inappropriate really. Are not those things very very relative to time , space and person?
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          May 22 2011: Agree Jamie about the power of word or it's sharpness (nicely coined by you) !!!

          Here I intentionally used to be in line with my friend Idris.
          Yeap "Limit" is a much better word. Thanks :)