George is a curious little monkey. He’s intriguing to kids not only because he gets into all sorts of trouble, but also because his curiosity about the world mirrors children’s own sense of adventure and wonder. What child wouldn’t like to imagine the fun of tasting every chocolate in a chocolate factory? For this reason, Curious George can be a great way to jump-start kids' curiosity about the world around them.
Hedda Sharapan, Director of Early Childhood Initiatives for Family Communications, a nonprofit organization founded by Fred Rogers (of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood), says one of the best ways parents can help their children learn and mature is to nurture their sense of curiosity. “Curiosity is one of the most important tools a child can bring to school,” Sharapan says. “Curiosity not only motivates children to learn about things, it helps them be more observant and to think about things and try to figure them out.” Sharapan, who has been with Family Communications for more than forty years, says when children explore their curiosity, they use language to describe what they’re thinking, seeing, hearing, or experiencing.
Nancy Samalin, bestselling author of Loving Your Child Is Not Enough and Loving Without Spoiling, points out that nurturing children’s curiosity is not enough. “Children are naturally curious and playful,” Samalin says. “The bigger question is, ‘What are we doing to restrict their curiosity?’” Samalin says parents should avoid the following behaviors that can “get in the way of or dampen children’s curiosity”: rushing kids (out the door or from activity to activity), not allowing time for unstructured play, and letting kids watch too much television.
If you have curious little Curious George fans running around your home, consider treating the kids to their own curious adventures after reading the Curious George stories. Once a month, take a family field trip to explore something George has already previewed for the children. How exciting for kids to look at the family calendar and know that their Curious Trip to the Zoo or Curious Trip to a Pet Store is coming up this weekend.
Here are a few suggestions for spicing up your weekends with a few curious family adventures!
Take the kids to the library and help them get their very own library card—just like George! Discuss how libraries are different from bookstores and how the kids can use their library cards to check out or borrow books. Talk with the kids about the responsibility that comes with borrowing books—how they have to respect books and treat books carefully so other kids can enjoy them in the future.
Remind the kids how George makes his own sundae in the story. Take the kids to a local ice cream shop and let them pick out ice cream to make their very own sundaes. Back at home, encourage the kids to remember the different ingredients in an ice cream sundae (bananas, chocolate syrup, whipped cream) and help them make and decorate their sundaes.
After reading Curious George Takes a Train, take the kids to a local park with a children’s train. Talk to the kids about the different people who work with trains. Remind them about the train conductor and trainmaster in the story. Introduce the kids to the engineer who is driving the train, and ask the engineer to tell them a little bit about the history of the train. Take the opportunity to talk about different modes of transportation—for example, see if the kids can name different types of vehicles (land, air, and water vehicles).
Remind the kids about George’s adventures at the fire station. Call your local fire department and see if you can schedule a time to bring the kids in for a short visit. Ask a firefighter to show the kids around and to explain how the equipment is used to put out fires. Be sure to talk to the kids about how firefighters help people in need. Ask them to think of other people in service professions (police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers).
These are just a few examples, but nearly every Curious George story can prompt a family field trip. A story before bed, with whispers of an exciting curious adventure the next day, and your children will be bound to have some curiously exciting dreams!
For an extra special Curious George adventure, visit the Minnesota Children’s Museum’s Web site (www.mcm.org). A Curious George themed touring exhibit might be visiting a museum in your city soon!