Sharda replies, “As they grow, their exploratory nature changes in different ways. They keep trying new things which can drive us crazy. My son loved to play with his favourite truck. It went up, slid down on the cushions and on my arm too! Now at the age of ten, you should see the mess he makes with games and puzzles.” Amal chips in and says, “Children are curious to know everything. My teenager daughter wants to try new hairstyles, dressing, makeup and explore her sexuality too.”
These observations of their children are valid. From the time they are born, children want to make sense of their surroundings, as for them the whole world is new. Dr Matthews, paediatric neurologist, CMC, Vellore, says that children are driven by the need to touch and explore. As they grow, they continue to explore in different ways. They have an inner need to develop and their brain sends messages that direct them in their quest for knowledge. Every exploration using the fives senses makes new neural connections in the child’s brain. More the connections made, higher is the development of the brain and consequently, the overall development of the child.
When we ask a child not to touch something, he or she is unable to listen to us as their brain is telling them to touch and feel it. They are not being stubborn or disobedient, only confused, as we are telling them to do one thing and their brain is asking them to do another. Since the brain is not fully developed (it continues to develop from six years till 25), younger children do not understand when we give reasons. We are actually limiting brain development when we constantly stop them from doing things. So, when we see our children exploring, we could first observe and understand their needs, respond empathetically and find ways to support them in their learning in a safe environment rather than stopping them. We could also look into our own needs at that time and decide what is suitable for both parent and child — if parent is tired and needs rest, then the child could be engaged in something like colouring rather than noisy play.
Let us focus on how the child benefits from these explorations through which they gain knowledge, feel competent, confident and not fear new possibilities.
The writer is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families. To know more go to parentingmatters.in