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This 2-Word Phrase Will Make Your Child a Better Learner

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Do you ever find yourself comparing your kids’ childhood to your own? I do it all the time. One of the main differences I’ve noticed is that life for them moves much more quickly. When we were kids, we had to sit through commercial breaks or use commercials as a chance to run to the bathroom. My kids hardly know what a commercial is. We sat patiently by the radio waiting for our favorite song to come on, poised to hit record on a tape deck. Today, as soon as you like a song, you can own it with the tap of a button on your phone. We waited to declare a major and then changed it in our third year of college. Now kids are graduating from high school with enough credits to enter college with just two years to go.

Kids today don’t have as much downtime. Stimuli are everywhere. And there is less time for our kids to just breathe. It’s easy to see how this would lead to stress, but one of the hidden dangers of their over-stimulation is that it negatively affects children learning. But you can fight back with a simple 2-word phrase.

“I wonder…”

The pressure on kids to achieve, combined with our belief that our child’s success is a reflection of us, leads us to over-schedule their lives. Over-scheduling leaves little room for boredom, spontaneity, silence, and play. But just including the words “I wonder” in a conversation can counter this and have a profound effect on your child’s brain.

There’s a theory about learning called The Wonder Approach. Basically, it suggests that wonder is at the center of all motivation and action, and therefore, in essence, at the center of all children’s learning. When a child wonders, he or she sees beauty, is sensitive to the world around us and through security, has the freedom to explore thoughts and ideas. Sounds a little earthy, huh?

Let’s think about it the opposite way. A childhood with no wonder, no beauty, no sensitivity, and no security would still have development, but it’s not learning. It’s training. Horrible images of child labor and Nazi Germany come to mind. Well, this got dark quickly!

How about a practical, non-dark timeline example?

Here’s how I used “I wonder” and how it connected to my children learning. We were sitting on the patio one day and my kids, incredibly bored, asked every mom’s favorite question: “What is there to do?” If they had opted for TV or the iPad, they would’ve been plenty stimulated and out of my hair.

Instead, I looked at the huge oak tree in our back yard and said, “I wonder what is in the knot of that tree.” For the next hour, I watched my sons take turns standing on a chair, poking sticks into the knot, shrieking at the idea of a monster jumping out.

Just saying “I wonder” opened the door. They saw the world and its beauty and connected to it. Because they felt the security of a nearby parent, they had the freedom to explore. They learned that there was just a bunch of dirt, acorns, and moss in that knot, but their wheels were turning.

This simple two-word phrase isn’t a cure-all. But in a world that allows little space or time for imagining, “I wonder” could be a reminder that their minds are built to discover and explore. I wonder when I can use it next…

How do you help your kids slow down and notice the world around them?


“What’s something you’ve wondered about that you’ve never had the chance to ask me?”

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