“¿Who invented words?”, Felipe, age 9.
“¿Does everyone see the color blue the same way?”, Sofía, age 10.
“¿Do plants feel?”, Diego, age 7.
The questions that our little ones ask us may sometimes seem fun, extravagant, obvious and in some cases seemingly impossible to answer. You may have found yourself answering with a confident “well of course!”, a stern “because that’s the way the world works” or a cautious “ I don't think so”.
But what if I told you that those questions were often bombarded with, are packed with a rare and valuable trait called “wonder”. Greek philosophers referred to this value as “thauma” and for Aristotle it was the starting point to the search for knowledge.
For children it is natural, and quite frequent, that the look at the world with awe and curiosity. However, as we grow older we begin to adapt to that which we perceive daily, we normalize every new item of information and integrate it until we stop questioning so insistingly. We normalize how speech and language works and, for example, that we can say the word blue carelessly without a doubt that the other person will understand us, even though we don’t know how they perceive it.
Wonder becomes scarce with age and to gain a new perspective we must try with all our might and enroll in courses, read books, listen to conferences, all to be able to leave our comfort zone and think outside the box… to return to wonder.
Wonder is what allows us to see the world with a fresh pair of eyes, like being a visitor in your own city, or even yet an extraterrestrial on this earth would see things. If you’ve read up until this point I'd love to invite you to do a mental experiment that you can ask your kids for help in. If you’ve ever felt disoriented in life, sometimes it's useful to look to your children and take note, given that they know the path to wonder better than us adults.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you’ve just arrived on your spaceship on planet earth. You’ve never seen such a peculiar place in your life. The sounds are new as well as the smells. You exit your ship and (you may open your eyes now). What do you see? How would you describe your surroundings? What draws your eye first and why? You may take some time to live out this exercise.
What you have just felt is the power of wonder- that precious element that children's questions often contain, and in high doses.
Philosophy for Kids (PfK) is a way to respect, honor and develop that capacity that few of us manage to maintain through adulthood. The way that we can do this is to take children's questions more seriously. There are tools and strategies that PfK can implement. One of these consists in helping children refine and clarify their questions through guiding questions with a moderator, ultimately arriving at truly philosophical questions. This activity develops critical thinking in little ones and implements quality standards for their own way of thinking.
In many cases one can begin by presenting the child with specific stimuli to get them in the right mindset for wonder. IT can be through a song, a video, an image or even a real life situation. Then, the moderator (facilitator, parents or teacher) can ask them questions that detonate their curiosity. With that they will also develop an investigative outlook.
However, the most emblematic and complete approach can be found in the inquiry community (term coined by Matthew Lipman creator of this methodology). It consists of a guided circle containing two pairs led by the facilitator. Its in this space that kids can develop their listening and dialogue skills, as well as sharpen values such as respect and tolerance, both fundamental in democratic societies.
Through these processes we seek to spark critical thinking, creativity and awareness in the children. An ambitious task no doubt, but one that can surely be achieved.
Finally, it’s about preserving the capacity for wonder and celebrating the skills to ask great questions.
What if Galileo had found it obvious that the earth didn’t move? Or if Copernicus had answered “well of course!” when asking himself if the sun moved around the earth? Or if Edward Jenner, the inventor of the first vaccine would have thought “oh it’s just another cold”. Fortunately all three of these great people were driven by wonder and asked the right questions to transform the course of history.
We can now value what a great question “who invented words” can be, and the deep investigative task that is welcomed when daring to answer. And what could neuroscience tell us about the way we perceive the color blue? What biological and ecological questions arise when asking if plants feel or not? Only by honoring wonder can we hope to answer these questions.
I invite you all to take your children’s questions more seriously and your response as well. Knowing full well that through the right method you can motivate your children to keep asking and learning for the rest of their lives. Below I would like to share some material so we can all rejoice in wonder.
To know more about Philosophy for kids
Music box for thinking music::
Music box for thinking music:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChPIfwuxmEs