The following was produced in partnership with our friends at the Disney Princess ‘Dream Big, Princess’ campaign, whose empowered characters inspire girls to dream big and achieve big. For every girl who dreams big, there’s a Princess to show her it’s possible.
Kids’ natural curiosity can be annoying (“Why? Why? … But, WHY?”), but their innate attraction to new things leads to exploration, discovery, joy, new skills, confidence, self-esteem, and ultimately more exploration. So if you want your kid to discover their true potential, it’s in your best interest to nurture their need to know — especially for young girls, for whom confidence and a positive self-image are crucial.
Just look at how your original favorite Disney movie, The Little Mermaid, deals with it. Ariel’s natural curiosity drives her desire to learn what life is like in the human world — and drives her protective father, King Triton, crazy. If you want to be less of a helicopter parent (or in Triton’s case, submarine parent), here’s how to inspire and support your kid to stay curious and take risks:
Make A Walk Amazing
Walking with your toddler — and letting them lead — allows you to see what piques their curiosity. This is the first step to being part of their world. But if their goldfish-like attention span keeps you from getting beyond the driveway, turn it into a scavenger hunt. Have them collect objects from around the yard like Ariel did from the sea floor (just don’t blame her if your silverware starts disappearing.) Or bring some bubbles. When in doubt, the answer is always bubbles.
Get Out Of Town
Map out itineraries in your own town. Find new neighborhoods to explore. Visit the outer limits of your city limits. Even if it’s an experience like grocery shopping or playing at the playground, exploring the unfamiliar gets kids thinking about how others live. As it turns out, living up on land ain’t so bad.
Then, Get Out Of The Country
The best way to inspire your kids to seek out new worlds is to show them they exist. Immersing them in a different culture will change their worldview for the rest of their life. It can happen even if they’re probably too tiny to remember their first trip.
Also, you’ll be there to guide the experience as opposed to throwing them in the deep end alone. Family vacations are proven to be good for you — maybe King Triton should have taken Ariel on one. Pro tip: prep your carry-on with extra outfits, distracting toys, and whos-its and whats-its galore.
Encourage “I Don’t Know”
Kids won’t seek knowledge if they think they know everything. Make it okay to admit when they don’t know something and reply with a, “Let’s find out.” Ariel had that first part down pat; the problem was her father. You’d think a guy who shoots lightning bolts from a magical trident could help explain to his daughter how fire works. The point is, don’t reprimand your daughters — encourage them to ask questions and get answers — even if they’re not from you.
There’s More Than One Way To Teach A Skill
Put down the Teacher’s Edition and find more creative ways to educate. Teach math by playing Connect 4. If you have 2 kids, make the older one interpret a story “read” by a younger sibling who can’t read. And when it’s time to focus, use activities that build bridges to those skills. Chess, or puzzles slightly beyond their age level will help them practice locking in. It not only keeps them curious but also helps them understand how to act on it. And keep toys on hand that point them down that path, like crayons, blocks … maybe a few dinglehoppers?
Help Them Face Their Fears
To hear it from a former Navy pilot who’s raised confident, tough, curious daughter, sometimes “the things that scare most little girls have the most to teach us.” In their case, it meant observing a spider who built a web on their porch … instead of killing it.
In Ariel’s case, that included following her curiosity to explore the shore up above. However you choose to illustrate it, it’s an important lesson in the value of leaving their comfort zone. Although, sea witches and their eel lackeys are still generally best avoided.
And Get Over Your Own Biases
Speaking of comfort zones, closed-minded parents don’t make curious kids. Confront your biases. Step outside your social bubble. Or, get a trusted friend to pop it for you if you must. Otherwise, your hangups and prejudices will become your kid’s and they’re less intrigued to explore. If King Triton had been just a little more open-minded about humans and surface life, he could have enjoyed watching his daughter live her dream on land without getting transformed into a polyp first.
The existence of mermaids is debatable, but there’s a lot of truth packed into Ariel’s story. Fostering curiosity in your kids will lead them on amazing adventures of self-discovery. In Ariel’s case, that included following her curiosity to explore the shore up above. And while a quiet toddler might seem enticing now, remember, every great discovery starts with some kid asking, “Why?”
Learn more about Disney Princess ‘Dream Big, Princess’ and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for more inspiration to help girls dream big and achieve big. For every girl who dreams big, there’s a Princess to show her it’s possible.