Sometimes we experience a mental jolt, an ‘ah-ha!’ simply by being shaken out of our routine. Novelty and change, whether where we are or in our routines, can make us step back and see things in a new light. This can be fun and provide benefits for adults, and for kids, novel experiences can lead to discovery and leaps of learning. In fact, “intelligence is correlated with openness to novel experience” (Kanazawa, 2010).
Travel: Novel Geographic Experiences
The changes that an adult can handle are different from what children can tolerate. Business travel lets me experience a change in mindset just by taking me out of my normal location. When I visit a different area, I see a different terrain, more/less trees, buildings, people, etc.
Large differences are fascinating and the right level for me as an adult, but if my daughter traveled for a few days to a different state, that may be too exhausting for her. Slight alterations in her routine, reading patterns, or even weekend activities can be useful without being overwhelming.
Try This Yourself
Instead of hanging around the house on the weekend, consider:
- Go to a nearby zoo or a museum
- A day trip to the beach/mountains/lake
- Go on a hike or picnic at a new park or natural area
- Watch a sports game on Saturday mornings at the park. High school and intramural sports are often free to watch.
- Take a child/parent class at the YMCA or through the Parks & Rec department
- Throw a dart at a map of nearby areas and explore wherever you land
These little trips can be great adventures without being too expensive or overwhelming for either parents or kids.
Read Something Odd: Novel Mental Experiences
My daughter chooses many of her own library books. She’s three years old, and she often doesn’t understand what she’s picking up in the same way that I do since I can read the title. She grabs books that she can pick up, and this leads to new discoveries that can be really rewarding for us to read together. The content is so different from what we may otherwise read that this novelty lets her experience diverse content without me having to put in effort to find new material.
Being allowed and encouraged to choose her own books grants my daughter freedom over what she reads and over her own destiny. If that sounds dramatic, imagine being a three year-old: Your food, clothes, where you go during the day, and when you even go to the bathroom may be decided for you.
What little moments of power can we grant children to let them wonder and start to make decisions for themselves? This is just a little moment, but there is power in choice. Giving my daughter that power in the reading adventures that she and I share gives her partial ownership over that experience.
My daughter’s random choices have also led to my checking out more non-fiction books than I would otherwise have selected. This shakes me out of my routine, too. We read Touching by Helen Frost, for example, which has about one sentence and a big photo per page to help children learn about our sense of touch. That certainly wasn’t on my to-read list, but my daughter enjoyed it enough to read several times before we returned it to the library.
Try This Yourself
The non-fiction books that have shaken me and my daughter out of our routine were all ones that she could reach. I’ve learned that I can let my daughter wander the library, and when it’s almost time for us to go, I give her a 5-minute warning to collect any books that she wants to check out to take home. If I time my “5-minute warning” right, she can be in a new area of the book stacks so that we get a wide variety of material.
If a timer of a few minutes doesn’t work, consider having kids find a few books with similar characteristics, like:
- The same color cover
- With the same animal on the cover
- The authors’ last names start with the same letter
- At least one old book and one new one
These are small ways to turn it into a game that still lets children explore new areas, enjoy independence in choosing their own literature, and takes the burden off parents from having to pick out award-winning literature every time.
Sources and Further Reading
Kanazawa, Satoshi. “What Does Novelty Mean?” Psychology Today. 21 Jun 2010.