4 Things That Everyone Who Works With Children Knows To Be True


1. Curiosity is important.

What’s that? And what’s that? And why is the grass green? And what are those people over there doing?

Kids are naturally curious about the world. They ask their parents or anyone else nearby anything and everything. Everything is new to them of course, and they regard everything with a healthy curiosity, determined to find out what it is and how and why it works.

As we grow older, we learn things and we start to see new things through the lens of what we already know. What’s more, we start to think we know more than we know. Or worse, we start to think we know enough.

My grandma used to say you’re never too old to learn, and I think that’s great. There’s always something to learn from other people or new places. Or even right around your corner with the people you’ve known for ages.

There’s always something new out there to learn and I think it’s very healthy to maintain and feed your curiosity every now and then by learning something new.

I had a teacher in high school who prided herself on learning a new skill every year. That year, she told us she was getting her diving certificate. As arrogant teenagers, we laughed at the uselessness of a high school teacher getting her diving certificate – what would she do, dive right into her book?

But in hindsight, I think it was quite an admirable commitment to personal growth and a very fun way to learn something new every year.

2. Wonder is important.

Not only do young kids want to know everything, they also look at everything new with a sense of wonder. A neutrality or even optimistic outlook about what something might be.

Anything and everything might harbor a new secret to the world, and wouldn’t it be cool to find out? As we grow older, we not only assume we know more than we know, but are also much quicker to judge something new.

Instead on wondering what it might be, and being curious to find out, we think we already know, or compare it to something we know, and dismiss it with that.

Wouldn’t it be much cooler for all of us to judge less and wonder more? I know I try to.

3. Everybody is human.

Nelson Mandela once said, “No child is born with a natural dislike of another child with another color.” I think this is true. Children learn these behaviors from their surrounding adult environment, but before that kids treat every other kid the same.

I guess this is also a result of a natural curiosity to get to know other kids, play with them, and have fun. As Nelson Mandela argued in his struggle for racial equality, I think we can learn this from kids: everybody is human.

There’s no us or them, we’re all part of the same human race.

One of the first lessons I learned in my anthropology class was that as humans we have an inclination to make binary divisions: day-night, good-bad, us-them. But as we evolve through time, we can consider those divisions and argue that at least some of them might not be so useful anymore.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Dalai Lama, and recently I was reading his book with Desmond Tutu, The Book of Joy. In it, these two religious heads aim to transcend their individual religious backgrounds to see what gives us all joy.

And one of their most important ideas is that of compassion for other humans and the notion that we are all part of one human race. If we manage to extend our compassion to everyone in that human race, and maybe even include animals too, a lot of harm will be prevented.

4. Everybody loves a hug.

All kids like a hug. Feel bad, come, I’ll give you a hug. Let’s be friends.

When we grow up, some cultures have more physical interaction that others. I remember growing up in the north of the Netherlands and when I moved more south for university I was surprised with how often people hugged. Friends, families, they all hugged each other regularly.

I didn’t do that with my high school friends. But why not? Everybody likes a hug. Google the hormone oxytocin and you’ll find out why (hint: physical contact with another human releases a hormone that makes you feel happy).

When I was living in Togo, West-Afrika for a while, I started really missing this physical contact with other people. It wasn’t in their culture either. So I decided to play with the kids more, because they hadn’t been taught yet to remain personal distance.

Like I said, kids know everybody likes a hug. Or a handshake. Or a comforting shoulder pat.