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5 Ways to Encourage Your Child's Curiosity

All those questions may try your patience, but they'll make your child smarter. "Curiosity is the driving force of intellect," notes Pam Schiller, author of Seven Skills for School Success. Kids' brains thrive on new experiences and activities, so shake things up with these ideas:

Break with tradition. Turn things upside down every so often: Have cereal for dinner or pizza for breakfast. Introducing novelty into your child's routine gives you a jumping-off point for conversation -- does he know people eat miso soup and fish for breakfast in Japan? -- and shows him that there's more than one way to do things, says Schiller.

Change the scene. Rearrange the toys in her room or the dolls on her bed, and then discuss the difference. Does it look better now? Is it less cluttered? Does this arrangement seem more inviting?

Rewrite the book. Mix up the characters and the scenery in the stories you read. Add a dragon to "Jack and the Beanstalk," for example. Ask "what if" and other open-ended questions, like "What if the wolf in 'Little Red Riding Hood' wasn't hungry? How would the tale be different?

Make it kid-friendly. Create a special space -- in his bedroom, the den, or the basement -- where anything goes (finger painting, fort building, pillow fighting) and exploration is encouraged.

Ask away. Show her that you're curious about her interests by asking her to explain the difference between Ariel and Snow White, say and getting just as excited about the dead beetle she found as she is (okay you may have to fake it).