What comes to mind when you hear the word science? Do you think of topics like chemistry and physics? Do you imagine people in white coats doing mysterious things in labs with beakers and Bunsen burners? Do you wonder what any of it could possibly have to do with early hildhood education? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. What I’ve described above doesn’t have anything to do with young children, so you may believe that this content area isn’t an essential part of early childhood education. Moreover, because science is an intimidating subject to many adults, a lot of teachers would be happy to leave it out of the curriculum!
But if we consider what science is really about, we see that it aligns perfectly with the essence of childhood, as both involve exploration and discovery, investigation, experimentation, and problem solving. Every time young children experiment with the capabilities and limitations of their bodies and body parts, they’re “doing” science. Every time they’re outside, collecting and comparing rocks, discovering the textures of sand and tree bark, or playing on a seesaw, they’re “doing” science. Every time they toss a ball or a feather, they’re “doing” science.
Now, the big question is, how do you as a parent keep this flame of curiosity alive as your child grows older and how do you help them fall in love with science? Worry not dear parent for we have the answers.
Value your child’s curiosity. “Why is the moon following us?” Is probably one of the most ubiquitous questions asked by children world wide. Children ask such questions and more all the time, sometimes we find it adorable and give them an answer that they deserve, but other times we might get frustrated and brush them off or worse tell them to shut up because mommy and daddy are busy. A child’s mind is full of wonder and fascination for the world and the a sin that probably all parents out there commit is ignoring their questions and brushing them off. This lead to them thinking that their questions aren’t valid and since they go unanswered their curiosity dies off. Don’t let that happen; answer whatever question your child may have, let them fall in love with the wonder of this beautiful world and watch how their little minds absorb everything like sponges. Encourage your child to share their perspective and watch a transcendent mind unfurl!
Explore and find answers together. Now that little miss sunshine has asked you a question that you don’t know the answer to, what do you do? Do you fret about it and tell them an easy fix just to brush them off or do you invite them to try and find the answer together? As a parent, your child expects the world of you, but you don’t need to be their encyclopaedia, you just need to be ready to explore the world with them. Asking your child to come “find the answer together” or about their thoughts on the matter not only stimulates a healthy learning behaviour but helps stimulate additional thoughts and questions. Helping your child explore a for an answer can also build on their critical thinking and reasoning abilities!
Invite curioisty. Learning science begins with curiosity. Observations and questions can create climate of discovery; an important key to scientific learning. Even during the most unassuming of tasks, children can learn about science. For example during bath time, if your child sees rubber toys float, invite them to think about other things that might float, “I wonder if this soap will also float?” Is a good start. At play time if your child sees a ball roll, try asking her to observe other shapes that might roll, a square, a triangle?
Give children time and space to explore. Children learn science through trial and error. They need time to experiment, try things out, and think on their own. Wait before jumping in with "correct" answers. Give your child the time and space to explore and discover on her own.
Accept that explorations are messy. Whether it’s outdoor exploration with mud and sticks or indoors with water, children are likely to get dirty when they explore materials. Dress children in old clothing and tell them it’s ok to get dirty.
Learn from mistakes together. If an experiment goes wrong, take advantage and investigate with your child to see what went wrong. A mistake can lead to all kinds of possibilities and it provides opportunities for you and your child to refine your ideas, understanding, and hypotheses.
Use items you have at home to experiment and explore. You don't need to spend money buying science supplies. Here are some science questions your child can consider using materials you might have at home.
Make good use of your electronic devices. Take pictures of a stunning butterfly, record frog sounds, use a website or app to learn more about a specific phenomenon or creature.
Encourage children to record their observations. Writing, drawing, or taking photographs are all ways to record observations - an important scientific skill. Such records allow children to keep track of what they saw, heard, questioned, or discovered. When you notice your child is interested in something (like the moon, leaves changing on the trees, or the growth of a plant) you can suggest ways for them to record what they have observed. “Do you want to draw that?” or “Do you want to take photos?” or “Do you want me to help you write down what you noticed?”
Support further observations. Intentional adult interactions with children can extend their learning. When the moment is right – maybe when she’s done exploring on her own, offer a suggestion to extend her exploration. Guide your child by asking questions like, “What might happen if we try this?” Share some things you find while exploring, - a beautiful striped rock, for example. This lets your child know there is always something worthy of our attention and investigation.
Helping your child fall in love with science doesn’t have to be rocket science, its as easy as baking a cake (which incidentally can be a great science experiment too!) It’s not hard satisfying your child’s curiosity if only you take some out to do that. In the next blog post we’ll be sharing a few experiment that you can perform with your children to satiate their curiosity and keep them asking more questions!