As a parent, you dont have to be a scientist or have a college degree to help
your child learn science. Whats far more important than being able to give a
technical explanation of how a telescope works is your willingness to nurture your
childs natural curiosity by taking the time to observe and learn together.
Science happens all around us every day, and you have endless opportunities to invite your child into the wonders of science. Without expensive chemistry sets, equipment or kits, a child can be introduced easily to the natural world and encouraged to observe what goes on in that world. When you least expect it, a moment for learning will occur: A bit of ice cream drops on the sidewalk and ants appear; some cups float and some sink when youre washing dishes; static electricity makes your hair stand on end when you put on a sweater.
In everyday interactions with your child, you can do many thingsand do them without lecturing or applying pressureto help her learn science. Here are a few ideas:
See how long it takes for a dandelion or a rose to burst into full bloom.
Watch the moon as it appears to change shape over the course of a month and record the changes.
Look for constellations in the night sky.
Bake a cake.
Solve the problem of a drooping plant.
Figure out how the spin cycle of the washing machine gets the water out of the clothes.
Take apart an old clock or mechanical toyyou dont need to put it back together!
Observe pigeons, squirrels, butterflies, ants or spider webs.
Go for a walk and talk about how the dogs (or birds or cats) that you see are alike and different.
Discover what materials the buildings in your community are made of. Wood? Concrete? Adobe? Brick? Granite? Sandstone? Steel? Glass? Talk about the reasons for using these materials.
Learning to observe carefully is an important step leading to
scientific explanations. Experiencing the world with your child and exchanging information
with him about what you see are important, too.
Finally, encourage your child to ask questions. If you cant answer all of her questions, that an opportunity to point out that scientists don't know all of the answers, either. For example, point out that theres no known cure for a cold, but that we do know how diseases are passed from person to personthrough germs. Some of the best answers you can give are, What do you think? and Lets find out together. Together, you and your child can propose possible answers, test them out and check them by using reference books, the Internet, or by asking someone who is likely to know the correct answers.
Keeping records is an important part of science. It helps us remember what did (and didnt) work. Before starting the activities, give your child a notebooka science journalin which she can record her observations. Remember that seeing isnt the only way to observe. Sometimes we use other senses: We hear, feel, smell or taste some things (of course, your child should be careful about what she tastesand she shouldnt taste anything without your permission).