Children learn by doing, by trying new ideas and challenging old ones. This doesn’t just happen in school. You can help your child learn by providing him with safe, interesting learning experiences in a supportive atmosphere.
The activities that follow are designed for you to use with your child at home and in the community. The activities are intended to show your child that science plays a part in many everyday activities and that it is used in many places and environments. They also show that learning science doesn’t require expensive equipment and complicated experiments.
For each activity, you’ll see a grade span—from preschool through grade 5—that suggests when children should be ready to try it. Of course, children don’t always learn—or become interested in—the same things at the same time. And they don’t suddenly stop enjoying one thing and start enjoying another just because they are a little older. You’re the best judge of which activity your child is ready to try. For example, you may find that an activity listed for children in grades 1 or 2 works well with your preschooler. On the other hand, you might discover that the same activity may not interest your child until he is in grade 3 or 4. Feel free to make changes in an activity—shorten or lengthen it—to suit your child’s interests and attention span.
Read through each activity before you try it with your child. In particular, look for this sign: < !!! > It highlights any activity that requires adult supervision, such as those that involve heat, chemicals or sharp instruments.
Also make sure that your child understands any safety precautions that may be necessary for these—or any—science activities. In particular, you should:
- Teach your child not to taste anything without your supervision;
- Insist that he wear goggles whenever something could splash, burn, or shatter and endanger his eyes;
- Teach him to follow warnings on manufacturers’ labels and instructions for toys and science kits;
- Keep toxic or other dangerous substances out of the reach of your child;
- Teach him what he can do to avoid accidents; and
- Teach him what to do if an accident occurs.
In a box near the end of each activity are a few facts and explanations for reinforcement and further teaching. But exploring, questioning and having a good time are more important than memorizing facts.
Keeping records is an important part of science. It helps us remember what did (and didn’t) work. Before starting the activities, give your child a notebook—a science journal—in which she can record her observations. Remember that seeing isn’t 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 tastes—and she shouldn’t taste anything without your permission).
If your child cannot write yet, she can tell you what to write for her or draw pictures of what she sees. In addition, you may want to use a simple camera to help record observations.
As a parent, you can help your child want to learn in a way no one else can. That desire to learn is a key to your child’s success. And, of course, enjoyment is an important motivator for learning. As you choose activities to use with your child, remember that helping him to learn doesn’t mean that you can’t laugh or that you have to be serious. In fact, you can teach your child a lot through play. We hope that you and your child enjoy these activities and that they inspire you to think of additional activities of your own.