Kids & Science – Fun Ways to Learn!

According to recent studies, less students are choosing to study science in their senior years of high school, and many adults don’t find science enjoyable due to negative schooling experiences…

Why does this matter?

Many of us often don’t realise just how much of our lives incorporate science, and how scientific issues impact us and modern society e.g. human health, the climate and environment.

According to Marincola (2006), science is key to the future health and economic prosperity of a nation, and the community must understand what is a question of science, and how public policy can be informed by science. It is essential we learn how to develop informed opinions about important issues, personally assess the facts, and separate the facts from opinion. In the future, there will be plenty of exciting and important jobs in science, e.g. in renewable energy, medical discoveries, technological advances and the climate/environment. Creating positive experiences around science can spark ideas in kids’ minds, allowing them to see themselves as capable of one day creating solutions to big problems or making new discoveries! By fostering a positive attitude towards science in the early years, you can create life-long habits of learning, thinking and enquiry!

So how can you engage your child’s interest in science?

Fortunately, kids are naturally curious, but this natural curiosity can sometimes be dampened through the structured approaches usually taken when learning about science. So it’s important to keep the fun and enjoyment in this area of learning! Here are 3 tips to make the most of their curiosity and make learning science fun!

1. Follow your child’s interests

To promote your child’s interest in science, let their curiosity dictate and follow their interests! If they enjoy nature, go outside where there are endless opportunities for scientific activities. For example, look at leaves and compare different textures, colours and sizes, or start a mini garden and teach your child how plants grow. Your child may be interested in trucks and engines, go to the park and watch cars and trucks drive by, or look at the sky for planes. Similarly, if they like to help you in the kitchen, bake together or do some experiments mixing simple ingredients together and talk about how different substances mix together and make something new, whilst some don’t!

By ensuring the activities are based around the child’s interests, they’re more likely to be actively involved, engaged, and take initiative in their own learning! This is key as research has indicated taking initiative in learning is beneficial for overall academic success (not just science-related).

2. Engage in hands-on activities to construct knowledge

You don’t need lots of fancy equipment or to carry out complex experiments when exploring science at home. However, providing hands-on experiences for kids provides stronger learning opportunities than simply reading about or being told about scientific facts. Children also benefit from opportunities to learn the same material or ideas in different settings – not just in the classroom but at home while playing too.

Below we’ve listed a few simple, at-home science activities:

Toddlers
  • Play with sand or water wheels
  • Sorting and naming materials
  • Manipulating Play-dough
  • Musical instruments
  • Growing things e.g. plants, toys that expand in water
Preschoolers
  • Blowing bubbles & bubble printing on paper
  • Explore how certain liquids don’t mix e.g. water and oil – try this lava lamp activity 
  • Try a gardening project, together planting seeds, watering the plants and watching their plants grow!
  • Explore ramps – use cardboard or wood and toys on wheels (e.g. car) and explore the speed the toys travel with different materials e.g. sand paper, glossy paper etc.
  • Baking soda & vinegar reactions – add food colouring for extra fun!

3. Use Inquiry-Based Learning

Finally, inquiry-based learning is key for supporting young scientists! It’s a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios—rather than presenting established facts or statements of ideas. As the parent, you can facilitate this by asking lots of what questions and encouraging questioning, observation and communicating findings! Instead of asking why, which may imply there is a correct answer e.g. “why are those ants going there?”, asking “what do you think those ants are doing?” can promote more thought and predictions, which stimulates investigations!

References:

Marincola, E. (2006). Why is public science education important? Journal of Translational Medicine, 4, 7. http://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5876-4-7

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