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Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111

Parenting Q&A
Parenting Question of the MonthHow can I encourage my child’s interest in science?

Parenting Q&AYoung children are naturally curious and are constantly exploring the world around them. Their scientific tools are their five senses. The good news for parents is that you don’t have to be a scientist to encourage their exploration. All you need is your own curiosity and willingness to investigate.

A great response to have on the tip of your tongue is, “That’s a great question…let’s find out!” For non-scientists, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know – by being curious yourself, you’ll be modeling scientific behavior. And if you are a scientist and know the answers to some of those typical toddler questions, don’t be too quick to give the answer. It’s more important that you help a child discover the answer on her own.

Science is about making observations, collecting information and using logical thinking to draw conclusions. These skills are important in every part of our lives. The scientific process of “trial and error” welcomes unexpected outcomes and interprets them as valuable information, not as failure. This helps develop patience and perseverance in children. The things we truly need in our innovators of tomorrow – begins in our children today: curiosity, reasoning, critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity.

When a child grows up in a science-friendly environment, he’s encouraged to ask questions, experiment, explain his reasoning, read, write, create models, and think critically. And science is all around us, in the kitchen, bathroom, backyard, and garage, so teaching early science skills to your child is easy!

There are dozens of excellent books are written about science activities you can do at home with your children. Here are a few activities that we especially like for very young children:

    • See how long it takes for a dandelion to burst into full bloom (sometimes hours not days).

    • Watch the moon as it waxes and wanes and look for constellations in the night sky.

    • Talk about changes in food when it’s cooked – the clear part of the egg turns white and becomes solid, meat goes from red to brown, dough turns into bread, etc. Look at seeds inside of fruits and vegetables.

    • Take apart an old analog clock or mechanical toy—you don’t need to put it back together. See if you can figure out how things work.

    • Go for a walk and notice all the different shapes and colors of leaves. Collect samples (if allowed) and put them in a book. Go on the same walk in another season. What’s different?
    • In the fall, put big white athletic socks over your child’s shoes and go for a walk in the woods. What kinds of sticky seeds get attached? Why do they do that?
    • Stake out a 1’ square plot in the backyard or a park with string. Observe closely = inches away! Use your eyes or a magnifying glass to see if you can anything moving. You can do the same with a plot of backyard dirt (remove the top inch or so) or look under leaves and logs. Check out spider webs whenever you see them. If there are any animals or bugs you are afraid of, work very hard to suppress your own emotions so you don’t transmit your fears to your child. Most are harmless.
    • Explore the many properties of water in the bathtub or sink. Supply funnels, plastic pitchers, colanders, etc. And bubbles, of course.
Parenting Resources

Preschool science activities & educational games: How to nurture your child's interest in the natural world.Gwen Dewar, Ph.D. 2008. Parenting Science Web Site http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=431

Hands-On Science for Young Children. Tanya Eggers. 2008. Earlychildhood News Web Site: http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/tips-tools-early-lit-and-lang.html

Helping Your Child Learn Science. Department of Education. 2005. U.S. Department of Education Web Site: http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/science/index.html

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