Young children have a natural curiosity about their world— in many ways you could say they're natural scientists. Scientific exploration can provide amazing opportunities for developing skills in asking questions, making predictions, probing for answers, and building critical thinking skills in problem solving and decision making. A significant aspect of science in early learning is the development of new vocabulary. As your child experiences interesting opportunities to freely explore her world, you will be able to help her draw meaningful connections to words that evolve from scientific thinking and discovery.
What Your Child Should Know
Your child should know:
- That she is already a scientist
- That she is capable of asking questions, making predictions, testing and trying new things, and finding answers or solutions
How You Can Help
When you think of science, perhaps you're only thinking of test tubes and goggles and laboratories. Although this is one aspect of science, there is far more to science than this. For young children, science is the process of exploring their world with the intention of building new knowledge about the things in it. Your role is to be a facilitator of language, opportunity, and interest. Here are some ways you can foster your child's confidence in science.
- Offer opportunities for your child to freely explore different tools of science. For example, set up a table outside with magnifying glasses, scales, tweezers, plastic spoons, cups, water, paper, pencils, and a box. Invite your child to use the box to collect leaves, rocks, sticks, seeds, plants, dirt, or other items from nature, and then bring the items back to the table and examine them more closely. Suggest that she use the tools of science to explore the items from nature any way she wishes. She might want to pull seeds out of a plant with a pair of tweezers or weigh rocks on a set of scales or float leaves in a tub of water. Give her the freedom to use the tools as she wishes to explore the items she has collected.
- Do a little research on how different combinations of household products can create fun and interesting reactions. Gather the materials for your child to enjoy a little experimenting with you. For example, you can invite your child to mix vinegar, water, and baking soda to create wonderful bubbles or explore the properties of solid and liquid by making your own goop. Just pour two to three cups of water and a box of baking powder in a tub, then stick your hands in and play! As you swish the baking powder in the water it becomes a liquid, but if you try to scoop up a handful of baking powder, it will become a solid once again. There are many simple and safe household products you can explore. Remember always to monitor these kinds of activities and to do your research first so you can take measures to keep your child safe and provide her with boundaries or guidance as to responsible scientific exploration.
- Invite your child to begin any science exploration with a question and then invite her to follow up that question by making a guess about what the answer might be. Your child's question can lead to an entire unit of scientific exploration as you help her gather the materials needed to find the answer or solve a problem. As your child explores her world, remember to use these opportunities to facilitate new language by talking with her about the process and materials she is using.
Reflect, Revise, Revisit
As your child explores her world, be an observer of her ability to ask questions, make guesses, and seek answers. Notice where you can help promote her natural curiosity and yet not take over the process.