Summer is the perfect time to get a little messy and learn about science concepts with your children. Don’t worry! You don’t need to have all the answers or know all the technical terms. Science is all around you.
Science is about the methods you use as you explore the world with your children. There should be a lot of hands-on investigation, questioning, hypothesizing, and conversation. Here are some ways to encourage your child to explore science around your home.
Properties of water:
- Fill up the kitchen sink (or bathtub if you’re feeling really brave) and have your child find items around the house that they think will float, and items they think might sink. Ask them to predict if the items will sink or float. Then have your child test their predictions.
- When getting ready for a bath, ask your child to note the water level. You can even mark the level with a bathtub crayon. Once your child is in the tub, ask them to check if the water level has changed. Have them mark the new level and note the difference.
- Go outside in different types of weather (rain and sunshine). Ask how the weather feels (smells, sounds, sights, etc.) Take note of a flag or leaves on a tree to see if there is wind. You can even keep a container outside, marked in half inches, to record precipitation.
- After a rainstorm, talk to your child about where the puddles come from and what happens to them after the rain has stopped.
- Point out shadows and talk about how they change at different times of the day.
- Grow a plant with your child. If possible, plant a garden! Ask what the plant needs to survive and grow (water, sun, dirt). You can keep a chart to track the plant’s growth.
- Try tracking plant growth of different types of seeds in different environments, like a sunny window or a shady spot outside. Then, compare the growth rates.
- Have fun with different mixtures. For example, put a small amount of baking soda in a cup and add vinegar. Or put a Mentos mint in a diet soda. Ask your child to predict what will happen and then observe the reaction.
- Fill a clear glass about two-thirds full with water. Pour some vegetable oil into the glass and watch what happens. Now add a drop of food coloring and observe. Next, sprinkle salt into the glass. Continue to add more salt. It should sink to the bottom because it is heavier than the liquids. Play around with the mixture—add more colors!
- Watch the birds in your backyard or neighborhood. Make a list of all the different kinds of birds you see. Look up the names of the birds on the Internet. Provide different kinds of food (for example, seeds and fruit) and see which kinds of food the birds like best. Are some birds attracted to seeds while others prefer fruit?
- Dig a small hole in your backyard. Gently look through the soil. How many different creatures can you see (i.e., worms, ants, beetles, spiders, etc.)? Model for your child how to respect living creatures and remind them how important each one is to life on Earth. Gently and respectfully fill the hole so the creatures continue to live in their soil home.
Remember, science doesn’t need to be complicated. It isn’t always necessary, for example, to know why the vinegar and baking soda react the way they do or why oil floats on top of water. The important thing is that your child is exposed to these experiences.
They should have fun and be able to experiment and explore. Talk to your child about what she is observing and what she thinks might happen. The best part is that when you don’t know the answer to a question they ask, you can research and find out together!