OK, so how is it done? As a parent, I think we all want to do the best we can to support our kids in their mission to understand and explore the world around them. I think it is very important to try to get your kids to see science as fun first and educational second. Here below, I will share some of my tips on how to help you as a parent encourage an interest in science with your children.
It all starts when your child asks one of the million “Why” questions and you provide an answer. You don’t even need to know the real answer, because science is about asking questions, wondering and exploring your ideas. Kids do what you do, so let them see and hear you being curious. Ask questions like “I wonder…” or “Why do you think…” or “How…”. These are the types of questions that promote scientific thinking and reasoning. And of course, make sure to let your kids answer your questions, because kids absolutely love to share their knowledge with grownups. And also, it can give them a special thrill to think they know something you don’t!
Keep in mind that it is very easy for us as parents to stop our kids from experimenting, and we may not even realize it. When a child is being destructive he or she is actually experimenting. Obviously there will be times when we have to stand in the way, but many times we intervene too much, simply because our kids curiosity is often inconvenient for us as adults.
I think most kids get really engaged when they’re doing and creating stuff. As an example, open the front door and get outside with your kids. What weather is it? If it rains, grab an umbrella and go for a walk. Look at the sidewalks for earthworms or snails and try to follow them to see where they came from or where they go. Is it sunny, walk around and listen for birds songs and try to figure out what kind of bird created that sound.
The best thing I know is when my kids get the “aha” moment. Once, when my daughter was about two years old she really wanted to get a book from a shelf that she couldn’t reach. She knew we had a stool in the bathroom, which she could stand on when she washed her hands. All off a sudden, I saw her carry the stool, put it on the floor below the shelf and then step up on it. Now she could reach the book, and she took it down. She had solved the issue “How can I reach that book” all by herself. I was really impressed, since we had never showed her to do so.
Everything in our lives is somehow connected back to science. As an example you can have a conversation about the food you eat, the air we breathe, how our bodies work and which chemicals are involved in creating the products we use.
Encourage your kids to ask their teachers about how real scientists use the information they are taught in school. If you have friends or family members who are scientists, engage them in a discussion with your kids about what they do, and if possible let your children visit their workplaces. This will also open up the possibilities for discussions on how to make a career in science.
There are science clubs in many schools. Encourage your kids to join one science club at school or with other organizations. This will likely boost their passion for science.
In most major cities you will be able to find a natural history museum or a science center. Natural history museums have in general a strong focus on ecology, geology and paleontology. The science centers often cover a very broad area that include all sciences. Many times you will find unique interactive experiments in these centers that are created to fit for both children and adults. Best of all, many of the museums and centers are either free or rather inexpensive compare to most other forms of entertainment.