As a working scientist, I’m keen for my children to grow up appreciating and understanding the sciences. I want to do what I can, during my daughter’s preschool years, to encourage a love of science. Whether she considers a career in the sciences or in a related discipline or not, I believe that a life-long love of the sciences is a wonderful strength to encourage. Here are some ways you can have fun with preschool science:
- Explore the world with your child. Take your child on trips to the museum, science centre, zoo, or aquarium in your local area. Explore the natural world around you by taking an interest in plants, animals and insects in parks, beaches, creeks or even in your own backyard.
- Start watching documentaries with your child. Quality wildlife documentaries are often enjoyed by children. Pay attention to the kinds of animals that capture your child’s interest and buy or borrow documentaries on that topic.
- Access science-related toys and activities such as preschool chemistry sets, dinosaur figurines or planting a garden together.
- Relish in your child’s questions. Preschoolers are naturally good at a key feature of science: curiosity. So, show delight in your child’s curiosity. Recognise it as the strength it is and help it to grow.
- Reignite your own curiosity. Really, having children is a remarkable opportunity to shed your crusty, adult cynicism and become excited and curious about the world again. Whether or not you consider yourself a fan of the sciences, try to put that aside and just be interested in the world around you. See the world with fresh eyes and learn as much as you can, yourself, about whatever is sparking an interest in your child. Science is about understanding the world, so I guarantee that science touches upon something that you find fascinating.
- Make the word hypothesis part of your everyday vocabulary. This is actually easy to do once you get used to it. For example, ‘I wonder why the biscuits are burnt. Hmm… my hypothesis is that we had the oven too hot. What is your hypothesis?’
- Model a scientific approach to solving problems. This means coming up with ideas and testing to see what works. So, instead of positioning yourself as the expert who is teaching your child, try to take the approach of, together, testing and discovering what works. For example, ‘So our hypothesis is that the biscuits were burnt because the oven was too hot. Let’s test that by turning the oven down and seeing what happens to the next batch.’
Apply it to your life: Does encouraging a love of science matter to you? How do you encourage an appreciation and understanding of science in your children?