What is Science?
Often when we talk about Science, people automatically assume we are referring to complex understandings such as the laws of motion or the chemical reaction between an acid and base. But Science is really just life. Its the how and why of everyday, and children are naturally inquisitive about this. Children are born scientists. My toddler asks more than one hundred questions a day, such as Why is the sky blue? Where do the birds go at night? How do bees fly? Where do dinosaurs live? Why do the trees have no leaves?
From the moment a child is born, they question the world around them and seek to investigate how things work. Even babies seek to understand and experiment with their environment. This curiosity drives their ability to learn and as an educator, and a mum, its my job to encourage those questions and assist my child in finding some of the answers.
Why is science important in early education?
It is vital to encourage a child's enthusiasm for scientific discovery as early on as possible. Once a child’s curiosity about the world has been discouraged, their eagerness to study Science in the future is gone. Research has shown that by the age of six, children have already formed an attitude, whether negative or positive towards Science. Encouraging discovery through play is key to ensure children have positive experiences to carry through their lives.
How do you encourage your child to be a little scientist at home?
Children learn through play, so incorporating science into play is key. Cultivating scientific discovery at home is easy. It doesn’t need to involve elaborate scientific experiments, expensive equipment or a wealth of knowledge. Even the most simplest of activities can stimulate scientific thinking and encourage child led discovery.
So how do you do that?
- Firstly you don’t need to be a scientist yourself. Thank goodness we live in a world where you can find the answer to a question with the click of a button. Its also great to be honest with your child and say “I don’t know the answer to that either. Maybe we should find out". This encourages children to come up with their own theory and build on their investigating skills.
- The process is more important than the answer. Cultivating that natural curiosity is key. The main goal shouldn’t be the answer, but rather the steps in the process of finding one. Sometimes the answer to one question could lead to more questions. We can encourage children to explore through play, make observations, raise questions and work to investigate how to answer those questions. For example if a child is exploring some fruit in a bucket of water, ask them what they observe. "What happens to the orange when it is placed in the bucket of water?” Raise some questions “Which fruits float and which sink?” Then ask why?
- Model curiosity yourself. When your child makes an observation during play, ask them ‘why’ This encourages them to go looking for the answer and eventually leads to critical thinking skills that are important for when they start school.
- Allow child led discovery to occur. Spontaneous opportunities to answer questions in every life is easy. Go to the park and observe that some trees have no leaves, investigate why. Stop and take the time for your three year old to watch how the wheels on the pram turn, and ask them “what will happen if stop pushing the pram?” Observe a fly walking on the ceiling and ask them to think about why they don’t fall to the ground. There is so much science in everyday life.
- Get hands on with play. Young children love being involved with physical exploration. Sometimes the messier the better, so try to loose control over the mess and see where the magic of exploration can take them. You will notice it much easier to engage maintain their interest this way.
- Lastly have fun because thats what Science is all about.