1) Prepare for the mess
What used to be your kitchen table is now a science lab. And science is messy. So put down towels, cover your table with paper, use baking trays to contain liquids, wear washable clothing. Being prepared for the mess takes some of the stress away and allows space for your children to explore to their fullest potential.
2) Let your child do as much as possible. Even if they do it ‘wrong’. Even if they’re struggling.
As parents, it can be hard to watch our children struggle and we want to help them, but learning happens through encountering and overcoming challenges. Children thrive when they have the opportunity to go through this process. A good rule of thumb to use is: don’t do anything that your child thinks they can do for themselves. If your child is on the verge of frustration, consider asking “would you like some help with that?” At this point, give only enough help so that your child can resume their task on their own.
If you need to intervene to prevent an accident, be sure to explain why the behavior was unsafe and help your child find a safer way to accomplish their task.
3) Give them time and silence to explore
Children need time to experiment, think, ask questions, and make connections. While it is tempting to jump in with information and explanations, your child’s learning will be more effective if they are able to discover their own answers. Sit back and make room for that to happen. This is also a great opportunity for you to learn about your child – by observing their science explorations, you can learn about their interests, their learning process, and how they approach new situations and challenges.
4) Model science practices
- Hypothesize. Ask your child “what do you think will happen when we add the baking soda to the vinegar?” Encourage further exploration with statements such as “I wonder if there’s anything else in our kitchen that would work to make bubbles.”
- Experiment. When your child has a question, the most powerful answer may be: “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” This is the heart of science.
- Observe. Focus on the senses when making observations. Ask “what do you see?” or “what do you hear?”. Introduce new vocabulary for younger children such as “this feels slippery on my fingers.”
- Try again. Sometimes an experiment does not go as planned. This is an opportunity to investigate what might have gone wrong and to work towards success. You’ll likely come out of it with a deeper understanding of the scientific principles at play.
5) Have fun!
Science is for everyone - play and explore with your child. Get messy and discover things together!