With so much attention on reading and math assessments these days, it’s no wonder the classroom science lab has been suffering. Many elementary school classrooms are getting rid of the Science Corner in favor of another Reading Lab or Math Station.

Today’s parents may have to take a little initiative to get more science learning into their children’s lives. Luckily it’s not hard—science is everywhere and there are plenty of real-world opportunities for exploring the key disciplines of life, earth, and physical science. And moreover it’s worth it—science careers are more in demand than ever. So making your child feel comfortable with science at a young age can give her an advantage over the competition in the classroom.

Here are a few easy ways you can bring the science curriculum into your child’s everyday life in a meaningful way.

For Younger Kids

Children are never “too young” for science. To encourage your budding biologist, just take a look at the natural world around you. Observing plants and animals is a great way to get started talking about some of the more important life science concepts discussed in the younger grades. Point out living and nonliving things in your environment. What makes something living or nonliving? Reinforce what a living thing needs to stay alive (food, water, air). Then chat about the differences between living things. Compare a dog to a bee. You’ll likely find tons of ways they are different. But how are they alike? Give your child leading hints rather than offering the full answer.

Here are some other discussion points that align with the science curriculum for the K-2 set:

Life Science

  • Where do plants and animals live?
  • What are the parts of your body? What are they for?

Earth Science

  • What is soil made of?
  • What landforms are in your area?
  • What is a natural resource? How can we conserve resources?

Physical Science

  • What are the properties of objects? Group objects by their shape, texture, or color.
  • What kind of energy heats our home? What kind of energy lights our home?"
  • How can we make objects move by pushing or pulling on them?
  • How fun are magnets to play with? Find out!

This questions may be a little tough, but they'll get your child thinking about science and asking the right kinds of questions to help them explore the subject as she learns about the science that's all around her.

For the Middle Grades

In the middle grades, more attention is given to scientific inquiry. This is a process in which you ask questions about the world around you, investigate a problem you can solve, and then get to work at designing a solution to your problem. This is how inventors and scientists work in real life, and students are encouraged to explore the world by getting involved and solving problems.

For example, how can you make a safer seatbelt? How can you make pots and pans with better insulation? How can you make a window shade that won’t wake you up at the crack of dawn? Have your child brainstorm some ideas she wants to address and do some research about what may already exist. Then write up a plan about what you can do to solve the problem or improve on an existing design. Include the materials you might use and adjust your plan as you talk more about it. The objective is to get your child thinking, not to win the science fair or come up with the next big invention.

For Older Kids

High school science can get a little hairy for anyone, and by this point your child’s knowledge of biology or ecology may be fresher than your own. But never give up being a source of encouragement. Think about what teens love most—media! There are plenty of great documentaries about science that you can watch with your teen—and you may learn something, too! While most documentaries don’t directly teach the high school curriculum, they can be great enrichment tools for piquing your teen’s interest in the sciences.

Here’s a list of a few good ones available on DVD:

  • Life Enjoy the stunning photography as you explore just about everything there is to know about the natural world.
  • Stephen Hawking and the Theory of Everything Learn about this fascinating cosmologist and his theories.
  • The 11th Hour Find out about the state of our planet, with this feature narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • Nikola Tesla: The Genius Who Lit the World Brush up on your electricity knowledge with the story of this inventor of the first alternating-current induction motor.
  • Crude: The Incredible Journey of Oil Take an informative trip to find out where oil comes from and the processes it goes through to get to your local gas pump.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel Explore the fascinating story of how germs impacted society. And find out how the technologies of guns and steel influenced civilization.

And don't forget to take a look at your local library for documentaries that interest you and your child. No one expects you to be a substitute for a science teacher. Your job as a parent is just to open your child’s mind to let the science in! You'll be setting her up for a bright future ahead.

Need some Science Fair help? Check out our award-winning ideas to help get you started here.