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When parents think of scientific learning, they probably think of the chemistry experiments and biology textbooks that characterize science class in elementary school and above. But preschoolers are already actively engaged in scientific learning, both inside the classroom and out. As they ask questions and seek answers to their "how" and "why" questions, they are beginning to practice scientific investigation.
The scientific method for preschoolers doesn’t involve fancy equipment and systematic procedures. “Science is a way to find out about the world through exploration. Children are investigators by nature, “says Dr. Laura Martin, Director of Science Interpretation at the Arizona Science Center. “When you nurture children’s natural desire to investigate you are helping them to develop scientific minds. We create environments that engage the senses of young children and allow them to sort and classify, handle, observe, and build and ask questions, which is how they construct ideas about the physical and natural world.”
You can foster your child’s curiosity about science by engaging in conversations, reading books and simply observing the world around you! Preschoolers' natural curiosity makes exploring science together a blast. How can parents help? Try a few of these fun and simple ways to engage your child in science learning.
As you make observations about nature, start conversations with your preschooler. Simply discussing what you observe, hypothesizing about what you think might happen, and categorizing different objects and occurrences will give your child important insights about science.
Hypothesize: Give your child the opportunity to make guesses about what she thinks might happen.
- Ask your child what color she thinks will be created when you mix blue and yellow together and then let her try by adding food color to water or finger painting.
- Engage in a little physics by rolling cars down a wooden plank or balls through a wrapping paper tube. Ask your child to guess which angle will make the car or ball go faster or farther.
- Fill a large container with water and gather a bunch of small items from around the house. Have your child make guesses about which will sink and which will float and then test her theory. You might be surprised by some of the results.
Categorize: Help your child understand the order of nature by observing the categories animals and food fall into.
- Take notice of which foods are vegetables and vegetables. You can also categorize other foods from your dinner plate such as dairy, grains, and protein.
- Talk about different types of animals and see what you can learn about them by checking out books in your library. Follow your child’s interest: if she loves frogs, find a book about amphibians, or treat your little bug hunter to a few books about the characteristics insects share. Other interesting categories might include nocturnal animals, reptiles, fish, and mammals.