The following is a post by contributing writer Michelle of Raising Cajuns.
In the early childhood years, science education can easily follow an interest-based model. Children this age are naturally hands-on, active learners with eyes wide open to the wonders of the world around them. These ages are ripe for nature studies and observational learning, but you can cover much more as well if you simply follow their interests and and ask them lots of questions like, “What do you think would happen if […]?” or “Why do you think that happened?”
Keep a basket or shelf on their level and fill it with items they can use to explore the world around them: magnifying glasses, magnets, binoculars, field guides (books and/or apps), empty containers, and “bug boxes.” Then, consider all the ways you can study science as a regular part of your days:
Collect – shells, rocks, feathers, leaves, acorns, and anything else they want; make a nature notebook; give them a special tray, bowl, jar, or box where they can keep their treasures to sort, compare, and classify on their own
Create – grow food, flowers, and herbs; bake bread and talk about yeast; make sun prints; brew sun tea
Discuss – everything; also, basic parts of the body & body systems, hygiene, dental health, nutrition, recycling, water cycle, their favorite animals
Document – give them a sketchbook to draw and paint what they observe and collect; give them an old digital camera to take photographs of everything that interests them on your walks or in the backyard
Experiment – my five year old loves the Learning Resources Primary Science Set (discussed here & described one experiment from the kit) or give them little bowls filled with baking soda, vinegar, water and an eyedropper
Observe – clouds, bugs, objects sinking/floating, moon phases, stars
Take apart – old electronics, leaves, feathers, a pumpkin, items from a yard sale, and anything else you would otherwise throw away
Michelle is a wife, mother, writer, and Cajun who prefers everything extra spicy. She writes about their homeschool adventures at Raising Cajuns.
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