Preparing Your Child for School: Science
It’s possible to prepare your child well for school science experiences without specialized equipment or curriculum. Find tips on how to prepare your child to start thinking scientifically before they start school in this article.
Taking care of pets, trips to see zoo animals or wildlife, weather observation, growing plants, personal hygiene, and cooking are among the activities that have a particular science component that you can bring to your child’s attention to help him or her learn and prepare for what’s to come.
There are (at least) two ways to approach science prior to formal schooling. One is by focusing on the kinds of thinking that scientists engage in and ensuring that children have opportunities for this kind of thought. The other is by pursuits in the areas of knowledge that fall with in the areas of scientific study.
Here are some types of thinking associated with scientific activities and examples of how a child can do them.
Spend time observing something each day - you could look at an animal, a vegetable, the sky, or a favorite toy. Decide which of the senses can be used to observe the chosen item (it’s probably not possible to taste the sky), and help your child develop a vocabulary for each sense -
Taste: sweet, sour, bitter, tangy, salty, etc.
Smell: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, spicy, etc.
Touch: rough, smooth, slippery, gooey, etc.
Sound: loud, soft, grating, musical, rustling, etc.
Sight: focus on words for color, shape, size, textures observable by eye, movement, etc.
Measuring different characteristics of items is a related skill to observing • usually measuring involves interacting with the item in some way. So we can measure the amount of rainfall, the temperature in an aquarium environment, the amount a child has grown in the past year.
Observing the characteristics of items helps us to classify them • to assign them to categories that help us make predictions about them or know how to interact with them or understand other, unseen attributes. In other words, classification helps us to make inferences about items. For example:
- We classify a plant as poison ivy, and then avoid touching it so that we don’t get a rash.
- We classify a laundry stain as grass and then we know how to treat it to remove it.
- We classify a beaver as a rodent, based on its teeth, and then are able to draw conclusions about its diet, even though we haven’t seen it eat.
Some activities - many of which you may already do - invite scientific thinking on their own. Here are examples:
Acoustics - using a paper towel tube as a megaphone; making echoes
Aeronautics - making and flying paper airplanes and/or kites
Agriculture - growing a potato or sweet potato end, or an avocado seed; making compost; planting a garden
Astronomy - looking at the night sky and identifying stars, planets, constellations, the moon
Botany - collecting leaves in the park and using a tree book to identify them
Chemistry - making bread
Ecology - creating a terrarium or aquarium environment
Geology - observing and classifying pebbles/rocks
Health - using a disinfectant on a wound
Human Body - naming the parts of the body; using the senses
Meteorology - observing and predicting weather
Physics - rolling balls or marbles down an incline; blowing bubbles with different shape wands; using magnets
Zoology - learning the names of baby animals, building a birdhouse for a particular species
With all the ways that science can be experience by preschoolers, children can easily gain comfort with science concepts and vocabulary before they begin school.
Preparing Your Child for School: Science Sources
- curriculum pbs.org/teachersource/definitions/
Written by Mary Elizabeth.