One thing that’s beautiful about science is that it’s everywhere. You don’t have to go flipping through a dense, dust-covered textbook to see science at work — just look around you! If you want to get your kids interested in learning science, don’t treat it like a subject that they’ll be getting graded on at the end of the day. Children are born curious, so show them that science can be fun, give them something hands-on to tinker with, and let them indulge in their curiosities.
Don’t Drill Them with Facts
When you talk to your child about science, don’t structure your conversations like a multiple choice exam. The goal is to open a discourse, not earn a gold star. You don’t want to drill children with facts; you want to get them talking.
When it comes to learning the scientific method, for example, memorizing the steps is very important. However, understanding the process is far more crucial. Instead of quizzing kids on what they know, do an experiment together. Help them get hands on experience using the scientific method, and talk to them about the process every step of the way.
Invest in STEM Toys
Creating a paper mache volcano is pretty cool — especially when you combine the vinegar and baking soda — but it’s also one of the oldest science experiments in the book. If you really want to get your kids interested in learning science, let them try out something new and exciting, like STEM toys! STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and STEM toys are designed to educate children in these core disciplines while they play.
When kids learn with their hands, their natural retention is amplified, and when they’re having fun, learning doesn’t feel like work! There are creative, engaging STEM toys available for kids of all ages, so it’s never too early to get them interested in science. From rocket building kits and deluxe LEGO sets, to crystal building kits and power supply soldering kits, there’s something for all skill levels and areas of interest.
Sneak Science Into Everyday Life
While STEM toys are a great way to get your kids interested in learning science, you can also sneak a little bit of science into everyday life — no purchase required. If your kids are big into sports, throw a football around and talk about the physics at play. If your children play an instrument, talk to them about the relationship between vibration, frequency, and sound. If you’ve got an aspiring chef on your hands, experiment with some food science! There are plenty of free food science tutorials online that will teach children about chemical reactions, solar power, nucleation, and more.
Tasty, Tasty Science: Make Ice Cream in a Bag!
Who knew you could create delicious ice cream in your own kitchen, sans fancy machine? By doing this food science experiment, you can get anyone interested in science, and share a tasty treat! In this experiment, you’ll effectively lower the temperature at which ice freezes, and turn liquid to solid right in front of you.
- ½ cup of milk
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2 sandwich-sized Ziploc bags
- 2 gallon-sized Ziploc bags
- ½ cup of rock salt (not for eating!)
- Winter gloves
Simply pour the milk, sugar, and vanilla extract into one of the sandwich-sized Ziploc bags, seal the bag, and then place it inside the second sandwich-sized Ziploc. Next, place your double-layer sandwich bag inside one of the gallon-sized Ziploc bags, add your ice and rock salt, and then seal. Place your filled, gallon-sized Ziploc into the remaining gallon-sized Ziploc for maximum security.
Now that the ingredients are all present and in place, it’s time for you and your child to put on warm, winter gloves. Shake the bag for 15-20 minutes, passing it back and forth to each other when your arms get tired. When the time’s up, remove the innermost Ziploc, transfer your homemade ice cream to a bowl, and enjoy your scientific findings!
Encourage Them to Ask Questions
Another thing that’s great about science is that no one has all of the answers. Even the most prestigious scientists started somewhere, and look at what their curiosity led them to accomplish. If you want to get your kids interested in learning science, teach them that it’s okay to start small, but always encourage them to think big. By thinking outside the box and asking questions, they’ll feel more inclined (and genuinely excited) to find the answer.
Even though you might already know the answer to some of their questions (where do rainbows come from, why does helium make balloons float, etc.) don’t just tell them the answer and move on. Do research together. Do an experiment. Help them experience science — it’s far more rewarding.
Try Out Something New, Together!
Science is all around us. It’s subtle, it’s astonishing, and it comes in every flavor imaginable. While there are plenty of clever ways that you can sneak some science knowledge into a child’s average day, another effective (and memorable) way to get them interested in science is by exploring something new together. Start with a subject that you’re both beginners on, but both excited to see through. You’re partners now, so go out into the real world and try something new!
Here are a few fun and educational ideas:
- Take a weekend trip to a state forest, camp under the stars, and study the ecosystem during the day.
- If there’s a solar eclipse coming up, don’t miss your chance to study the sky and witness one of the solar system’s most beautiful sights. Buy a couple pairs of solar eclipse viewers to protect your eyes, and get ready to be wowed.
- Record and study the weather using a homemade rain gauge.
- Go rock hunting to learn about the rocks and minerals in your area. You never know what you’ll be able to excavate.
Whether you’re trying to get an entire classroom full of children excited about science or you’re just engaging with your own child, there are plenty of ways to encourage children to embrace their inner curiosity. Try some of these top tips to get started today!
Robbie Callahan is a freelance writer and avid eclipse chaser based in Clayton, Georgia. He loves teaching others about solar phenomenon and strives to get children involved in science. When he’s not writing, he volunteers with the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project