It’s mid-January, and like most Moms I’m breathing a sigh of relief that kids are back in school. After spending two wonderful weeks at home with all the children under one roof 24/7, it’s nice to have some breathing room. During those days and weeks jam-packed with family activities, I was amazed yet again at how often science entered our family time, even with my preschoolers. Granted, I do tend to lean towards the geeky side, but I’m still stunned everytime I hear a middle or high school student exclaim, “I HATE science/math!!” So, here are some ideas to introduce a lifetime of loving science to your children. “Love?” you exclaim doubtfully. Ok, well at least a tolerance, ha ha!!
1. Check your attitude: Ouch. Now, before you roll your eyes and say, “Easy for you,” let me explain. I hate (and yes, I mean HATE) garden peas and peaches, but my children eat them. When I was in school, P.E. was the bane of my existence! Yet, my oldest child thinks it’s the greatest thing on earth. Am I super Mom? Heck no. I just did my best to let them form their own opinions. Sure, I still have a slight facial tic when my oldest mentions something fabulous he did in P.E., but I simply encourage his enthusiasm even though I don’t share it. If science was your idea of you-know-where on earth as a student, try not to tell your child about it, at least not until they’re in college. Do your best to offer opportunities and neutrality (if you can’t muster enthusiasm) and see what happens!
2. Find science opportunites in everyday life: Now, this one is far easier than number 1! Obviously, cooking is a great time to introduce measuring and temperature concepts. Keep the hand sanitizer nearby and let Johnny and Suzie measure out ingredients, scoop out dough, stir and blend, and, of course, quality control (taste sampling). Explain concepts as you go—What’s a meniscus? How does water change the consistency? Why do we add salt to water before it boils? One of my favorite principles in Chemistry is limiting reagents. I use that ALL the time in cooking, and I assure you my kids will understand it before they ever enter a Chemistry class. (if you don’t know, a limiting reagent is the item that “limits” how far a reaction will go…if your recipe calls for 1 cup sugar and 1 cup flour and you have 100 cups of sugar and 2 cups of flour, the flour is your limiting reagent. You can make only 2 batches of your recipe before you are limited by the flour.) Other household chores present science opportunites. My goal is that one day my kids will “enjoy” the experimentation involved with yardwork and laundry without realizing they are doing chores!!
3. Surround your kids with science books and TV/movie opportunites: I was surprised when my oldest child started reading how many science books are available, even for early readers. I get most of mine at yard sales and thrift stores, but your local library should have a great selection as well. It’s just as easy for them to learn about reading with books on weather and nature as it is to read about My Little Pony’s Adventure to Candy Castle. While I’m not a huge advocate for TV watching, I am a realist. Especially when you have kids of different ages. Sometimes, you and the kidlets need some downtime. After a twelve year hiatus, we recently got TV again in our home. I’m pleasantly surprised at the shows offered on PBS. One of my preschoolers now knows more about dinosaurs than I ever did and he’s learning great things on scientific procedure from Sid the Science Kid. And once your kids are older, the sci-fi genre of movies offers an endless supply of science adventures and intrigue. My point is this: if your kids are going to watch TV/movies anyway, let it be a chance to learn some decent science and math principles!
Enjoy! Have fun creating a lifetime of loving science in your home…or at least tolerate it while you watch your children grow and learn:-)
PS: So this is great, but you have a middle-schooler with a science project due next week?!?! Go to 24 Hour Science Projects to get you started on your scientific journey!!