Teaching Science to Young Children
Young children, particularly those between three to eight years of age, learn best through doing. Abstract thoughts and concepts are difficult for them to grasp because they primarily learn about the world around them by experiencing it through their senses. For this reason it is important to focus science lessons around things that they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell so that they are continually immersed in science as they discover all sorts of new and different things about the world around them, how things work, and about themselves and others. These types of discoveries are science in a very real way.
Because children are naturally very curious and love to experiment, the years of early childhood provide a perfect opportunity to help kids develop a love for learning and especially a love for science. By providing plenty of opportunities for your children to experience things in a hands-on way, you will encourage and increase their curiosity and soon everything they encounter will become an important science investigation!
Children also learn by finding answers to their many questions, which flow out of their curiosity and are a very important part of their thought process. Question-asking helps kids make connections in their minds between different things they have experienced. You may get tired of answering the 'who, what, when, where, why, and how'' type of questions your kids ask you on a daily basis and at times they may even ask you questions that you don't have answers to. Make it a goal to help them find the answer to those questions, or else give them the resources they need to discover the answer themselves. You can also encourage kids to think by asking leading questions and encouraging them to explain their answers. This is also a great way to find out what your children already know about a topic.
It is important to remember that children are constantly learning. You can use that fact to your advantage by involving your children in as many of your daily tasks and routines as possible. This type of 'spur the moment'' learning can be ongoing and is easy to fit in with a busy schedule. We suggest the book Bite-Sized Science: Activities for Children in 15 Minutes or Less for some terrific and simple ways to teach science concepts to your kids in hands-on ways. However, we also urge you to set aside a time that can be devoted entirely to science.
Using Our Teaching Tips
Because these aspects of learning are very important in the development of young children, the main goal of our Teaching Tips is to help you provide your young kids with opportunities to use their senses and ask questions as well as to equip you to provide them with answers. Although we have tried to keep the activities simple with minimal preparation time, we suggest that you read through each Teaching Tip before using it with your kids so that you know what to expect and how to prepare. We have also provided a few adaptations for different age groups and we encourage you to teach kids of various ages together when appropriate. We hope that our Teaching Tips will be used flexibly - you can alter the activities to fit your children's needs!
Each Teaching Tip has a resource guide at the end to help you find products and other websites that we think will be helpful to you as you seek to instill in your children a life-long love of learning, specifically of science. For a more in-depth study, we recommend checking out some books at your local library or looking for more information on the internet.
Our Teaching Tips for young children include