Why is the sky blue?
Why is a hot air balloon hot?
Why do some balloons keep falling and some go high up in the air?
Why does it rain?
Why does ice melt?
If you are or have been a parent to a toddler or pre-schooler, these questions must be familiar to you. Sometimes, you delight in answering these questions and sometimes, face it, we squirm at them. When children go out into the world they observe a lot of things around them. Some kids are really sharp and notice the smallest of things and their curiosity gets the better of them. Some children learn to observe when they are shown things around them, boosting their curiosity. Whatever way it may be, as parents we need to find and provide answers to satisfy their questions and also to encourage them to be observant and curious. At some age, at some level – kids just learn to ask the inevitable questions.
Most of these questions have an obvious and expected connection to science. So it does happen that we get confused as to the explanation to be offered. It is difficult to hold their tiny attention spans and a detailed explanation is not possible. I mean, many a times I have seen those eyes gradually getting a glazed, far-away look- that’s like a cue to stop immediately! Ha ha!
But here, I’m talking about a basic introduction to science. I feel we, at home, play a decently important role in determining how much science our children learn – in the sense that our enthusiasm and encouragement can help spark their interest. I read this somewhere – scientific knowledge is cumulative, so children need to start learning early at home; it is just an assumption that children will learn all the science they need to learn at school. Maybe, somewhere, I agree with that thought.
Again, I don’t mean to start teaching our kids scientific formulae or complex science phenomena. In fact, I’m not referring to teaching at all. IT IS NOT ABOUT TEACHING THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE EXPERIMENT. The idea is simply to fascinate them. Hell, there have been situations where my husband and I have been equally amazed at the results as our little one! Little opportunities in our daily life give us opportunities to learn science. This is something that can be done easily, without effort or expense. Like – baking a cake, how much time does it take for a bud to become to a full-bloomed flower, watch a caterpillar grow into a butterfly, how the water spilled on the carpet dries off completely with time, how the water level rises in the tub when your child sits in it. Don’t these sound simple? Your child may not be asking these questions but that is where we can ask them and also provide answers – in basic, simple ways aided by observation. In fact, this could be a game where you can ask them their version of the answer or ask them to guess what they think would happen next. I completely believe it goes a long way in instilling the interest in science in them.
Learning to observe objects carefully is an important step in this regard. And this is where my interest comes in. Simple experiments with everyday equipments/ingredients (especially from the kitchen larder) can help to boost observation in little children. They are amazed, curious, excited and happy to see things happening in front of them. There are times when I have observed that A would do exactly what I have instructed her not to do just because she wants to ‘see’ and ‘know’ herself. Its impossible for her to contain her curiosity at those times! I’m sure this is true for all pre-schoolers. This trait can be encouraged in various simple experiments that we can do in our homes itself. A young mind is curious by design and, in a way, we can help lay the foundations of a questioning, curious, rational future mind.
I try to do experiments which have colours in them as it is a sure shot crowd-puller. Fascinating the young mind is equally important as encouraging questions. And I also think repeating the experiments over time is also helpful as the mind works differently at different stages.
I have recorded here the experiments that we did at home with our little A. We try to stick to an experiment every weekend so that it becomes a regular activity. The idea is not to get them to understand what is happening or expect them to ask questions. That will happen only as they grow and as they see more and more experiments. It’s perfectly okay if they do not show any interest in understanding the reason behind it. If they are happy to experiment and show interest in repeating any of them, or have recall value, that’s great.