When and how do I begin teaching my child science?

You can help engage youth in science by encouraging them to ask questions and discover answers in their everyday lives.

When should you begin teaching your children science? What science should you teach your child? How do you teach child science? Every day, thousands of parents across Michigan help their children prepare for school. They count with their children or sing the ABC song, intentionally helping them better succeed in school in areas like reading and math. But what about science? When and how do parents teach their children science? Parents engage their children in science every day. However, unlike math and reading, this engagement is often coincidental rather than intentional.

Science is more than just a series of facts or knowledge of all the stuff in the universe. Science is a reliable process by which we learn about all that stuff in the universe. The essence of science is asking questions and discovering answers. Every day, our curious nature generates hundreds if not thousands of questions, which we either explore or ignore. Think about your ride to school or work. Did you ask yourself why that car was driving so slow or fast? Why did that squirrel run out in the road, sit on the shoulder of the road or run up that tree? Did you wonder what color something was? These are just a handful of questions that flit through our brains in one short morning ride. Kids ask those questions too.

You can help engage young children in science by encouraging them to ask questions and discover answers. Often, when a child asks a question, adults want to answer it. Avoid answering the question directly. When you answer the questions directly, you sabotage the joy of discovering answers on their own. Kids can go online and find answers to questions immediately, even if those answers are incorrect. When they figure out the answers on their own, it gives them the important life skill of evaluating information.

Questions you can use to help your young child discover the answers include:

  • What does this feel like?
  • What does this smell like?
  • What does this sound like?
  • What does this look like?
  • What does this taste like?

We all use our senses to explore our world. As children develop greater language skills, advance to questions that allow for explanations, like:

  • Why do you think that happened?
  • What do you think would happen if…?

For example, you might explore with children why the toy rolled down the driveway by exploring to find situations where the toy doesn’t roll. Another example: What will happen if I put a ball in water? Why did it sink or float? Explore the answer by placing different types of balls in water.

According to the National Science Teachers Association Position Statement: Early Childhood Science Education, “Engaging children in the Science and Engineering Practices in the early years (ages 3 through pre-school) can foster children’s curiosity and enjoyment in exploring the world around them and lay the foundation for a progression of science learning in K-12 settings and throughout their entire lives.” The National Science Teachers Association also recognized in the same Position Statement the importance of exploratory play for younger children from birth to 3 years of age.

Science is the excitement of exploring and discovering our world. You can help children learn about their world by encouraging them to talk about the answers they discover and the questions they explore.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the Michigan State University Extension Science and Engineering webpage. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. US-23 or visit our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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