This week’s blog post is an article taken from Montessori Services/For Small Hands, which is a wonderful place to buy games, toys, and Montessori-inspired materials for your child to have at home. St. Paul’s is participating in a fundraiser with For Small Hands – we receive credits to put towards school purchases when you place an order using our school code: ______. Perhaps you can find some good materials to incorporate scientific exploration at home!
Science is everywhere. With this awareness, you can identify common scientific principles that occur in your normal everyday family life.
Your child begins to experiment and learn about science usually before he can walk. The youngest child discovers gravity at a young age when the spoon “falls” to the floor from the highchair or the stuffed animal “falls” from the crib. It’s a true discovery that can be replicated and is based on scientific fact. As your child matures, he can begin to think like a scientist and be curious, asking, “I wonder why?”
Playing with Science
Whether building with blocks or throwing a ball, your child is learning basic principles of physics. The concepts need not be put into words, as results happen best in real life. For the young child who is verbal, a simple question asked can elicit a prediction. “What do you think will happen if I put this large long block on top of this stack of three small blocks?” “What happens to the car as it goes down the ramp?”
Consider the science as you become aware of things we take for granted. It is easy and tempting to share what we know, but try to just enjoy the pleasure your child derives from making a discovery on her own. And it’s ok to be amazed, too. “Oh my! What happened to the ice I put in my glass a while ago?” “Yesterday this rose was so small and now the blossom is huge. What made it change?”
In Every Room
Find science in every room of the house. In the kitchen, explore solid, liquid, and gas which are different forms of water. Talk about how bread dough rises, or the way the mineral water fizzes. In the bathroom, have toys available so your child can see the ones that float and the ones that sink. What happens when you try to keep a ball under the water on the bottom of the tub?
Every home holds many types of science. Here are a few ideas for easy explorations and discoveries:
- Watch a bean sprout. Place a paper towel inside a glass jar and put lima or fava bean seeds between the moist paper and the glass. Put sand or soil in the jar to hold the paper in place, keeping the soil and paper moist. Set the jar in a warm, bright place, and watch the seeds sprout and grow. Older children could keep a journal of what happens, how long it takes to sprout, and measure how much it grows each day. The sprout could later be planted in soil to continue the growth.
- Collect leaves. When outside, collect several different types of leaves. Bring them back home, dry them in a book or flower press and later mount them on paper with the location and name of the tree from which each one came.
- Explore with a magnet. With a small hand-held magnet, discover what items magnets can pick up or stick to. Explore the whole house with a magnet. Or prepare a box or tray holding 8 or 10 small items such as a paper clip, acorn, button, etc. Separate magnetic items from non-magnetic. Older children can make labels for organizing the items.
- See what floats. Fill a bucket or the sink with water. Collect a number of small waterproof items to test. This is a perfect activity to do outside with pebbles, sandbox toys, leaves, twigs, or whatever small items are found.
- Count the beats. Help your child identify aspects of the human body. At a quiet time, show him how to feel his heartbeat. Discover how it’s sometimes fast, other times slower. Try counting the number of beats using a stopwatch and extend the discovery to all members of the household, including the pets. A stethoscope is a helpful addition.
- Find your bones. Talk about bones and the human skeleton. It’s fun to count the vertebrae or the ribs. Identify the names of the bones, perhaps using a diagram of a skeleton.
As always, the concrete real-life activity needs to come first, preceding the abstract principles and explanations which come later for an older child. Children can learn to predict what might occur, and they can record proof of what happened. Young children learn by moving and using their senses, so keep them moving, listening, touching, and watching. Enjoy finding science everywhere.
“Children are stimulated by natural curiosity… and learning by discovery rather than by being told gives children a particular satisfaction.”
—Aline D. Wolf, A Parents’ Guide to the Montessori Classroom