Music and Motivation
Creative Parents' Credo
Profiles in Creativity
Inspiration For Artists
My Childhood and Theirs
Notes from the Library
Who Are Creative Parents
by Istar Schwager,
said Lisa as she watched the ladybug crawl across the leaf. “That
ladybug has two dots on her back.”
she fly?” asked her friend Joey, looking up from digging for worms
don’t know,” Lisa answered. She bent
down and looked closely. “ Maybe. She kind of has wings.”
as if on cue, the ladybug fluttered over to another clump of leaves. “She
can fly, she can,” shouted Joey with that combination of wonder
and excitement special to children under six.
children are natural scientists. Intuitively, they do many of the same
things as grown-ups wearing lab coats. For professional and child alike,
science is the process of finding out more about how the world works.
Both observe, predict and form conclusions based on what they see. And
much of science takes place outside the laboratory--scientists do some
very productive thinking while brushing their teeth, feeding the cat,
and listening to rain on the roof. For children, day-to-day life offers
infinite opportunities to watch, explore, probe, and discover more about
are a number of ways parents can encourage and develop the scientific
thinking preschoolers display so naturally. One of the most essential
is to recognize that ‘science” can occur anywhere: in the
kitchen, the backyard, the bathtub. Another is to understand that you
don’t have to be a ‘scientist’ to foster your child’s
normal curiosity. Preschoolers don’t need to be bombarded with facts.
While seven- and eight-year-olds love spouting bits of information, younger
kids are more interested in--and attuned to--the process of science. If
you explore alongside your child, you will help her retain here natural
enthusiasm for learning how things work and develop some science skills
at the same time.
Here are some of the skills you can develop with your child:
• Observing. This perfectly
ordinary activity is at the very core of science. Noticing how things
look, and how they feel, taste, smell, and sound is fundamental to learning
about the world. Share a variety of ways to use your senses. For instance,
you and your child can close you eyes and just listen to the sounds around
Encourage kids to talk about what they see and hear, taste, smell, and
touch. You might get responses like: ‘This leaf has jaggedy edges
and this one has smooth edges,” “The sky is cloudy and the
ground is dark.” ‘Sour juice makes my tongue feel tickly.”
Children use very colorful descriptive language that often captures their
perceptions in unique ways. Ask questions that bring out these imaginative
descriptions. Also, help them find appropriate words such as sour, sticky,
lumpy, shiny, crackely, crisp.
child says, “The bench feels cold when I touch it,” you might
suggest he find out if the jungle gym and seesaw handle also feel cold,
“since they’re all made of metal.”
knew Daddy was coming up the stairs.” “How?” “Because
of the sound of the footsteps--they were loud and slow. Aunt Jane’s
can describe their experience in many ways--not just verbally. Encourage
drawing, writing, pantomime, mimicking sounds, or singing, to translate
what they observe through their senses.
• Finding similarities and differences.
Another way to sharpen observation is to suggest that children look closely
or the ways things are alike and different. How are all the people on
the beach the same? “Everyone’s barefoot except Sean, who’s
of the birds seem to like what’s in the birdfeeder, but the other
one just wants to play.”
• Collecting. Young children
love to collect and sort things into categories. Yours may want to acquire
leaves or rocks or rubber bands or something more unusual, Collecting
is a great way to continue to explore similarities and differences and
to sort objects into groups. Your child may decide that the leaves with
five points go into one box, the leaves with three points into another.
collectors exhibit different styles. Some collect everything: others pick
and choose. “ I already have an acorn with a hat on,” a young
specialist might remark. “Now I need one whose top has fallen off.”
like to sort through and group items in their collections by color, size,
or texture: others turn the objects into people and things and use them
to create stories.
• Making predictions. A major
question in science is “What will happen if...I mix the blue paint
with the red paint: plant this sunflower seed: let go of the ball at the
top of the slide?” When scientists test their theories-hypotheses--
they are seeing if their predictions hold up.
what happens next does not always have to be in the form of guessing the
outcome-it can also be open-ended. Sometimes you aren’t at all certain
what will happen. What’s important is to keep your eyes and your
mind open. You and your child can find out together if your shadows will
get longer or shorter when you walk toward the light; if the bar of soap
floats or sinks; if the gelatin hardens faster In a small or large container.
•Thinking about cause and effect
. Little children love pushing buttons and turning dials to make the radio
blare, turn the lights on, and make the phone ring at grandma’s
house. They are fascinated by their own effect on the objects and people
around them. As a team, you can look at how one thing causes another:
The wind blows the leaves; the dog knocks over his water bowl; the loud
noise makes the baby startle; the cold in the freezer turns the water
cause and effect can be the basis for early experimentation. If your child
pours the bubble bath into the middle of the tub, nothing happens. If
she dribbles it under running water, lots of bubbles form.
some activities that can constitute early science experiments:
Playing with pets . Observe animal
behavior and talk about it. Watching animals teaches children about basic
life processes and about how animals respond to their surroundings. “Frisky
always goes to sleep in the warmest corner,” you might point out,
or “Jaws the goldfish can tell when he’s going to be fed from
the tapping on his bowl.”
Being the weatherperson . Notice each day’s weather and describe
if it’s cloudy, rainy, sunny, or some combination. Look at how people
dress and move in different kinds of weather. Check thermometers and barometers;
determine which way the wind is blowing by watching clouds and trees.
Cooking . Working in the kitchen
is one of the soundest science activities there is. What happens when
foods are heated? When they are frozen? When ingredients are mixed? Children
get a lot of firsthand experience with cause and effect as they boil or
beat an egg or see apples turn into apple sauce. Even playdough can be
a dramatic example of how ingredients can be transformed from different
entities into something new. (Mix 3 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 1 or more
cups water, and 2 tablespoons of oil in a bowl to form a doughy substance
perfect for molding and squeezing--but not
Becoming body-conscious . Growth
charts and weight scales teach children about their favorite subject--themselves.
Photo albums are another great way to trace progress. (“Was that
experimenters could make hand- and footprints with paint. Then compare
left to right hand or hand-prints to footprints.
similarities and differences between people ”Sally has brown eyes
and, straight hair; Jennifer has grey eyes and curly hair.) provides an
opportunity to underscore how special and unique each person is.
Gardening . Growing plants gives
preschoolers early experiences in nurturing as well as in science. Lima
beans and grapefruit seeds can be started in moist paper towels, then
transferred to soil once roots start to sprout. Children can watch their
plants develop and compare the amount of growth and leaf types. They can
also become familiar with what plants need to thrive. Children love outdoor
gardening as well, but it’s important to choose seeds that yield
quick results. (Try radishes or bird seed.)
Question and Explore
children are right in the middle of making some basic discoveries about
the world: for instance, that all animals need food. The best way for
you to help your child learn about science is to share her enthusiasm
and be available to answer questions or look for answers. Encourage her
to keep her eyes and ears open, to notice and question what’s happening
around her, and to take an active role in exploring her environment.
1986 Sesame Workshop (New York, New York) All rights reserved.
us know what science activities your child likes.
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