Young children are naturally curious and are drawn to exploring the world around them. As parents we may not feel confident in guiding children through the steps of a scientific process. However, through guided exploration and purposeful discussion regarding those explorations, children are innately participating in scientific inquiry.You might be asking yourself some of these questions:
- Why does my child always ask 'Why'?
- Why does my child hoard sticks, rocks and other things that are found outdoors?
- Is there a limit to how much 'screen time' my child should have?
These are very common questions asked by parents of very typically developing children.
"Your child builds science knowledge and understanding through firsthand, direct experiences with real objects that allow her to learn and discover. At the preschool level, children should learn to observe the world around them, gather information, ask questions, experiment and evaluate results. You can provide safe, interesting materials and allow your child to make mistakes and get messy. The learning process is more important than the result." DESE
Now let's revisit our questions from concerned parents.
Q: Why does my child always ask 'Why'?
A: Did you know that a 3 year old's brain is twice as active as an adult's brain? Couple that with your child's natural curiosity about the world and you have a very inquisitive youngster. Ever since your baby began dropping toys, only to have you continually pick them up for her, she has been exploring the concepts of cause and effect. Now that her verbal skills are becoming increasingly more intricate, these explorations with cause and effect are translated into 'Why'? She truly is searching for answers and explanations to the world around her, making connections and looking to you for answers. So how do you respond to those incessant 'whys'?
- Keep your patience with her. Do your best to offer logical answers to her questions. Not only will this validate her inquiries, but also offer some very teachable moments.
- Offer her the opportunity to answer some of her own questions. You might ask, 'What do you think?' She will amaze you and amuse you with her view of the workings of the world.
- When you don't know the answer, take the time to research together. Call an expert, read a book, or just use good ol' google. However you discover the answer, your child will learn that being an adult doesn't mean having all the answers, but being a life long learner.
Q: Why does my child hoard sticks, rocks and other things that are found outdoors?
A: Children at this age are curious about the world around them. This curiosity often leads to careful exploration. Deep in exploration is where treasures are found. Aren't treasures meant to be collected? We want to encourage children to explore the physical properties of their treasures. Physical properties are those qualities that can be seen, felt, heard, smelled or tasted. When children explore, they use all their senses to observe and learn about the world.
- Encourage your child to find different ways to sort their treasures based on various attributes.
- Ask thought provoking questions about their treasures "Where do you think it came from?" "What is it used for?"
- Introduce new vocabulary related to their treasures.
- Allow your child to experiment with his treasures. "What could you build with these?" "I wonder what the inside of the nut looks like?" "What do you think would happen if we planted it in the ground?"
Q: Is there a limit to how much 'screen time' my child should have?
A: With the ever increasing development of electronic mobile devices, much debate surrounds this very question. Some hold strong to advising parents that the less screen time the better and others argue that new innovations in the area of technology are proving to be very beneficial to children. While the research is out, we are still pondering this question ourselves. We would however, encourage parents to ask this question when it involves screen time. Is my child's screen time 'active' or 'passive'? Active screen time would involve your child interacting in some way, exploring cause and effect, or possibly even creating. Passive screen time is simply the opposite, a child not engaged, not interacting, simply taking in media. I would venture to say that in the near future, we will see staggering differences in data regarding the effectiveness of 'screen time' if disaggregated into 'active' vs. 'passive'.