The kids who are successful in school are those who remain curious even after the last bell rings, who notice the world around them, and who make connections between subjects and ideas. There are millions of ways to keep minds of all ages active and engaged outside the classroom.
The following article is part of a Noodle series about how to integrate learning into everyday life in order to instill a love of knowledge in your kids.
The Science Edition
Science is characterized by a list of habits — questioning, observing, measuring, predicting, experimenting, recording, and repeating as needed. These are habits that nurture critical thinking, and they can be practiced in just about any environment, including at home. Kids are naturally curious — they don’t usually need much convincing to investigate. Use these activities to get your kids posing the question, “What happens if…” — and then formulating and testing their hypotheses.
Plant a garden.
You don’t have to be a farmer to transform seeds magically into food or flowers. There are plenty of resources on container gardening that you can explore. For example, you can put fast-growing radish seeds into a tin can full of dirt on your windowsill and observe. Try planting a few different containers, and see what happens if you put them in sun or in shade, or if you give them water or leave them to dry. Experiment with different kinds of soil — dirt from the backyard, peat moss, and planting mix. If you want a project that's a little more challenging, try planting a pizza-themed garden with tomatoes, basil, and oregano.
Books like The Science Chef ask and answer questions like: Why does popcorn pop? Why does bread rise? Why does cream turn into butter?
Baking is one big, edible chemistry experiment — especially for those of us who often stray from the recipe. Cooking with veggies can reinforce what you know about plants, and any cooking experiment can become an exploration of nutrition as well.
Go on hikes or neighborhood nature walks.
As you are surrounded by the great outdoors, explore ideas related to biology: Which plants are edible? Why do leaves change color? What happens to the leaves on the ground? Talk about photosynthesis and the process of decomposition. Look for animal tracks. For older kids, you can also discuss wilderness survival and environmentalism on these expeditions.
Weather is a science that affects everybody — and one that any little scientist can investigate. Make your own weather station. Record what you see every day with your child in a weather journal. Make forecasts based on your data.
The National Ocean Service provides wonderful instructions on building a weather station at home, an activity that will appeal to older kids and teens. Younger kids may stick to observing the temperature, drawing a picture of the weather, and building and observing a basic barometer.
Make things together.
PBS Design Squad challenges kids to build things, and invites them to improvise and adapt their projects to find new solutions. The website also allows them to share what they make, play games, and watch videos that will further engage young engineering minds. There are activities that could appeal to nearly every age, but the site particularly suits those who are 8–12 years old.
For a wealth of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) resources, check out the South Brunswick School District's wonderful list.
Read science books.
Find engaging non-fiction books about robots, dinosaurs, and black holes — or read fictional books about astronauts, doctors, and engineers to inspire your kids. You can find suggestions on a wonderful reading list from the National Science Teachers Association.
For more at-home science activities and experiments, check out the Science is Fun site.
Want more ideas on how to cultivate a love of learning in your child? Check out the other parts of this series: