Children are born with a great deal of curiosity. Toddlers have endless enthusiasm for finding out how things work, wondering what happens when they drop their toy from their pram (over and over), and wanting to know what ‘hot’ really means with an outstretched finger! So, encourage children – from the early years right through to primary school – to get into science by feeding their innate curiosity with these three games…
1. Building bridges – for the early years
If you’re supervising very young children, why not have a go at building bridges using toy blocks? Building bridges out of blocks, or building other structures (even if only to knock them down again!) will begin strengthening some key scientific skills that will stand children in good stead later on in their education, such as creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Children will also gain a basic grasp of principles such as gravity with this gentle introduction to engineering and physics, as well as the challenge of making things balance and an early introduction to the idea of cause and effect.
2. Bug catchers – for children approaching primary school age
All children get excited about the animals and insects, but slightly older children will get the most out of this game …. Head out to a park, a nature reserve or simply your back garden (children will naturally want to explore and feed their curiosity if they have a chance to get outdoors, as this writer explains), giving children binoculars, bug hotels, magnifying glasses, pond nets, sieves and containers. You can check out sites like YouTube or opticsmag.com to find the right pair of binoculars for the right price.
These kinds of supplies will help children to observe and catch animals in a way that’s humane, encouraging children’s capacity for important scientific skills such as observation, exploration and analysis. Click here if you want to buy this kind of equipment or other science-related tools for children.
Then, task children with catching and identifying various creepy crawlies, hypothesising about the kinds of environment the insects are best suited to (wet mud, dry leaves or under a dark rock, for instance) before releasing the bugs back into the wild. You could also do a spot of animal tracking, helping children to develop their scientific reasoning skills.
3. Biology in the kitchen – for children in primary school
Older children of primary school age may need a little bit of help understanding how bits of our bodies work in a way that’s accessible and easy to understand. So, buy a pack of jelly cubes and a laser pen if you want to show children how our eyes work, for instance.
Jelly is the right consistency for this activity as it allows light to pass through it, yet has enough solid ‘bits’ inside it to reflect the light. Help children to shine a laser onto the jelly cubes so that they can see what path the light takes when it hits the jelly. Start teaching about the way the human eye is shaped using a knife to carefully carve concave and convex shapes into the jelly, seeing how the light then takes a different path. ‘Practical’ science like this is a great way of encouraging children into the subject as it gives ideas some context and helps to solidify an understanding ideas that are otherwise difficult to grasp.
Do you have any games you can recommend for getting children into science, either at home or in the classroom?