*This is a collaborative guest post
From a young age, kids are natural born scientists, exploring the world around them and constantly asking why. From reactions while cooking to stacking building blocks and animal behaviour – science is all around us and presents many learning opportunities for our kids.
Whether you head out to the museum or zoo, spend the day immersing yourself in the natural world on a hike or don your imaginary white lab coat at home, there are many different ways to get your children excited about science. Here are some of our top picks for great science activities you can do outside of the classroom!
Spend a day at the museum
Science museums, planetariums and zoos make for a great family day trip and are a fun way for your children to learn about STEM concepts without even realising.
Museums are often great for dinosaur exhibits and learning about insects and the world around us. Most science museums have hands-on kids’ sections where they can learn and experiment through play, as well as shows and presentations aimed at children. If you have one local to you, this is a great way to pique your child’s interest and introduce them to lots of different concepts.
Planetariums help children learn about the wonders of space and the universe. After visiting, create play opportunities that expand on what they learned – create landscapes and stories using dinosaurs figurines and puppets, play with friction and use a telescope to stare at the night sky.
Get out in nature
No matter the weather, head out and teach your kids to appreciate nature in all its seasons – even if it’s cold. Embrace the saying, “There’s no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” and take things back to basics.
Encourage your kids to start a collection of seeds, flowers or insects. Rug up and spend time as a family hiking, participating in beach cleanup efforts, flying a kite or racing boats down a creek. Getting outside is a great way to show your kids the wonder of the natural world in person, versus a screen or book.
Set up a scavenger hunt for different items, or sign up for Geocaching and find all the caches in nature reserves close to where you live. Geocaching involves using coordinates, clues and maps on a smartphone app to find small “caches” hidden by other players. It requires problem-solving and teamwork skills and makes for a great family challenge, while teaching your kids how to read a map and compass and work together to problem solve.
Experiment at home
Even everyday things like boiling and freezing water can be fun ways to introduce science to your kids. The best part is that you don’t need to be a science teacher to get more elaborate with your experiments at home.
Pop mentos into coke, build a rocket or make music using different levels of coloured water in glasses – there are many different ways to play with science together, even if you have no experience. It’s also perfect family bonding time. If you’re stuck for ideas, just jump online and start browsing.
Planting and nurturing a vegetable garden is a fun and practical way to introduce botany – you might not be growing potatoes on Mars like in The Martian, but there is a lot for kids to learn from preparing the soil, planting seeds and watching them grow.
Gardening also teaches kids the responsibility for watering and caring for their plants and can be used as a way to introduce basic botany and biology concepts. There’s nothing like the satisfaction of eating something you’ve grown yourself!
Build and create
Buy your kids Lego and let their imaginations run wild! Opt for basic block sets for open-ended fun, rather than buying a kit for a specific design. This way, they will be encouraged to be more creative and use them in many different ways.
Building with Lego helps teach maths and engineering skills without them even realising they are learning. Ball runs using magnetic tiles, and other more elaborate engineering kits, are also great for getting your kids excited about STEM.
Teach critical-thinking skills
A big part of science in high school is critical thinking and exploring hypotheses. These might seem complicated for a younger child to grasp, but in a more simplified form they can be a great way to interest a curious child in science. Before you start experimenting at home, encourage them to pose questions about what they’re exploring, talk through what they think will happen, and if they like writing, have them pen a scientific “paper” on their discoveries.
Once you’ve tried out a few activities together, you’ll soon find out which aspects of science your children are interested in. Follow their lead and guide them, while also letting them get hands-on with activities and experiment freely, as long as it’s safe. Failure is as much part of the scientific process as success, setting them up for resilience in the future.