The Next Chapter: From Silliness to Science

Laura Stallard Petza
September 23, 2011

So your child, fascinated since forever in the sounds and smells of the human body, has recently become interested in the origins of those intriguing sounds and smells. No longer satisfied with the guttural groan of a hearty belch, Junior now wants to know what contributes to that belch and from which body part it emanates.  And while home-based experiments, comprised of carbonated water and thirsty children, can be quite informative and lots of fun, they form only the beginning of your child's science education and can be easily and enjoyably supplemented with a wide variety of age-appropriate books, websites and videos.

Go ahead and indulge your child's obsession with guts and gas, no matter how rudimentary (or rude) because the passion she's showing for all of this body stuff today may very well set the course for heavy-duty scientific exploration later. We're willing to bet, if the intricate workings of the human body make your child's heart beat a little faster, that she's ready to take a deeper plunger into science. So here, just for her, are some of our favorite tips for getting her set up in her laboratory.

Start with whatever kind of science your child is interested in right now

Whatever his fixation—whether it's blood, bones, or something completely unrelated to the body—there's a ton of excellent, kid-accessible information out there, and you need look no farther than the internet or the library. Grab some good books; we especially like The Magic School Bus series because these books tackle a huge array of scientific topics, all explained in language that kids can effortlessly understand. And then start to research, as exhaustively as your child will allow and anything that captivates him. Don't waste time, even if you find a particular fact super-interesting, on any details that confuse or "lose" your child. The point, at this point, is to keep science fun and fascinating, and not to memorize facts and figures. 

Invest, if your budget allows, in some kid-friendly scientific equipment

While you should not, for obvious reasons, spend gobs of money on dissection paraphernalia or electron microscopes, you can greatly enhance your child's scientific explorations with a basic, made-for-kids microscope or even a simple magnifying glass. Kids love to experiment with scientific equipment and can usually be trusted, with supervision, to use equipment safely and appropriately. Once you get the equipment, spend some time learning how to use it properly, and then get ready to make some cool discoveries.  Everything—from leaves to skin cells to the weave of a cotton T-shirt—is transformed magically by magnification. Have fun zooming in on some hard-to-see science.

Encourage your child's curiosity about the world in general

Want to foster your child's love for science? Then provide ample opportunities for exploration, and be sure to acknowledge (even if you don't know how to answer) your child's numerous questions about how things work. Really, children are scientists already, full of hypotheses and ideas for experiments, and the more you support your child's natural curiosity, the more she'll want to don that lab coat, literally and figuratively, and investigate her world.




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