Observations and predictions are the bedrocks of science. Scientists use observations and hypotheses to explore the world around them and to answer questions. Whether they know it or not, your kids do too! Observing the world around us and making guesses about what will happen are innate skills, but the thing about innate skills is that they can be hard for kids to understand. It's just something that they do. Books are a great way to introduce and illustrate these sometimes abstract concepts to kids. Below are some of our favorite books for teaching the components of observation and prediction.
When we say "observe," we often mean "look." When we're talking about science, however, we should use all five of our senses. In Fun With My 5 Senses, kids can go on various sensory adventures, learning how sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell help them to learn about the world around them. Before doing the activities in the book, ask your kids to predict what they will find. What will they see on their nature walk? What are some of the smells they'll discover around the house?
When we make scientific observations and predictions, it's important to look at things from different angles and in different ways. Though it isn't a science book, Seven Blind Mice is an excellent way to explain this. In the story, the mice encounter a strange something (your kids will see right away what the something is). Each mouse observes only one part of the strange something and makes a prediction based on that part. Only the mouse that takes the time to look at the something in several different ways actually figures out what the something is.
In addition to our five senses, we often use different tools to make observations and inform predictions: rulers, scales, measuring cups, magnifying glasses, thermometers, magnifying glasses, and more. How Tall, How Short, How Far Away? is a fun look at the history of measurement that also includes some hands-on activities to allow your kids to practice using some of those tools.
Making observations of the same thing at different times is very important and weather observations are a simple way for kids to understand this. As soon as kids can talk, they can tell you if its sunny, rainy, snowy, windy, cloudy, etc. Oh Say Can You Say What's the Weather Today teaches kids all about weather phenomena and some of the different ways that they are observed and measured.
The series Let's Read and Find Out, Science has a number of books that make scientific inquiry accessible to little ones. From Seed to Pumpkin is one of the standouts in the series. This book takes kids through the different stages of the pumpkin life cycle. After reading, kids can plant a pumpkin seed and grow their own pumpkin. This is the perfect activity to teach the importance of recording observations and predictions over a period of time.
Seasons are another easy way for kids to make observations and predictions over a period of time. A Tree for All Seasons shows how a single maple tree changes throughout the year using gorgeous color photos and simple text. Kids can use this as a springboard for observing and making predictions about trees in your neighborhood throughout the year.
Predictions are informed by our observations, but one book that focuses more on developing powers of prediction is What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? The book shows close-up illustrations of parts of five various animals on one page. Kids can predict the animal and how they use that part of their body before turning the page for the explanation (e.g., "If you're an elephant, you use your nose to give yourself a bath.")
As with real scientists, predictions and observations can lead kids to more questions and more exploration of the world around them. These books are a great way to help children develop their inquiry skills and lay the foundation for a lifelong love of science.
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