Monday, July 30, 2012

Discovery: The Child's Science

Children are born explorers. At times they appear driven to take apart, to dissect, to dig to totally become involved with every aspect of an object. How can we encourage this drive to discover? As adults in the child's life we have a unique opportunity to encourage exploration through play and exposure to diverse environments.

Tools of the Trade
Providing children tools that foster discovery is one way we can nurture their curiosity. Imagine what an inquisitive four year old could do with acrylic tubing, funnels, magnifying lenses, magnets, PVC pipes and fittings, mirrors, prisms, eyedroppers, tweezers, straws and the list goes on. Experimenting with air, water and sound are just a few of the things that come to mind. Building and construction supplies are gateways for imagination, but so is the thrill of taking something apart. Preschoolers (and older) are especially interested in how something is constructed. To take apart an old telephone (not a cell phone) or VCR is like opening a whole new world to them. With appropriate adult supervision and encouragement these kinds of activities not only develop the children's cognitive thinking and small motor skills, but are a real bonding experience for you and the child.

Environments that Nurture
There is nothing like exploring the outdoor world for sparking teachable moments. Nature walks with child sized binoculars open the world of the small and the distant. A foray into the garden with digging tools, magnifying glasses and clear jars sets up interest in soil, rocks and insects. We can all probably remember the first time we discovered the science of "wormology." Enjoying this first time experience with the children in your life is like going back in time.

Seize the Moment
Children often initiate those teachable moments. When an opportunity arises, grab it. Stopping to look closer at an ant hill is time well spent. Answering the fifteenth question about wind is worth it. Follow up with a trip to the library for more about those favorite subjects.

Whether you set the stage for discover by having a time or place set aside for a special activity, or seize the moment with a spontaneous investigation, you'll be supporting the developing creative mind of the child. Have fun and dig in!

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