When our kids grow up, if they want to land a robot on Mars or cure a deadly disease, they’ll need strong science skills, and that learning starts early.
There are a lot of reading programs that help parents support their child’s language skills, but when it comes to science, many parents are at a loss. Now a new study finds the earlier parents expose their kids to science, the better their kids do by the eighth grade.
There are simple ways parents can support their kids before they even get to school.
A story before dinner. A book before bed. Many families have established reading routines. But when it comes to science, where do you start?
A national survey of more than 1,400 parents of children three to six years old showed nine out of ten parents do educational activities at home, but only about half of parents say they do activities that involve science. Many said they weren’t confident helping kids with science. Paul Morgan, a professor with Penn State Center for Educational Disparities Research, studies how kids learn. He says parents can look for everyday ways to engage kids starting at home.
“Get down on the carpet or on the floor and work with them,” Morgan said.
Build with blocks like an architect or pretend to fight fires. In the kitchen, cook with kids. Measure out ingredients, talk about the sequence involved in recipes. Point out changes as food cooks.
“Why is the egg looking different as I put it into the pan under heat than when it started? Why is putting the mix in the oven and exposing it to heat, what is it we are doing and why is it doing that?” Morgan said.
Get outside. Ask kids questions about what they see in the garden, in the nearby stream, or at a construction site. And don’t worry if you don’t know the answer.
“Being inquisitive and going through the process of you learning the information too, that’s helpful as well in terms of a model for children,” Morgan said.
Learning that’s important, not only outside the classroom but inside too.
“Being scientifically and mathematically literate is only becoming more important. We’ve seen examples where a lack of knowledge around scientific topics, for example, is probably working against us as a country, whether it’s about vaccines or climate change or other potential topics. Equipping children to gain a basic proficiency in math and science as our economy and society and moves towards emphasizing those skills more over time will only benefit them across their lifespan,” said Morgan.
Taking small steps to inspire a little “Einstein” in all our kids.
Here are some places that parents can look for science learning suggestions, like PBS Kids for Parents and for resources that are out of this world, try www.spaceplace.nasa.gov.