Children are innately inquisitive. They are full of questions, and love to explore and discover the world around them. We should take advantage of this natural curiosity and start channeling their enthusiasm towards scientific discovery as early as possible. Providing opportunities for science learning in early childhood is beneficial to young children in several ways.
It can foster a lifelong love for science
Young children are primed for learning. They have a sense of wonder in everything around them and are always asking “How?’ and “Why?”. By tapping on their learning dispositions during this key developmental phase and constructing opportunities for scientific inquiry, we can nurture and establish a positive attitude towards science education that will stay with them into the future.
It allows young children to develop other skills and attributes
Science activities provide children with opportunities to develop communication and collaborative skills, perseverance, as well as science process skills, including observing, inferring, predicting and classifying. Science process skills are not just useful in science but in any situation that requires critical thinking and problem solving. Children can apply these skills and demonstrate positive traits in a cross-curricular manner from an early age for a well-rounded education.
It can directly influence their interests later in life
Starting science education early gives children a basic grounding in scientific concepts and thinking. It ensures that the interest in science remains strong even as they grow up to develop other passions. With a steady increase in the number of Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities in the workplace, continuously engaging children in science will stand them in a good stead. Early childhood is a good time to introduce our future generations to the joys of scientific discovery, cultivate a strong interest in STEM identities and careers, to ensure we have a diverse population of STEM innovators for the future.
Taking the right approach
To help children develop skills to think like a scientist and understand increasingly complex science concepts, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind.
Allow child-led discovery
Besides planning specific activities for children to engage in, you can look out for spontaneous opportunities for scientific discovery, led by your child and guided by you. Model your own curiosity by wondering out loud, listen to your child and encourage him or her to explain why he or she thinks a certain way. Rather than correcting your child immediately when he or she says something inaccurate, ask leading questions that will eventually guide him or her to understand the right concepts.
Emphasise on the process rather than the results
While gaining an understanding of scientific concepts is valuable for children, finding the right answers should not be the topmost objective. Parents should encourage curiosity, and get children to explore and experiment, to foster their investigative skills. You can encourage your child to make and record observations, predict before doing simple investigations and compare and contrast things he or she sees.
Provide fun, hands-on experiences
Young children love physical exploration, and they learn best through this manner. Learning through play is the perfect opportunity for young kinesthetic learners to understand simple scientific processes, cause-and-effect relationships, as well as the natural world.
Introducing your child to the great outdoors will provide him or her with exciting sensory experiences, and rich opportunities to imagine and be creative. No book that describes the natural environment using words or illustrations can replace the value of spending time to study the real thing closely. Keep activities short and varied, and always ensure that there is a multitude of opportunities for active, hands-on involvement for your child.
If you are looking for ideas to kickstart science learning with your child, check out the video playlist below for simple science activities for the little ones!
Written by Jennifer Loy
Illustrated by Jasreel Tan