*A collaborative post
There are countless reasons to encourage a child into the wonderful world of science. We’d all like them to venture out into the universe, make great new discoveries, and (if we’re being a little bit selfish) invent the technologies that will see us all live into comfortable old age.
Scientifically-minded children are likelier to grow into scientifically-minded adults, who are more likely to earn lucrative, rewarding careers, and make better life decisions. Fostering a child’s scientific curiosity from a young age, therefore, is always worthwhile.
The good news is that kids are naturally curious, and will happily dive into any activity that they deem sufficiently interesting. Our job is to simply present them with the right opportunities.
Ban Social Media
It’s pretty revealing that the people who invented social media are doing everything possible to keep their own children from being exposed to it. Bill Gates has apparently gone as far as to not give his children a mobile phone until they were 14.
So, while it might be tempting to simply plonk them in front of YouTube and allow the algorithms to guide them toward whatever their interests might be, this is probably not the right approach. That’s not to say that there aren’t great resources out there; SciShow Kids on YouTube is a great example. Just that you’ll need to find and approve them yourself!
Focus on their Interests
If your child is fascinated by dinosaurs, dolphins, or cactuses, then it makes sense to focus on that. That might mean buying them a set of pyjamas with a brachiosaur on the front – but a better idea might be to take them to the right museum.
Todays kids enjoy a big advantage over previous generations. Thanks to huge advances in the world of logistics, we can now have a courier deliver all of the science-supplies we could want to our front door. So, whether you’re looking for books, lab equipment, or other materials, the internet will provide!
Make things Practical
If you’re dealing with a toddler with a passion for dinosaurs, then long lectures on carbon-dating are likely to put them off dinosaurs for life. Come to think of it, most of us don’t know what carbon dating is, much less how to explain it. So, a better approach is almost always to get your child’s hands dirty. Get them into the kitchen, greenhouse, or workshop and make a start!
They don’t need to understand how Maillard browning makes the outer crust of a loaf of bread so golden and delicious, nor how kneading a ball of dough develops the gluten binding inside and helps make it cohere. But if you just give them a chance to squish flour and water together, and stick the resulting globule into the oven, then they’ll have the context that they need when they’re learning about this stuff years down the line. Plus you’ll be able to enjoy some fresh-baked bread at the end of it!