For children, the benefits of scientific discovery are endless.
Science education early in life provides a range of meaningful skills for kids as they grow, such as curiosity, problem solving, researching and leadership. So how do you develop a budding passion for science in your child as they navigate family life? Two Abbott scientists offer parents easy tips for encouraging children of all ages to explore science.
1. Let them take stuff apart
"Building can be fun and creative. Taking something apart can be just as educational," says Mary Rodgers, Ph.D., senior scientist at Abbott. Children who get to dismantle an object have the opportunity to see how it works and how it was put together.
"I know it's always my knee-jerk reaction to say, 'Hey, stop destroying all those toys!'" Rodgers says. "But a kid taking toys apart is actually a sign of a curious scientific mind. That is something to encourage."
Children taking things apart should be supervised to prevent injury.
2. Read together
A love of reading develops when you spend quality time reading with your child, says Rodgers. The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields require significant reading. Choose a variety of topics for your child and make time for reading as often as possible.
3. Solve math and science problems together
"Math and science topics shouldn't be addressed only at school. Find opportunities to incorporate math and science subjects in family life," said Corlis Murray, senior vice president, quality assurance, regulatory and engineering services for Abbott and Abbott's top engineer.
So make room for science and math during homework time, game night, during dinner or before bed. Such conversations can reveal whether your child might be having a problem with a subject or has a question that hasn't been answered. Perhaps you can share motivational stories about how you handled math or science as a child.
"The more math and science problems that children work on and solve, the better comprehension and confidence they will build," says Murray. Search the bookstore or online for age-appropriate math and science problems. Start at a simple pace and increase the complexity over time.
4. Encourage math and science games
Find games and activities that make math and science enjoyable for your young one. Conduct experiments with your child or complete science projects. Positive reinforcement is key when spending time with your child, says Murray.
"Sometimes, children simply need encouragement," she says. "Encouragement to know they can do something. It's important that girls are encouraged to not just be comfortable with math but to know they are strong at it and can have a great time with math and science."
5. Don't forget art
"Art helps develop the creative thought process in children and may help kids become more comfortable with complex activities," Murray says. At the same time, art generates critical thinking, which is fundamental to understanding math and science principles.
6. Enroll children in STEM and STEAM camps
STEM and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) camps expose kids to technical fields and incorporate science education through fun projects and activities. These camps usually target kids as young as 4th grade on up. Check online or inquire with your local library or universities about where to find nearby camps.
7. Look for science in everyday life
Help children find science in their daily activities, current news, and within their own bodies. Teach them that science touches nearly every aspect of living. For example, if your child has recovered from a fever, discuss how their body fought off the illness, Rodgers suggests. If your child's school had a tornado drill, explore why tornadoes and other weather patterns form. Search for opportunities every day to see and explore science together.