Bringing out the scientist in your child

Young boy using science equipment.

At a glance

  • Kids most powerful ideas about science are the ones they develop themselves.
  • As kids attempt to make sense of what they see, their ideas can sometimes be scientifically incorrect.
  • Kids need to be allowed to test and research their ideas to better understand science.
  • By listening to your child's scientific ideas they gain confidence in their thinking.
  • Kids are naturally curious – encourage your child to be even more curious.

The science our kids learn at school is as much about a way of thinking as it is about experiments.

It's vital that kids know about the world around them. Even if you've forgotten a lot about the subject of science yourself since you were at school, you can still encourage your child to act on and question what they know so they can become more confident in their scientific knowledge.

Kids are scientists from birth

Children are naturally curious; they look at the world around them and they develop their own scientific ideas based on what they see and hear every day. As your child matures, their ideas grow from being concrete concepts such as ‘heat is hot', to more abstract concepts such as ‘stars are planets in other galaxies'.

Find out what your child already knows about a scientific concept and create opportunities for them to investigate their ideas.

Thinking like scientists

The most powerful scientific ideas kids have are ones they develop themselves. They are often logical, rational and firmly based on evidence they experience. Unfortunately, their ideas can sometimes be scientifically incorrect. For example, because they walk on level ground they may believe the Earth is flat. Despite explaining that their ideas are wrong and giving them the accurate fact, they can hold onto their ideas so strongly they won't change their opinion. Kids need to be allowed to test and research their ideas to come to a better understanding of science than the ones they may have originally developed.

What do your kids already know?

Find out what your child already knows about a scientific concept and create opportunities for them to investigate their ideas. For example, ask them questions such as, "What do you think may happen if we leave ice outside? Why do you think that?"

Allow time for your child to make mistakes

Don't be in a hurry to correct them, let your child explore options themself. For example, ask them to think about things that can be done to stop ice melting quickly.

Be enthusiastic and learn with them

Suggest answers, test them out together, and check them. For example, use the internet to find out why their ideas helped slow the rate of ice melting (or not).

Make time to listen to your child's explanations

Accept a wide variety of your child's views and encourage discussion and debate with your child. By listening to them, they gain confidence in their thinking and it helps to develop their skills and interest in science.

Exploring their questions and predictions

Try to create rich opportunities where your child can freely ask new questions, explore and investigate. A way parents can do this is by having an area where children can experiment and muck around with objects and create a mess if they need to.

One topic at a time

Introduce your child to just a few topics and explore them together a little deeper, rather than a lot of topics superficially. If your child is interested in astronomy and planets, look up websites with animations such as Kids Astronomy, or NASA Kids' Club; perhaps invest in a telescope and identify different planets, or visit an observatory.

Curiosity is gold

Kids are naturally curious, but encourage your child to be even more curious – to want to explore their ideas, and also remind them not to believe everything that is told to them but to test some of their ideas themselves.


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