As parents we are very used to reading with our children, supporting them with homework and running around ferrying them to sports events or music lessons. More creative parents might also bake or cook, garden, or do arts and crafts activities. But how many of us make Science a regular part of how we have fun with our children at home? Probably few, and certainly not often enough. Yet simple hands on science activities are a fantastic way to get children exploring the world around them and thinking like future scientists and engineers. It is also a great way to engage with your child – stimulating their thinking while having a lot of messy fun!
The great thing is that Science doesn’t have to be complicated and lots of experiments and investigations can be conducted using only common household objects. Simply playing, watching closely, and asking questions is enough to light a spark of science learning at home. Experiments should be about encouraging natural curiosity and investigating the wonders of the science while you play alongside your child. It’s as much about encouraging scientific behaviour as it is about learning — observing closely, recording, and making predictions. It’s also about parents having the confidence to say when a child asks a question, ‘I don’t know, let’s find out together’.
Parents, however, often do not know where to start with making science accessible to children. But, to make life easier, there are many great websites that are there to help, such as The Royal Institution (rigb.org/experimental) which has some fantastic on-line video and activity packs to encourage families to conduct hands-on science experiments in their kitchens using household objects or cheap materials. You don’t need to have any existing science knowledge as alongside the videos are info sheets with all the information you might need to make lava lamps, juice bottle rockets, microwave mug-cakes, candle-chemistry or Fizzy Fubes and lots more!
Parents may hesitate at the explosive combination of small children with vinegar, milk, cooking oil, raw eggs, food colouring and effervescent tablets but ingredients like these make for fantastic hands on investigations that really make no more mess than cooking. You can use the acids in the orange juice and vinegar to dissolve the shells of raw eggs and are left with a bouncing egg – just like magic!
So, why don’t you make your home a science lab and conduct some science investigations this weekend, remember all the fun and wonderful learning and just ignore the mess!