My children have a healthy interest in science and here is a list of ways to encourage their love of science. With an encouragement of STEM interest, hopefully you can find something to challenge them.
1. Read Books
If your child loves dinosaurs, space, animals, human body or other scientific related topics, books are one of the easiest ways to get them started. There are plenty of information books with pictures available in the market and libraries. They are usually well illustrated with details.
Since gifted children tend to retain information well, you may want to read the books ahead to understand the topics. I couldn’t name more than 4 types of dinosaurs when I started out, but getting encyclopedic books on them helped immensely. I also found out there were different periods, such as Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous, and the types of plants found were different. I also learnt that there were many categories of dinosaurs.
All these information came in useful when my son came up with dinosaur charades for me and with my new found knowledge, I managed not to embarrass myself and could hold conversations with him on the topics. Do take note that some of the books may contain wrong information, which sometimes get pointed out by my son. This is especially so with story books based on dinosaurs. The illustrators sometimes get the pictures wrong (e.g. 3 fingers for T-Rex instead of 2), or dinosaurs in wrong time periods. Nevertheless, story books with a science focus do provide another level of enjoyment.
For older children, there are plenty of magazines on science. There are also memoirs by explorers, such as those who went to the Antarctica.
2. Watch TV programs – Cartoons
I know some people do not watch TV, but I have found many TV programs that do provide interesting science knowledge to children.
Cartoons such as Dinosaur Train, Magic Schoolbus, Sid the Science Kid and a very old one, Once Upon A Time: Life are extremely informative. They explain how animals migrated in the past, how reversible and irreversible changes work, how photosynthesis work and many other concepts. With songs and animation, they are useful for children. For children who are unable to read yet, this would be a good source for them.
Do check your local programming. These shows are also available on YouTube or as DVDs. My children love to pop the DVDs in themselves and watch the cartoons.
3. Watch TV programs – Competitions
Apart from cartoons, there are game shows involving children or teenagers. One that I have watched with my children is Lab Rat. They conduct interesting and wacky experiments and hold competitions to challenge the students. Sometimes the students are given challenges to explain concepts. These are more suitable for older children who could benefit. I have also seen local competitions where students from various schools pit themselves against the others.
4. Watch TV programs – Documentaries
National Geographic and Discovery channels have a lot of documentaries. The newer ones are more exciting and entertaining. We get to see a whole range of endangered animals from all parts of the world. With time lapse filming, we get to see how plants grow, how carnivorous plants catch their prey, and how ice bergs melt. With deep sea filming, we get to see angler fish and other deep sea creatures. With drone filming, I expect to see even more fantastic scenes in the future.
5. Buy Science Sets
There are science sets which can be bought from educational bookstores. They sell magnets, physics experiments, circuit boards, dissected animal models and quiz cards. They provide hours of fun and entertainment. We have tried digging for dinosaur toys that had been in caked blocks.
There are also books that show you how to do volcanic eruptions at home with simple ingredients. I wish I am more adventurous in conducting science experiments at home but I am too busy.
6. Surf the Internet and Use Apps
There are many great websites that teach science concepts at home. You can do simulations by manipulating various factors.
There are free and paid apps that teach you acceleration, galaxies, fusion and more. You could even buy a magnifying glass and attach it to your smartphone to see closed up views.
Cartoons and TV programs have internet related games and information available too. PBS has a lot of games too.
There are many online courses available. They have colourful animations that teach the concepts and children can complete the tasks. Sometimes they have a reward system that unlocks games for a certain period of time. That serves as an incentive for some children.
7. Keep Animals and Plants
Zoology and botany are big parts of science too. Depending on your comfort level, you could keep various animals. I have had friends who kept caterpillars and let their children observe how they go through chrysalis to transform into butterflies or moths. There are others who grew edible mushrooms. Tell them about the life cycles. My husband loves to breed fish. Point out their markings and explain how they are different from other breeds. This will help to hone observation skills.
It is easy to grow bean sprouts. Just get a few green beans, cotton wool and just water them. For younger children, you could just grow them. For older children, you could conduct experiments by having controls and variables for sunlight and water.
8. Visit Science Fairs, Science Centres and Natural History Museums
I am sure there are science centres in your area. Let your children explore science in a fun manner. Some places could have telescopes where you could view stars. There should also be natural science museums where they have all sorts of animals and plants. Point out the different skin textures on animals that had undergone taxidermy.
There are also science fairs where children display their experiments. Makerfaire has a global outreach. I have seen virtual reality, hologram, hovercrafts, robot cars at a recent local Makerfaire.
My children have also tried their hands at fixing Lego blocks at science exhibitions, digging for dinosaur fossils.
9. Attend Science Enrichment Courses
There are many science related courses, such as coding and chemistry. Some conduct experiments too. I do not have to clean up the mess and the course providers will take the child through various scientific topics.
There are numerous short courses available during school holidays at the local community centre, so I usually pick up the brochures and let my son decide which one he would like to join.
My son had attended a food science course that got them to make jelly, observe the changes in light due to refraction, estimate weight among other things. He learnt about mixtures and solutions. In another course, it was about dinosaurs, but the knowledge he had far exceeded what the course provider had.
He had recently asked for regular science classes. There is no science as a subject in lower primary in Singapore, so I guess I need to look for enrichment centres that do not focus so much on following the school syllabus, but those that conduct interesting experiments and expose the children to everything about science. At the same time, some of the materials I have seen are too simplified. I wonder whether there are science enrichment courses that cater to gifted children.
When he was younger, his enrichment centre incorporated simple science lessons such as using magnets.
10. Use Scientific Language
Start to ignite your child’s interest by asking good questions. Observe weather patterns. Identify the various types of clouds. Ask what happens. Get them to observe. Get them to think about cause and effect. Actually, many gifted children are already asking tonnes of questions. Use the right words if you know them. Don’t be afraid to use various terminology such as acceleration, metamorphosis, and chlorophyll. The children learn quickly. Don’t settle for words such as ‘thingy’. If you have to, use a reverse dictionary to get the right word.
This is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page on All Things Science. Check out other blogs too!