10 Ways To Expose Your Child To Science

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.
wow human body 1

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.
3d fondant dinosaur train cupcakes 1

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.
dino excavation 1

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.
big cats

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.

life hack

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.
fixing lego robots

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!
all things science

Gifted Characters In Korean And Japanese Dramas

The Korean Wave, known as Hallyu, has been sweeping Asia and the rest of the world in terms of entertainment for years, and there is no sign of abating. With East Asian countries placing strong emphasis on academics and other areas such as music, it is no wonder that some of the lead characters in dramas are gifted.

Many of the characters are young male students who easily top their studies, and good looks are mandatory. Many are portrayed with mega memories. Some are talented in sports as well. They are sometimes portrayed with inflexibility, with a strong sense of justice. Some have poor social skills. Some might be caricatures, but the actors and actresses who portrayed them were usually convincing. Most of them become better characters at the end of the show.

gifted characters in korean and japanese dramas header

Since romance is a key component in dramas, sometimes the male gifted characters are paired with female characters who are very weak in their studies, and are full of romantic ideals. The two female gifted characters mentioned here have to hide their identities in one way or another. The last time where there was a very strong female gifted character, it was Jang Guem (Chang Jin) in Jewel in the Palace (2003), a girl in historic Korea who manages to be an expert chef and then a medical doctor in the imperial court.

Who are some of the gifted characters in some of the Korean and Japanese dramas in recent years? Let’s check them out. Note: I have not watched that many drama serials, so these are based on what I have watched and enjoyed recently.

1. Choi Taek, professional Baduk player in Reply 1998 (2015/2016)
park bo gum reply 1988
This highly successful third installment of the Reply/Answer Me series, where the audience tries to guess who the husband of the lead actress is, showcases Choi Taek (played by Park Bo Gum) as a professional Baduk (Go, or Weiqi) player. He is said to have an IQ of 139 (if I remember correctly). He is a teenage world class player who beats much older Baduk players from Japan and China. Despite having dropped out of school just to turn professional with hordes of ardent fans, he remains grounded when he is with his family and friends.

When it comes to Baduk, he behaves like an adult, masking his feelings and playing with a poker face, during competitions. He frequently has marathon matches, and gets headaches easily. With his highly competitive nature, he solves Rubik’s Cubes easily and gets the highest scores in arcade games. However, when it comes to daily activities, he is unable to handle them and depends on his family and friends to look after him. He needs help with tying shoelaces, boiling water and other simple tasks.

Park Bo Gum, the actor, memorises Baduk moves from real competitions, and has received high acclaim for his performance in this show.

2. Trash Oppa, Kim Jae Joon, medical student in Reply 1994 (2013)
jung woo reply 1994

In this second instalment, it is not explicitly mentioned that Trash Oppa, played by Jang Woo, is gifted. However, he is shown to be extremely good in his studies without having to put in extra effort. As a first year resident, he is quick to identify the problem in a patient based on medical charts and prescribes a detailed diagnosis when all the other students are unable to do so.

However, he is nicknamed as Trash, because he is extremely messy in his habits, and is able to eat expired food and spoilt food without having any problem to his health. His house is so dirty that it is filled with garbage, empty beer cans, old food packages, and dirty and clean clothes in the same pile.

Nevertheless, he is able to interact very well with people and patients, showing his high EQ as well. Elderly and young patients ask for him due to his good bedside manners. He is also an excellent soccer player, who easily turns matches around with his deft soccer skills.

3. Yoon Yoon Jae, high school/law school student, judge in Reply 1997 (2012)
seo in guk reply 1997
In this first instalment, Yoon Jae, played by Seo In Guk, is the top student in his high school in Busan, and is the quiet brooding type. Apart from being good at studies, he is good at sports too. He is the top scorer in the whole of South Korea for his high school examinations. However, he wants to be an airforce pilot because he wants to impress a girl whose grades are average, but great at writing fan fic. In the end, he goes to the law faculty in Seoul University, and becomes one of the youngest judges who is extremely impartial and inflexible. He has a close group of friends.

4. Yoon Tae Woong, teacher/computer programmer/CEO in Reply 1997 (2012)
song jong ho reply 1997
Tae Woong is Yoon Jae’s elder brother. He is also the top scorer for the national examinations, but gives up his chance to go to Seoul University to remain in Busan to look after his younger brother since both parents passed away. After his brother finishes his studies, he starts his own company and set up ILoveSchool website, similar to Friendster, to connect friends with their old schoolmates. He becomes very rich. He is a gifted computer programmer who can debug easily and codes in a very short period of time, sometimes even doing his employees’ work. After that success, he goes on to create another big success, similar to Myspace. At the height of his company success, he sells off his shares and goes to be a lecturer in the university. He even becomes a presidential candidate.

5. Lee Sun Jae, gifted pianist in Secret Love Affair (2014)
yoo ah in secret love affair

He is a gifted pianist in his twenties, having picked up the piano on his own through watching videos online and downloading sheet music. To learn a piece, he listens to a recording hundreds of times and memorises it. He does not realise how talented he is since he comes from a very poor family. He improvises music meant for duets, and he changes notes due to his finger injury.

A former talented pianist, a married woman in her forties, discovers his talent and gets him into a university music programme on a scholarship. In the process, he connects emotionally with her when they played duets together and they fall in love with each other. This drama series has a lot of virtuoso performances.

The actor, Yoo Ah In, learnt to play the piano for the drama and has been lauded for his performance. He would memorise the difficult pieces and play it for real, instead of many actors who pretend to play.

6. Kim Yoon Hee, gifted female scholar who disguises as a boy in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
park min young sungkyunkwan scandal

This is a fusion period drama set in the late Joseon period (18th century). Only men were allowed to study. Kim Yoon Hee (played by Park Min Young) cross dressed as a boy in order to earn a living as a writer. She ghost writes theses for scholars in Sungkyunkwan, a prestigious Confucian institute for top scholars. When she loses a script, she writes it out again from memory. Her late father was actually a professor at the same institute. When she was young, her father would read to her baby brother difficult works in a room while she stood outside to learn on her own. Her father soon realised her giftedness, but was unable to do much at that time.

Through a series of events, she is ordered by the king to enter the institute. Due to her eagerness to learn, with the promise of food and medicine which she could give to her family and sick younger brother, she assumes her brother’s identity, Yoon Shik, to enter it. She continues to be one of the top scholars in the institute. She even learns archery in a week just to prove herself through sheer determination and hard work.

7. Lee Sun Joon, gifted scholar, son of Left State Minister in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
micky yoochun sungkyunkwan scandal

Lee Sun Joon, played by Micky Yoochun, discovers Yoon Hee’s talent when she is taking the test on the behalf of a client. He exposes her so that she has a chance to go to the institute. At that time, he does not know she is a girl.

He is a gifted scholar as well, and is known for being inflexible.He has a strong sense of justice, and is willing to expose the truth even if it means implicating his own father. Apart from being academically gifted, he is also equally talented in sports. He trains himself to shoot with his left hand after injuring his right shoulder, and is able to shoot the bull’s eye. In order to win the competition, he trains his roommate, Yoon Hee.

He falls for her, thinking he is a homosexual, and even thinks of entering a political marriage just to escape his feelings. However, he could not go through the wedding and chooses to run away just to maintain Yoon Hee’s honour due to the highly conservative nature of the society then.

8. Moon Jae Shin (Geol Oh), gifted scholar and martial arts exponent in Sungkyunkwan Scandal (2010)
yoo ah in sungkyunkwan scandal
This character is acted by Yoo Ah In (same actor mentioned earlier). He challenges the system by dressing up as the Red Messenger and is extremely upset by the death of his elder brother, who was the top scholar in Sungkyunkwan. He would leave provocative messages about the truth of the death crown prince Sado and he gets seriously injured from clashes with the military.

Apparently, he is an even better archer than Lee Sun Joon, and he is even smarter than both Kim Yoon Hee and Lee Sun Joon, as he could tell who had the right answer in a competition held by the king. He had read all the books in the library, but he skips classes, refuses to do his work, and pretends to be an average student.

The three scholars and another student, acted by Song Joong Ki (who acted in the recent highly popular Descendants of the Sun and is an extremely intelligent person himself) form Joseon F4, famed for their looks.

9. Jo Min Ja, gifted hacker in Healer (2015)
kim mi kyung healer

This is a rare portrayal in Korean drama land as the gifted characters are usually good-looking young males. She is a woman in her late forties, and she is an expert at hacking into various computers, including the police’s internal computer system, street cameras, and other organisations.

She hides in a room with many fast computers and the latest IT gadgets, including all sorts of tracking devices. Without revealing her identity, she assists Healer, a young guy who is great at Parkour and running all sorts of errands for rich people including the triads for a high fee.

10. Lee Hyun, criminologist, I Remember You/ Hello Monster (2015)
seo in guk hello monster

Acted by Seo In Guk (see number 2), Lee Hyun is a gifted criminologist. When he was young, he was already very mature and could run the household, looking after his younger brother. There was a family tragedy. However, his father, who was a policeman, thought he could be a psychopath, as there were numerous disturbing drawings, and mutilated animals. A mass murderer was on the loose, and due to various circumstances, the father was killed, and the brother went missing.

As an adult, he became a criminologist and was able to profile criminals based on their modus operandi and signatures. He was able to spot details that nobody else could, and crack codes left by criminals, such as latitudes and longitudes coordinates.

However, he is shown to be rather dismissive of people who are not smart, and has a rather abrasive personality at times.

The serial killers in the show are shown to have high intelligence as well, but I will not reveal them here in case it spoils the mystery for you.

This show, and another excellent show, Signal (2016), led me into profiling of criminals. I had actually looked up some information from the FBI, and it was quite insightful on how certain things done by criminals could lead to police zooming in on suspects. Whether a criminal brought a weapon to the scene, or used items from the scene as weapons showed whether the criminal was an organised one or disorganised. This field is fascinating, but extremely gruesome, so I think it will take certain types of personalities to take up such jobs.

11. Irie Naoki, gifted student in Itazura Na Kiss (Love in Tokyo) 2013
furukawa yuki itazura na kiss

There are other versions of this show, It started with a kiss (Taiwanese) and Playful Kiss (Korean). This show is adapted from a manga, and in the Japanese version, Irie-kun is a gifted student, with a rumoured IQ of 200 (What test are they basing this on?). He can memorise things after he has read them once. He could cook a dish after looking a recipe once, and plate it just like the picture.

He tops the examinations easily, and even tops the national entrance exams despite being injured and groggy from medication, with only just 30 minutes. He had demonstrated excellence and interest in various fields, such as science and technology, literature, languages, marketing and medicine.

He is the target of many high school girls, and he gets involved with a girl, Aihara Kotoko, who professes her love for him in front of many people and cruelly rejected. The girl is an average student who is in the last class. Due to an incredible situation where her new house collapses from a meteorite and shoddy workmanship, the girl and her father moves into Irie’s house as the parents are best friends.

He is shown to be mean-spirited, but she manages to blackmail him to tutor her. He easily spots the questions for her, sets her questions to do, and explains them to her. He is also a top tennis player with shots that are extremely powerful and fast. Due to a competition, he is forced to teach her as well, and puts her through a gruelling practice.

12. Hoshikawa Takane, Buddhist monk, From 5 – 9 (2015)
Yamashita Tomohisa 5-ji kara 9-ji made

Takane (played by Yamashita Tomohisa) is a handsome Buddhist monk who is slated to be the next head monk. He is extremely intelligent, having graduated from Tokyo University. He is proficient in English as well, but he attends English classes in order to pursue Sakuraba Junko, an English language teacher. (Note: Monks in Japan are allowed to get married.) He is extremely good at cooking and a lot of other things, and he also shows a very strong interest in natural history, especially dinosaurs and animals. He easily memorises the scriptures so that he could conduct various religious ceremonies. He could remember everything about Junko and has a kind personality.
The only fault is that he is extremely persistent, and is verging on the point of stalking despite Junko telling him she does not like him at all.

13. Hyuga Toru, IT whiz, CEO in Rich Man, Poor Woman (2012)
oguri shun rich man poor woman

Hyuga Toru owns an IT firm, Next Innovation, with his friend. He is extremely intelligent, and able to code extremely well. He has many big hits, and then tries to come up with something that could benefit the public. He can code complex databases, but then he is also able to really identify the users’ needs and rebuilds the whole system just to make it more user-friendly. However, he cannot remember faces, and can be quite rude to people. He suffers betrayal, but is able to bounce back.

14. Yukawa Manabu, Physicist in Galileo 2 (2013)
Fukuyama Masaharu galileo 2

Played by a multi-talented actor/composer/musician/singer, Fukuyama Masaharu, Yukawa is a physicist who is roped in to help the Japanese police solve mysteries by using physics. He is a little eccentric, and is more interested in solving science problems than murder mysteries. Strange occurrences are explained, and it is interesting to see how his brains works. Apparently, the first season was even more exciting.

This blog post is part of a blog hop on Gifted in Pop Culture by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page.
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Different Stages of Giftedness In Young Children

Does your baby stare at everything intensely? Does your toddler complete jigsaw puzzles meant for older children? Does your preschooler read every sign and ask ‘why’ all the time? Does your kindergartner multiply in his head? Check out some of the characteristics of giftedness in young children at different stages.

Babies

Many gifted babies seem to have intense focus and take in everything they see. They seem to be able to recognise faces at an earlier stage. Some may crawl earlier. They start cruising when others are still crawling. Some of them might have already started babbling. I have heard of babies who start talking young. They can pay attention to books, and they play with building blocks.

My children showed great interest in the iPad and iPhone. They knew when I gave them fake phones. They even tried to swipe magazines, thinking they were non-static. They enjoyed peekaboos tremendously.

Toddlers

Now that they can walk, they are able to explore many places. The fences and gates you have put up to keep them out of danger are danger themselves. They try all sorts of ways to get out of them. Some have already started running.

While it differs from toddlers to toddlers, many of them show they are good at puzzles and memory work. They know which card stands for what word, they know what the animals are called, and they can point or find them easily. Depending on the level of giftedness, some of them are already talking.

They can say simple words, and some could even put two to three words together. Some may even start stringing sentences together.They can also understand complex situations. They may enjoy the company of older children or adults than their age peers, because their peers still unable to communicate much.

For numbers, many can count beyond ten, sometimes to hundred or more. They understand different shapes and sizes. They like to identify colours.

Some toddlers may start to have meltdowns, because their language abilities have not caught up with their thoughts, and they get extremely frustrated with their inability to express themselves, or that their caregivers are not able to decode their signals. It might be useful to teach them sign language or have some common gestures to signal what they want.

When my children were at the toddler stage, they enjoyed jigsaw puzzles meant for 3 years and above. My younger one could put 30 pieces together on his own. The older one could spell and type on the computer and iPad, so he searched for cartoons and songs on his own. He learnt to read on his own and was devouring books soon.

Preschoolers

This is probably the time when they are the cutest. They can finally talk and communicate properly with adults and it is interesting to see their ideas. They say the funniest things and sometimes create their own phrases. They also start asking tonnes of questions, so Google is your best friend.

Many start developing their passions for various topics. They memorise everything about dinosaurs, animals, capital cities and countries, cartoons, and any other topics that catch their fancies. As many can read already, just provide them the various books and other resources (such as youtube videos and the internet), and they will just learn on their own. This is the time when they expect you to know everything too. They may test you, or just want to unload all the information they have learnt on you.

This is also a time when teachers tell you your child is different. Some children may survive well, while others get bored out of their minds. They are so advanced in arithmetic and literacy skills that teachers find it difficult to match their needs and the rest of the class. Behavioural issues may crop up, and if you do not already suspect your child is gifted, you may actually think that your child has ADHD or some other learning issues.

Many enjoy singing and other musical instruments. They may love drawing or painting. Some may have asynchronous development, and may not have well developed fine motor skills, so frustration may set in too.

My elder son started scribbling when he entered preschool. He was always writing something, but because his fine motor skills were not that well developed, it was difficult to see what he had written. He was reading all the charts in the classroom, and it was fortunate that his teachers were able to recognise he was ahead. They said he could get all the puns and jokes. I also had to read up on dinosaurs and even Ben 10 just to have something in common to talk about.

My younger one is asking all sorts of questions and is able to ask and answer ‘why’ questions. He has a wide range of vocabulary. He has memorised simple books with the aid of pictures. However, he is not reading well. He is able to read Chinese characters, but when it comes to English, he cannot differentiate between ‘car’ and ‘cat’. He can count big numbers, and tell me he takes bus service number ‘54’, but puts ‘45’ together. There are some number reversals as well. There is asynchronous development here, so I am suspecting he might be twice exceptional, but it is still early to tell.

Kindergartners

At this stage, many have started reading chapter books and they enjoy intellectual challenges. They start to use vocabulary that is beyond usual conversations. They are also able to explain meanings. They understand abstract concepts, and can do additions, multiplications and other types of mathematics. Some can calculate in their heads.

Since kindergarten is too easy for them, it is important for parents to challenge them at home. There are online materials available.

Many of them have empathy for people and world affairs. They are sensitive to people’s feelings, and may cry during a touching scene. They are also creative and they like to create their own stories, characters, drawings and models. They may try their hands at creating jokes.

While they prefer the company of adults and older children, they should be able to interact better with some of the peers who have matured more. If they have common topics, it would be better.

Many have favourite computer games, and some have tried their hands at coding.

comic characters
My elder son has been creating his own comic characters based on objects at home, and is coming up with his own story of survival and elimination rounds based on some online shows he is watching. He just told me that he did not know a lot of words when I was saying that he did, and he requested for an advanced learner’s dictionary from Longman. He just had to choose the most expensive one and did not want a small one.

While he has finished reading Danger Dan in one day, a book about a boy who time travels to Singapore’s history to ensure history is not changed, coincidentally written by a gifted teenager with her mother, he does not read other books that often. He requests for Minecraft books and manuals. He has improved in his social skills and has more friends now, perhaps with some common topics such as Minecraft.

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Now that my elder son is going to primary (elementary) school next year, he will be going to a new stage. It will be interesting to discover the new stages.

More resources
Early stages of giftedness
Giftedness in chool going children
Childhood milestones based on IQ

This is part of a blog hop by Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page on Ages and Stages of Giftedness. Check out other blogs!
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