A Little (Science) Lesson on the Side

by Deb on July 9, 2009

Everything is a teaching opportunity. (OK, some things may be straight disasters, like my baby throwing the card with the bank details on it in the toilet today, but you get what I mean).

This may sound like it’s a lot of extra work, but in fact it’s a good thing, truly an opportunity.  This is because one of the hardest things with little kids is filling the days and keeping them occupied, and anything that draws an activity out and extends that attention span is pretty good.  It is just a matter of training yourself to notice the opportunities around you and take advantage of them, turning your vision outward rather than inward.

Some examples?

  • In the shower – Mummy!  Your boobs are blue!  Cue simple explanation of blood circulation and veins. (Blood carries things we need around our bodies.  When it’s dropped it all off it turns blue and goes back to pick up more.  You can see it looks blue where the blood is moving under my skin.)
  • Why is it raining?  The water in the air all sticks together until it gets too heavy for the clouds and falls down.
  • How did that light get in the tree?!  This one took a bit to understand, I had to get down on the floor with her before I could see the room light reflected in the window looked like it was up in a tree.  Simple explanation of glass acting as a mirror, helped by the mirror on the wall.

Daddy: We’re driving over the Todd River.
Toddler: No it’s not!
Daddy: Yes, ask Mummy.
Toddler:  But there’s no water!
When appealed to later, I agreed with Daddy that it was indeed the Todd River.  In Alice Springs it is very dry, and the water soaks into the earth and is all underground, which is why lots of trees and plants could grow in the river because they’re drinking the water underneath.  You only see water on the top when there’s been lots and lots of rain.

  • When I closed my eyes I saw two red spots!  It looks like there’s a tiger watching me!  Luckily this was more excited than scared.  Two red spots had me a bit stumped, until I did the obvious and checked the light to see there were two globes.  Your brain in your head gets used to things, so it’s used to your eyes telling it there are lights there.  When you shut your eyes it thinks the lights are still there, so you see the red spots.

So once they can talk there are heaps of cues.  But what about before they are asking a million questions? 

  • At the moment our favourite saying is “Newton was right!  Gravity works here too!” 
  • As I was walking along with my baby I stripped off a few rosemary leaves, crushed them and held them under her nose.  I gave them to her and she rolled them, played with them and put them in her mouth (and spat them out pretty quickly, too).  

We all spend hours carrying babies around, how often do you stop and point things out to them?  Do you point out sounds and let them feel textures and smell things as well? 

So here’s a challenge.  Just count how many times a day you could encourage your baby to look, listen, touch, smell, taste.   How many times a day does your toddler ask a question?  When you are regularly getting to a hundred before lunch, you’re noticing the teaching opportunities your children are offering you.  Let me know some of the weird and wonderful things you end up doing!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Pip Finter August 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

We do the garden walk every day to pick up new things and see how it has changed (more leaves on the ground, flowers and fruit appearing). The best science lesson so far for us has been BUBBLES!


Deb August 11, 2009 at 10:17 pm

You’re right, change over time is a good one to watch and it’s a great way to deal with a very abstract idea. We love bubbles too!


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