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Instilling an interest in science with little children?

So my wife and I have been recently talking about instilling an interest in the various sciences with our small children (aged 4 and 6). They are both very curious and I delight at their inquisitive minds that are soaking up all the data. (For example, in August, we went to the aquarium in Newport, and I don't believe I've ever seen them more "lit" than at the experience.) I also feel blessed that my wife is a teacher, with an advanced degree in education, so she is uniquely equipped to guide early childhood development. My own field is less germane, but they already can operate tablets, Chromebooks, and other small, simple computers. I just now received a text from the Mrs, who is at a school auction, that she acquired a telescope for them. (She also texted about a 1974-vintage Winchester 94 that was up on the auction block. Super tempting, because it is a lever-gun, but I just bought a machine-gun, so gun budget is blown for a while; a long while.)

Enough rambling; I know there are a great number of other fathers and mothers, as well as some teachers, on this fine community. How did you get your children interested in agriculture, biology, anthropology, astronomy, history, archaeology, computer/computational science, physics, et al.? (From both of our humble backgrounds, me and the woman have some ideas, but it does not hurt to ask.)

Thank you, my friends. :s0155:
Connect it to something they're ALREADY interested in. "How does this do what it does?" For history, in my experience the trick is to make people relate to it somehow, imagine what it would have been like to be there. (Hence my fanhood of constructive learning: "RUCK UP, MAGGOTS! You're gonna be a Rifle Squad for the day... YOU WILL LEARN BY THE NUMBERS, I WILL TEACH YOU!" LOL)
I would say hands on experience is #1. A kid playing in the creek without an adult will learn a lot. A kid playing in the creek with an adult who can answer some (or most, ideally) of their questions will learn even more. Same for playing with rocks/minerals, looking at stars/the moon, looking for fossils, identifying birds and ducks through a sporting scope, playing with crabs at the seashore, scouting/survival skills/mountaineering. Playing with crystals, kids chemistry set etc.

My view is cast as wide a net as possible of hands on experience (I.e. exposure to different things) and then watch for the things they really go for. Then you can create more opportunities for those things. The other things that maybe they didn’t key on so much you can bring back later (ie don’t eliminate them altogether because they may find it interesting at a different age). But hands on exposure is key imo.
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This got me thinking about positive exposure to guns with kids joining field and stream club, target shooting or hunting with family, etc. Kids that were exposed to shooting and learning to properly use guns and the rules for gun safety all create respect for guns and understanding.

Kids that were never exposed to guns tend to fear them (not in a good way I mean -respecting the gun and gun safety) and are ignorant of guns and shooting. You see people say, “I don’t understand why you need gun a,b,c” or the “shoulder thing that goes up”. Their parents may have had this same view and they adopted it without even knowing.

Then you have kids that were never really exposed to guns and didn’t learn the rules for gun safety and respect for guns but are interested in guns due to videos games, tv, etc. Those are the ones who fill the YouTube “gun fail” videos. There is no problem getting interested in guns due to video games, etc but they then have to learn to use them safely and respect guns. Ok, getting off topic of the off-topic ha ha!


Starting a fire with flint and steel ..lots of science and history there...

Shooting a bow and arrow...what happens when you shoot a long heavy arrow ...now try a short light arrow....
Does the number of feathers on an arrow make a difference....if so what is the difference...
What about a arrow with no feathers...
All kinds of science stuff there as well...

Maybe have 'em talk with a neighbor / relative / friend who is a Veteran....

Have 'em look up the country of origin listed on their favorite shirt...see how that country compares to the USA....

Describe the life cycle of their favorite meal....from the farm to the dinner plate...

Just a few from the top of my head...


My son was exceptionally fond of his 'sticker book', and would work on it quite a bit at that age. Get them a good quality kids field notebook, and have them fill it out during 'expeditions'. Kids will be interested in almost anything, if you also show an interest.
  1. Rocks: in a riverbed, or other rocky areas point out that all rocks aren't the same. Have them catalog the different qualities and draw pictures. When you get home you can do a little more research with them. This approach works for all the earth sciences
  2. Those cheapo home electronic project kits that do something fun
  3. Build a cardboard box camera (physics)
  4. I can't believe how cheap you can pick up a computer controlled telescope for these days.
Source: Parent of a kid who got straight A's from middle school through his current college year (Junior, math major).
I have an 8” Newtonian telescope. The best way that I piqued my sons interest was to simply set it up and explain a few things to them. Then let them look at it.
Some were close objects like the planets. I told them about Galileo and his discovery of Jupiter’s moons (the first four anyway) and how he was able to reinforce the idea of our solar systems basic mechanics. Then I showed them. The excitement they had when they could see the red spot on Jupiter as well as see the four moons was great.
We also talk3d about our galaxy and how there are many more outside our own, I let them take a look at the andromeda galaxy and tried to get them to comprehend how far it is. (2.5 million light years). Still hard to wrap their heads around... I showed them super red giant stars and explained the life cycle of stars and explained how ours will be in a few billion years.

I use an equatorial tripod as it allows them to work to discover where objects are. Just setting them up is scientific. The “go to” computerized mounts are convenient but leave a lot out of the discovery. It’s kinda like getting into long range shooting but all you do is set the rifle down and type in some numbers.
Anyway, you get the idea. I could go on for hours. But the nice thing about a telescope is that it allows for a hobby that you can enjoy at night instead of just during the day like most others.
Pepsi and Mentos!!!:s0140:
That was my first idea, diet soda I believe is the trick though.
Magnifying glass, see small stuff, start fire.
Scrap wood bridges, see whos can hold the most weight before failure.
Aluminum foil boats, see whos can hold the most weight before sinking, what designs work best?
Paper air plane designs, what flys futhest? Most loops etc.
Build lego vessels, drop from a height, see what design is strongest.
Telescopes are great fun if your child is patient, Mercury is transiting the sun monday morning, it wont occur again for North America for another 30 years, hopefully the clouds will cooperate.


yeah i feel ya. my wife has her BSN-RN and has a degree also in community health. shes really good with our kids. how she ever ended up with me is one of lifes great mysteries. im just a dumb hammer swingin, knuckle draggin grease monkey. i give my kids candy and say “dont die” and let’m do their thing. :rolleyes:

gotta learn somehow ;) *shrug*

Expose them to anything and everything, keeping their brains saturated with all the senses, and whisper the philosophical glue of the universe into their ear, in as many languages as possible.
They are who they are, and what lights their imaginative fires, though we may rationalize our contribution, comes from far beyond our ken.
As parents, watch them and learn what is their motivation, then apply that imperceptibly. IMO, the best thing you can do as parents is simply provide the resources to facilitate their explorative forays.

What lights kids' fires can be the strangest things, and it also varies over time.
Osmosis is one of the most powerful forces in the universe.

I've had all kinds of oo-aah stuff to see if it ignited those fires: telescopes, microscopes, magnifying glasses, disassembling and assembling simple otto-cycle engines, playing with chemistry, blowing stuff up, explaining peephole physics, showing them their dead pet to ask, "where do you think its spirit goes?" Primitive camping, teaching them how to make fires, cook, forage and recognize edible plant food, showing them what plants are edible and how similar toxic plants can look, teaching them to fish, how to look at lichens and recognize a rock's basic chemistry, the biochemistry of plants, soil horizons, how mycelium grow and produce those yummy mushrooms, how to do simple first aid, and on and on.

Some of them remember the rings of Saturn, Jupiter and the great red spot, and being cold while looking, what a semiconductor and blood cells look like under a microscope, blowing stuff up.
What they all remember is the camping, making fires, picking salaal, thimble, black raspberries, salmon berries, and huckleberries, swimming in creeks and their disgust (or sadness) at the dead animals.

What do I witness? Kids who don't hesitate to explore their curiosity, let their imagination run wild, and pursue their natural abilities. They continue to amaze me.
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yeah i feel ya. my wife has her BSN-RN and has a degree also in community health. shes really good with our kids. how she ever ended up with me is one of lifes great mysteries. im just a dumb hammer swingin, knuckle draggin grease monkey. i give my kids candy and say “dont die” and let’m do their thing. :rolleyes:

gotta learn somehow ;) *shrug*

How she ended up with you? Like you said, she’s good with kids. :D


I credit my fascination with the sciences to Bill Nye the Science Guy. It also didn’t hurt that one of my guardians, my aunt, was a grade school teacher and the other, my uncle, was a calculus professor. The thing all three had in common was an interest in, and an excitement about the sciences. And I think maybe that’s the key: kids are like sponges, if you are excited and interested in something they will latch onto that. My aunt took every opportunity to point out interesting things and she knew the names of so many different birds and plants. We’d be camping and she’d exclaim, “Oh, look at the indian paint brush (or bird or rock or whatever)!” and I’d be compelled to do just that. She always had identification books too. If I asked what some thing was and she didn’t know, we’d investigate it together. Books and the internet are powerful learning tools, but nothing beats being exposed to, and engaged by people who are excited to learn and teach.



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