For the May Blogathon Official Guest Post Day, I’m excited to host Kate Reilly of The Polka Dot Suitcase. In addition to managing the fun in that corner of her writing life, Kate’s written for magazines including Parents, FamilyFun, Family Circle, Better Homes & Gardens, American Baby, National Geographic Kids, and Woman’s Day. She’s also written science activity books for kids. Welcome to Webb of Science, Kate.
When I started out in the world of freelance writing, I had a general inkling that my kids would give me ideas for stories. I was right — I’ve written many parenting articles over the years. But when the kids got to be interactive (say, past the feedme-feedme-feedme stage), that’s when I realized they were really a lot more than story fodder. They were fun. They gave me a reason to flop in the middle of the backyard with a magnifying glass and study bugs. I looked less weird as an adult wading through streams, turning over stones, when I had kids with me. And the projects — oh, the projects! I’ve been able to squish, squash, mix, mash, build, and tear down all kinds of stuff — all in the name of parenting. And I even got to write science books for kids because of where my guys have led me. (Oh, and the kids have learned a thing or two, also.) Now that they’re older, they’ve started leading me on adventures in scientific discovery. My little grasshoppers are teaching me. Cool. Want to shape your own little scientist? My thoughts:
1. Let them figure stuff out. Ever since my kids were little, I’d usually answer their questions with one of my own: “Well, what do you think?” Come to think of it, this probably made me sound like a very clueless adult. No wonder they’d look at me with pity in their little eyes. (“Poor, poor, Mom. She has to ask a three-year old why the sky is blue.”). But after the initial shock at their mother’s lack of knowledge, they’d get their little brains cranking and toss out a couple possibilities (“God colored it with blue crayons?” or “Because it’s sad?”). And eventually, they’d hit upon some little nugget that approximated the answer. And we’d build on it from there. Young scientists, grow!
2. Blow some stuff up. Aw, you know I’m just kidding. Certainly not advocating anything dangerous. But any science teacher worth her salt will tell you nothing gets kids’ attention like some scientific kaboom! The old staple — the vinegar-and-baking soda volcano — is a classic for a reason: It’s pretty darn cool. Truth is, you don’t always have to do really dramatic science stuff — sometimes subtle works just fine. Like putting an uncooked egg in a bowl of vinegar for a day and letting the kids see what happens. No, really. Try it.
3. Be curious yourself. You’re never too old to ask, “Why?” When you’re at the zoo, and a question pops in your head — ask away. (Try to find someone who works there, unless you happen to know you’re standing next to a very smart stranger.) Let your kids see you questioning stuff and trying to find the answers. Who knows? You may ignite your inner scientist, too.
4. Go shopping. When I was a kid, we had the coolest chemistry set. There was stuff in there that is probably illegal now. Today’s science toys are probably 100 percent safe, non-toxic, non-explosive…but surprisingly, still pretty darn fun. My kids got science kits that let them make fake snot and even build little radios. Fun!
5. Don’t go shopping. Sometimes things that come with instructions can be a little…limiting. Trust your kid to find things to explore and follow him. You know, like when the kid ignores the $50 toy at Christmas and spends three hours playing with the box instead? At our place, we’ve made geodesic spheres (uh…eggs, really, but the potential for spherical shapes is definitely there) out of drinking straws and snowflake crystals out of cleaning products. Explore, raid the pantry, create — and your little scientist will amaze you.