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What children learn from science – and we can learn from observing them as they learn

As she has a nerd for a mother, my 5-year-old has no other choice than to attend experimental classes at kindergarten and going to every possible science museum and scientific exhibition for children. Although she won the battle between Mermaid Barbie (her idea) instead of the Space Scientist (my idea) for Christmas, I am consistent about putting her development on an intellectual (yet playful) ground.

Geological experiment at the Copernicus Science Centre

Geology, chemistry, physics, biology and informatics are all around us, and we can’t be ignorant about their processes. The study of matter, climate, movement and life starts immediately after a child is born. Throwing a ball follows the rules of physics, as does falling off a climbing frame, magnets, rainbows and lasers. Examining bugs, growing hair and a bleeding wound are all matters of biology. Chemistry is at play when a hydrogen balloon flies away, and condensation causes rain. Everything happens for a reason, and even toddlers deserve a valid explanation about how things work and why. Every existing thing can be scientifically proven, and kids are often delighted to take part in observing, experimenting and exploring their surroundings. If we close this door early in their development, we take away the possibility for them to expand their sense of self and gain an interest in their environment.

Examining a worm with a magnifying glass

Scientific thinking includes observing, asking questions, making predictions, testing ideas and tools, documenting data, and communicating thoughts. Scientific thinkers, regardless of their age, gender or culture, are problem solvers. Being curious about the world and being open to learning are both necessary in the quest to discover new solutions and adjust them to common needs. We all benefit from scientific thinkers’ collaborative efforts, hard work and noble sacrifices to provide a healthier, longer lasting, more comfortable and safer existence for humankind.

How can we educate children to be scientific thinkers? The good news is that they are born that way! It is part of their early development to touch, taste, build, move and even break objects, as well as test boundaries and ask endless questions. It is fascinating how precisely toddlers can remember certain sights and events. The challenging part is encouraging them to remain inquisitive and enter adulthood with genuine curiosity and an eagerness to study.

"Pedal your painting" experiment

Unfortunately, the childhood scientific learning process often results in little ones tap dancing on the last nerve of their caretakers. There is no time to tinker on the ground while hurrying to an appointment, and it is rather difficult to explain why the sky is blue just after waking up at 6am. It takes extra effort (and even self-education) for parents to satisfy their children`s intellectual needs. Yet, if they choose to ignore them the negative impact can evolve into a generational problem.

A child doesn’t have to be smarter than average to accomplish high-level problem-solving skills. Intelligence is important, but it’s not the only factor of academic success. As always, it comes down to parenting styles to explain why certain people seem to have it all. Growing up in a healthy, authentic, stimulating and supportive environment plays an inevitable role in a successful life. It has been proven that daughters of working mothers get much further in their careers than daughters of women who stay at home. Providing intellectual and emotional guidance is the key to raising contented children. Even the brightest kids can drop behind if they are lacking appreciation and support. It takes exceptional strength and determination to break out of a toxic environment in order to become a high-achieving individual.

As a parent and scientific thinker, I am devoted to supporting the next generation with affection, honesty, knowledge and an open mind. I’m doing my best to answer my daughter’s questions accurately in order to fulfill her intellectual, visual and emotional needs. Most importantly, I just let her be! You could say that children are my very favorite scientific study.

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