Children are natural scientists, observing their world, testing their hypotheses, and studying the results of their experiments. To help engage your child's natural curiosity:
- Prepare foods together. The kitchen makes a great laboratory where your child can observe how mixing ingredients creates new colors and flavors and how heat and cold change the properties of food.
- Plant a garden. While it's not a good idea to engage your child in outdoor gardening while you're working with chemicals or seeds that could be accidentally ingested, small-scale and indoor gardening can enthrall your child. Try planting something with a fast growing time, such as an avocado seed or a sweet potato in a clear glass of water, supported with toothpicks inserted in the sides. Within days, your child can witness the growth of roots and soon a few leaves, too.
- Work with water. Pouring water is, in itself, a fun activity for your toddler. Also let your child see what happens when you add things to water. What happens if you add a drop of food coloring to water? When you put it in the freezer? What happens to a shallow dish of water if you leave it outside on a warm night? Did a bird drink it? Did it disappear into the air? Let her see that some things, such as salt, dissolve, while others, such as cooking oil, do not.
- Get a close-up look and feel. Encourage your child to examine a flower close up, to use a magnifying glass to study an object, and to use her hands to explore textures, such as the bark of a tree.
- Experiment with sound. Help your child practice making soft and loud sounds. Show her how talking into an object such as a paper cup changes the sound. Let her put a paper cup to her ear to experience the muffled sounds that result.
- Try tactile games. Place a few common objects with different shapes and textures such as a spoon, a mitten, and an ice cube into a bag and ask your child to reach in and try to guess what she's holding without looking.
- Study insects and animals. Take a walk in a garden and point out such things as ants and caterpillars. Let your child visually examine them and, with safe species, let your child gently handle them. At a trip to the zoo, talk about animals that fly, walk, or swim. How are baby animals like or different from their parents? Go to a petting zoo where your child can get up close and personal, feeding and touching a variety of critters.
- Watch the sky. Point out the wind moving, the clouds. Find the moon and stars at night. What colors appear on a clear day, on a cloudy day, at sunset?
- Answer questions with simple answers. Don't overwhelm your very young child by going into lengthy, scientific, explanations when answering her questions. For instance, if she asks why the sky is blue, simply answer, "Nature made it blue because it's such a pretty color," or "Everything has a color and the sky's color is blue."
From The Parents Book of Lists: From Birth to Age Three, by the editors of Parents magazine with Marge Kennedy. Copyright © 2000 by Roundtable Press and G+J USA Publishing.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.