What do your young child and the late Carl Sagan, world-renowned astronomer and professor of planetary studies, have in common? Parents! Sagan tells the story of his parents taking him to the New York World’s Fair in 1939, and how that experience affected his entire life as they showed him a future made possible by science and technology.
His parents were not scientists, but they introduced him to wonder and skepticism, two essential principles of the scientific method. In his own words: “As I look back, it seems clear to me that I learned the most essential things not from my schoolteachers, nor even from my university professors, but from my parents, who knew nothing at all about science.”
A parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. How you relate to your child will influence his or her entire life. Do you remember walking with your toddler outside and stopping every few feet to explore another exciting discovery such as a blade of grass or a flower or an ant?
Young children are so full of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. When a parent takes time to experience that wonder and excitement with them, it gives them a sense that what they are discovering is important.
Children seem to be born skeptics. Does your preschooler ask endless questions: Why don’t dogs fly? Why do I have 10 toes? Why doesn’t the sun shine at night? Why? Why? Why? Parents can feel very inadequate when trying to answer their children’s questions. It is all right to say to your child, “I don’t know the answer to that. Let’s find out together.”
Your children are naturally inquisitive, and it is this same characteristic to investigate that scientists use. When faced with a problem, they may have to try and fail many times to get to a solution. That is how scientists work. Scientists are still working on a cure for cancer and ways to make cars safer.
Sometimes there are no easy answers. These are all important lessons to teach your child. The most valuable thing you can give your child is your time. Taking time every day to really talk with your children and to read to them will benefit them their entire lives. In reality, you have a few short years to parent. Make your time together count.
Blowing bubbles is always a fun activity with children. Here is a simple recipe I use at Discovery Center that uses ingredients you have right at home: ¼ cup of Joy or Dawn dishwashing liquid mixed with 3 cups of distilled water. Always use a 1:12 ratio of liquid soap to distilled water, and you will have perfect bubbles. (You can use regular water, but the distilled water makes bubbles that last longer.)
Another way to spend time together is to visit Discovery Center Museum’s website and click on the “Playful Learning at Home” link. There you will find fun science, art and music activities for your children to do.
Take time to watch, wonder, talk and play with your child as you both explore things in your world. And, most important, enjoy your child’s adventure with life!
Debbie Beutel is an early childhood educator at the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford