Children are natural explorers and curious observers. This helps them learn a lot of things. What they can’t learn on their own, they try to learn by asking questions. Most of our children’s questions have their foundation in science. For example, ‘Why is the sky blue?’, ‘What is the colour of water?’, ‘Why can’t we fly like birds?’, ‘Why does fire create smoke?’
Parents can take advantage of the curious and ready-to-learn nature of children and introduce them to the fascinating world of science. But, while doing so, parents should remember that early learning experiences have a tremendous impact on children’s learning proclivity. So, they should make learning science an interesting and fun experience.
To encourage and motivate your child to learn science, there can be no better place than the playground. Let’s look at the whys, whats and hows of science that you can teach your child in the playground.
Gravity: You can introduce your child to physics by telling her about Sir Isaac Newton and gravity. The neighbourhood park offers excellent opportunities to teach your child what gravity is. Make your child roll a ball down the slide or throw it up in the sky, play on the see-saw, and go back and forth on the swing. Then, ask your child why the ball doesn’t keep going up and up but falls down, or why she doesn’t fly up from the see-saw or the swing when she goes up. Explain to her that this is because the Earth acts like a magnet and pulls everything towards itself. Also, tell your child why the Earth acts like a magnet.
Materials: Go along with your child and make him touch the different equipment in the park like the swing, benches and slide. Explain to him what material each equipment is made of. Tell him that plastic is not affected by water and can easily be moulded after heating; that concrete requires sand and water to solidify and harden; that iron starts rusting when exposed to humidity and water. This way, your child will learn to identify and name different materials, their nature and uses.
Trees and plants: Make your child observe different plants and trees in the park. Ask her to look closely at the leaves, flowers and stems. Show her the seeds that have fallen off from trees. Explain to her the lifecycle of a plant. Tell her how trees use their roots to suck water from the soil and how they transport it through the stem to the leaves and branches. Tell her why leaves look green and how chlorophyll helps in photosynthesis. Explain to your child how trees taken in carbon dioxide from the environment and convert it to oxygen. This will help your child understand the role of trees and plants in keeping our environment healthy. The activity will also help her learn about the different types of plants like trees, shrubs, creepers, and their names as well.
Birds and insects: Various insects reside in the environment of a park which is rich in plants and trees. For example, butterflies, ants, moths, dragonflies, earthworms, crickets and beetles. Identify these insects to your child. Tell him that butterflies suck nectar from the flowers and pollinate them; earthworms increase the fertility of the soil by digging burrows; ants keep the environment clean by feeding on dead insects, or nuts and fruits falling from trees. Various birds also make their nests in the trees of the park. Take along a pair of binoculars and show your child the various birds and their nests. Tell her why birds build nests on trees and not on the ground; how they keep the insect population in check by feeding on them. Learning about these small creatures will help your child realise the important role they play in the eco-system.
Teaching the basics of science doesn’t require complex DIY kits or a well-furnished laboratory. In fact, most of the early lessons of science can be imparted through various activities our kids do at home or in their play area. In addition to what we have suggested, you can also come up with your own ideas to turn your child’s playground into a science laboratory.