early elementary

Building confidence through science

School can be demanding on your elementary school children. From day 1, they need to do well on tests and be their best. They feel the pressure and this pressure can decrease motivation and confidence. I have seen in first hand with clients I worked with privately. Children that have lost all motivation regarding school to the point of not even wanting to think something through during homework and simply saying "I don't know". Play, in some cases, can turn this around. I love using science experiments and activities because they get children curious and excited about learning again. 

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Snap Circuits are a wonderful way to play, explore, feed ones curiosity. A child can follow the instructions or figure out on their own how to build various models of electrical circuits. How to light a light build or turn a small fan on, for instance. 

Seeing a child figure out an electrical circuit and "turn the light on"...literally lights them up as well!! As parents and as teachers, we need to figure out how to keep children curious, motivated and confident. Stepping away from school work but still learning about science is a great way to build up there confidence. If something goes wrong in the circuit and the light doesn't light up, guide them and question rather than tell them "this is an easy one, you should know how to do this!". 

Give them some time to play on their own, but take the time to sit with them as well. There might be one model that is difficult for you as well! Challenge yourself. Allow them to see what you own inner voice sounds like and how you conquer challenges. 

Have fun playing! 

Oobleck...a solid and a liquid!

I have been making this with children of all ages for over 6 years and I have yet to meet a child (or adult) who doesn't react to Oobleck by saying "coooooollll". 

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Age recommendation: Toddler, Preschool or early elementary.

Materials: Corn starch, water and a bowl. 

How to play:

Full details and instructions can be found on the Scientific American website. Oobleck is an interesting substance to play with because it can be both a hard substance and a liquid substance at the same time. Use a small deep bowl for this activity. This way you can "punch" the substance and also place your entire hand in the bowl as well. This activity gets messy. Make sure you have your floors covered or do this outside. It is well worth the mess though!

Learning and Development: You can use this to develop scientific inquiry and also build on pincer grip. You can place one marble in a deeper bowl and make your Oobleck in this bowl. Ask your child to try to get the marble and take it out using only their thumb and index finger.  You can also challenge them to make a ball with Oobleck. The faster you move the substance around in your palms, you will see a ball form. The moment you stop rolling your palms around it will liquify and drip back into the bowl. Ask questions about observation such as "how does it feel?" "what happens when you hit it quickly?" "how can you get your hand to sink to the bottom?". 

Lava Lamp Experiment

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Age Recommendation: Preschool or early elementary school 

Materials: See materials and instructions from Science Bob website

How to play:

Learning and Development:  With a child as young as 3, you can use this activity to spark their interest in science and to development scientific thinking. Ask questions that describe observations such as "what happened when you poured the oil over the water?" or "when did the food colouring start falling into the water?". Learning to observe and describe is part of scientific thinking and these simple science experiments are a wonderful way to introduce this.

You can then move on to questions that support explaining procedures such as "how did you get the food colouring to leave the oil?" or even scaffolding questions such as "what did you do first?" or "what did you do next?". For full details on questions you can ask to help children develop scientific inquiry read this article written by C Hoisington (2014)

Executive functions can also be developed through this activity. You can name the steps you read in the instructions and see if your child can remember the steps. The CDC states that a child around the age of 3 should be able to follow 2-3 step instructions.