Updated: Jul 20
The products of science and technology are all around us. The kettle you boiled this morning, the fridge you took your milk out of and the smartphone you checked the time on: a huge amount of scientific and technological development went into them all.
But perhaps you’ve always seen science as something that other people do in labs with funny white coats on. Maybe your little one hasn't shown any interest in science yet and so you haven't really thought about it.
The thing is, science education in the early years really does matter. Even if science doesn't end up being your child's future career, there are so many other benefits of trying to engage them in science education from a young age.
1. Your Child’s Future Success
Our children are growing up in a more scientifically and technologically advanced world than ever. To participate successfully in this world, our children will need to be scientifically literate. Sometimes this means we need to learn alongside them to keep up, but there’s nothing better than showing them you want to keep learning too.
Beyond its direct application, learning science also teaches other key skills like how to ask questions, collect information, organize and test ideas, solve problems and apply learning. Even outside a career in the sciences, these skills will help children thrive in their jobs and in their lives outside of work too.
Looking past your individual child, science education is vital for innovation and human advancement. The global pandemic, more than ever before, has taught us how much we rely on scientists. By engaging as many children as possible with the sciences, we're helping shape the future of our planet.
2. Your Child’s Life Skills
The scientific method teaches children to ask questions, research, hypothesize and test their hypotheses. This is essentially teaching children critical thinking: how to think, learn, solve problems and make informed decisions. These skills are integral to every aspect of a child’s life both now and in their future.
Science also requires a lot of communication and develops patience and perseverance in children. Again, these are skills that will help not only their success in school and beyond, but their mental health and happiness as they progress through life.
So when should you start?
Children usually form a basic opinion about the sciences shortly after beginning primary school. In most UK primary schools, science will be taught once a week. Whether this one session is engaging and motivating to them will depend on your child’s school and teacher.
If this early opinion of science is a negative one, it can be hard to turn it around and engage children with science as they grow older. Instead, by engaging young children with exciting scientific experiences from as young as possible, ideally before school even starts, we can motivate them to learn and pursue the sciences throughout school and possibly even beyond.
Starting science education in the early years not only engages children in science from the start, but also helps them develop skills such as problem solving and communication: useful skills right now.
What is science education for the early years?
With the importance of science education to children’s futures and the future of the world, we have to make sure we engage children in science from as early as possible. But how can we do this?
Of course 3 year olds shouldn't be sitting with a science textbook. They don't even really need a science kit. Science is all around us and the opportunities for learning about it are endless once you start to notice them.
My three top tips are:
Make it practical: Young children need practical application in order to learn, so get them doing activities involving science, experimenting and problem solving. There are plenty of free videos with ideas to try out on the Inventors & Makers Facebook or Instagram page.
Help them see themselves as scientists: We have to help children have the confidence to see themselves as scientists and show them that they have what it takes to succeed in science.
Model scientific enquiry yourself: Believe me I know how those relentless ‘why’ questions can drive you to distraction or at best to googling the answer, but instead next time you get one of those questions, try puzzling the answer through yourself like a scientist would. For example,
"Why is the sky blue?"
"Hmm, I’m not sure, but I do know that it’s only blue during the day and the sun shines during the day so it must be to do with light. I wonder how we could find out the answer."
By doing this you’ve shown how you can apply your knowledge to a question, predict an answer and consider how to find out more.
Take your science education even further to play, explore and learn together with a Little STEAMers class.