Young children have opportunities to do and learn science wherever they are. This includes school, but many of these opportunities can also happen at home or in other settings where children spend time with their families.
The making of a scientist: the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, recalls family experiences as having been the most influential in sparking and nurturing his early interest in science. These interests include ones as diverse as Dr. Tyson’s fascination with the sky and solar system, as well as his interest in plants, marine life, tools, machines, rocks, and a variety of other science-related phenomena.
Families are in the best position to support their children’s science learning because they have already established the strong relationships with their children that are so necessary for learning to occur. Opportunities to share their observations, experiences, and ideas with interested, nurturing adults have the potential to fuel children’s science and language learning, their self-confidence, and their motivation to do and learn science.
However, according to the recent national study, What Parents Talk about when they talk about learning; A national survey about young children and science, families in general don’t feel as confident about supporting their children’s science learning as they do about social emotional growth or early literacy (Silander, M., Grindal, T., Hupert, N., Garcia, E., Anderson, K., Vahey, P. & Pasnik, S. (2018). Some families view science as a domain more appropriate for older children to learn or view it as important but not necessarily relevant to their own children’s lives. Families reported that they would do more science with their children at home if: they had more information about what is important for children to learn; more ideas for at-home activities; and greater access to simple materials to support their children’s science learning.