Growing up with scientists as parents was interesting, to say the least!
Our family vacations were almost always centered around a scientific event – total solar eclipses, Meteoritical society meetings, or visiting museums around the country where the PSF meteorite collection was on display. Our basement had a laboratory in it and at any given time, there was an astronaut visiting our home.
Having science all around me, rather than my only exposure being through a class at school, influenced my natural curiosity and the way I looked at things. I even went to the state finals for Science Fair twice based on experiments that I, truthfully, didn't try my best on. It just goes to show you how much children absorb from their environment.
When I became a parent I knew that I wanted to introduce activities that were centered around science and education, but most importantly, I wanted them to be fun.
Science never felt forced on me as a kid, it was more of a way of life, and I want to instill that in my children.
My oldest son is four and a half years old and over the last couple of years, I've experimented with many different activities to see what he's interested in, but most importantly for the experience. As my children get older, we'll incorporate more trips that explore scientific wonders and camping under the darkest skies, but for now, we work with their short attention spans and abilities, and weave them into our daily lives so they can be naturally absorbed.
There have been a lot of hits and misses, but here's a short list of the ones that have truly captured my son's interest and led to some interesting conversations.
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Science Experiment Kit
Great for the parent or grandparent who wants to take a hands-on approach and get a little messy.
Product link: Klever Kits Science Lab Kit for Kids
Before my second son was born, we would spend every Friday morning at the kitchen table working on a new science experiment. He couldn't wait for Fridays! He always felt cool with his safety goggles on and I have some of the cutest photos and videos from these moments.
He enjoyed the different tools that each experiment would require and loved to help me measure the "ingredients" as he calls them. We've made glow-in-the-dark bouncy balls, jelly worms and of course, you can't miss the good, old-fashioned volcano. That's always been a hit!
I finally got smart and purchased a large silicone mat to help keep messes to a minimum and our table in good shape. I highly recommend it for mealtime, also!
Magnetic Tiles Marble Run
Great for teaching the building blocks of mathematics and EASY engineering fun.
Hands down, this has been the most surprising toy when it comes to learning.
My son received a package of these magnets when he was about two years old. They have been in a steady rotation of his favorite activities. For a while, he was mostly building cubes and other 3D objects. Then, at around four years old, we noticed he was laying them flat on the ground and he would add or subtract a couple of the squares from a line and proudly report to us how many squares he had.
Now at four and a half years old, he can add large numbers and has been using the magnets to get the hang of basic subtraction and multiplication. What we believe is happening is that the squares are helping him literally see the math equations that he's trying to solve. It's been remarkable and we recommend these to all of our parent friends!
Important to note, my son started with a single pack of magnet tiles. The link above is for magnet tiles, plus an extension pack to build marble runs. This is #1 on his list for Santa this year!
BOOK: A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars
Great for building young curiosity and the figures included in this book are downright fascinating!
Product link: A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman
Winner of the "Mathical" Book Prize. This book includes numbers so large that they've included how to say them for the reader. It's a fun, short read and really sparks curiosity in the child. We've had a lot of fun conversations after this book as we try to guess the quantities of everything you can imagine.
BOOK: The Human Body, A Shine-A-Light Book
Great for the hands-on child or for the perfect book gift that's different from the rest.
This book is fun and totally different! We found this book on our last vacation and it's been a great addition. By holding a light behind each page, your child can discover the secrets of the human body that we normally can't see. Your child can explore the skeleton, watch food travel through the digestive system and more.
BOOK: Pizza with Everything On it
A fun (almost hidden message ) book that creatively touches on the Big Bang theory.
Product link: Pizza with Everything On It by Kyle Scheele
A kid wants to make a pizza with his Dad... but he wants EVERYTHING on it. So much so, that the father-son duo accidentally creates a pizza so delicious and extravagant that it destroys the universe and a pizza universe is born. It's a cute, creative book that is really fun to read with children.
KiwiCo Monthly Subscription Enrichment Boxes
A monthly subscription with enriching activities to inspire young innovators.
Website link: Use this link to get $10 off your first purchase
Both of my sons have subscriptions to KiwiCo and they make the PERFECT gift for any age. Because it's a monthly subscription service customized to their age, and a little more expensive that a one-time gift, we always ask for this from one of the grandparents.
Every month, my sons each get a box in the mail addressed to them with ~3 activities that are age-appropriate and loads of fun. Plus, because each box has all the materials and tools you need, it's a lifesaver as a parent because you can open it up and start right away. There is no prepping and the activities are very creative!
They also have cool, one-time STEM gifts like a civil engineer starter kit, kinetic light-up speaker kit, and physics roller coaster kit... these would be great for all science enthusiasts, young in age or young at heart!