Recently, I was chatting with a friend about our lackluster early science education and how we feel science in the early years should be fun! She lamented that she had made it through her entire education without any of the traditional hands-on science experiments, such as growing a bean seed in a dixie cup. I confessed that I grew up thinking I hated science. The texts were dry and redundant and the homework centered around regurgitation of facts and defining vocabulary words. It seemed we were learning the same thing, year after year. And there’s nothing fun about that.
Unlike my friend’s experience, my early science education was sprinkled with hands-on experimentation. I did plant a bean in a dixie cup, and also in a wet paper towel, and also in a petri dish. I did the bean experiment more times than I could count- my science teachers loved that one. We made rock candy one year, cleaned pennies with vinegar another. The most thrilling science memory came courtesy of a daffy substitute teacher who put a marshmallow Peep in the microwave for far too long, resulting in a gigantic mess and lots of laughter.
Here’s my point: science should be about creativity and play and exploration and discovery. It should be fun!
Fostering a Love of Science in the Early Years
I want my children, and especially my daughter, to have a different experience than I had. I want them to witness first-hand how fantastically fun science can be.
This is why science is a priority in our homeschool. My children, at 8, 6, and 5-years-old, have had a number of science obsessions in recent years. One summer it was tinkering, another summer it was chemistry. They have planted gardens, constructed fantastic forts, and helped my husband repair appliances. We have watched caterpillars transform into butterflies, praying mantises hatch from egg cases, and raised tadpoles. We have read wonderful science and math storybooks, watched amazing documentaries, and enjoyed many field trips. Last winter, we had a blast with a Cardboard STEM Challenge. I love to explore nature with my children, get lost in kitchen science, and dive down science-related rabbit holes. And, we love Groovy Lab in a Box!
Elementary-aged children are curious and energetic learners. They love hands-on exploration and they are not afraid to ask questions. I have enjoyed re-living elementary science with them.
Today, I’d like to share a few science and STEM-themed gems from the last couple months so that you can have a blast with your little scientists. It’s so important to enjoy science in the early years. And then, when you’ve finished reading, I’d love for you to share your family’s current favorites!
Build & Imagine Storywalls
*Disclosure: I received Build & Imagine’s Malia’s Beach House at no cost in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions, as always, are my own.
I have been gushing about these amazing building sets since discovering them a couple months ago. They are, by far, our favorite toy this year.
Build & Imagine is an award-winning STEM toy… but it’s so much more than your typical building toy. Build & Imagine is dollhouse-meets-Magnatiles-meets-blocks-meets-storytime.
These beautifully crafted storywalls inspire children to build unique and every changing dollhouses and then get lost in an imaginative world. Build & Imagine is an open-ended toy that results in endless play.
Invented by Laurie Peterson, an award-winning toy designer and mom, Build & Imagine was designed with girls in mind but I can assure you this product appeals to both girls and boys. Unlike many STEM toys on the market aimed at girls, Build & Imagine is not guilty of pink-washing. This is a building toy your children will enjoy equally.
Since Build & Imagine arrived on our doorstep, my children have not gone a day without playing it. And, the best part? My three, who are prone to the typical sibling squabbles, play so nicely together with this toy. How often can you say that? This kit has saved me on sick days and rainy days. We even have packed it on vacations!
Each Build & Imagine kit can stand on its own, or you can combine sets. In fact, my children have recently started using our Build & Imagine set with our beloved Magnatiles. The play has been amazing.
We have Build & Imagine’s Malia’s Beach House, but the following sets are also available:
Build & Imagine will, without a doubt, be on my Christmas shopping list this year. I know a few kids who would love it!
KEVA Brain Builders
Have you guys seen these? We have been fans of KEVA planks for years, but I’ve only recently discovered these handy little sets. KEVA Brain Builders, available in standard and junior versions, are essentially portable STEM challenges.
Each set contains challenge cards and KEVA planks. The object is to recreate the 2-dimensional KEVA plank challenge depicted on the card using the included planks.
I love how portable these kits are! I have tucked them in my purse for use at restaurants and waiting rooms, and we’ve also brought them on vacation.
One of the easiest ways to foster a love of science in the early years is to read high-quality science storybooks. Well-crafted books will ignite curiosity, fuel creative thinking, and inspire young minds.
This summer, I’ve been on the hunt for fantastic science books featuring females. Today, I’d like to share two of our favorites from the past few months.
Ada’s Ideas: The Story of the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson
Award-winning author and illustrator Fiona Robinson will take your children on a fantastic journey through the life and times of Ada Byron Lovelace in this beautifully illustrated book. Ada Lovelace was the daughter of poet Lord Byron and mathematician Anna Isabella Milbanke. Ada’s childhood was fraught with illnesses. Her parents separated when she was young and Ada’s mother pushed her to reject her father and the arts and to embrace mathematics. Still, Ada continued to be fascinated by the arts and mathematics and considered the two to be compatible. Later, through her friendship with inventor Charles Babbage, Ada became involved in the development of his “Analytical Engine”, a predecessor of the modern-day computer. Ada is therefore considered to be the world’s first computer programmer. This is a story of resilience and passion that is sure to inspire.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beatty
Andrea Beatty and David Roberts are back with the highly-anticipated companion to their best-selling and super popular Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect. Our family has been waiting for this book for months and it did not disappoint! In fact, I think it is the best of the series.
Inspired by Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Marie Twist is sure to capture your heart. Ada is an energetic child with boundless curiosity and endless ideas. Her imagination is incredible and she is driven to solve problems. In the process, she nearly drives her parents crazy but rather than squelching her passion and drive, they support her and help her to thrive.
Truth be told, I cried the first time I read this book to my children. It was that good. It was so good that we immediately read it again. And then we read it at bedtime, twice. When my husband got home from work, I told him to read it.
I highly recommend this book to all parents, but if you are the parent of an asynchronous, gifted kiddo, or if you’ve had to make nontraditional choices to support your child’s learning, you must read this book. I bet you will cry, too!
Hands-on STEAM activities
Let’s face it: STEAM projects are tons of fun… but they can take a lot of time and effort to plan. That’s why I was so excited to learn about a new book featuring enough STEAM projects to keep you busy the entire year. I devoured it in an afternoon and knew it would become a part of our homeschool routine this year.
- Question like a scientist
- Design like a technologist
- Build like an engineer
- Create like an artist
- Deduce like a mathematician
- Play like a kid
This beautifully-illustrated book is filled with 52 hands-on STEAM projects for children ages 4-10. Activity chapters are broken up into five areas of inspiration: Build, Color, Play, Sense, and Grow and each is identified by its STEAM category (science, technology, engineering, art, and/or mathematics).
Each activity explains the STEAM behind it, detailed instructions and illustrations, materials required, difficulty level, time required, and several extension activities to take the learning to the next level.
One thing I really love about STEAM Kids is the fact that it includes an activity planner at the end. This is akin to a meal planner, but for STEAM activities. The planner includes five activities per week (one from each category) and materials required for over 10 weeks. The activity planner also includes fantastic field trip ideas and links to over fifty additional STEAM extension activities.
STEAM Kids was created by a team of amazing moms and bloggers. You’ll recognize many of these names: Anne Carey (Left Brain Craft Brain), Ana Dziengel (Babble Dabble Do), Amber Scardino (Wee Warhols), Chelsey Marashian, (Buggy and Buddy), Dayna Abraham (Lemon Lime Adventures), Erica Clark (What Do We Do All Day?), Jamie Hand (Handmade Kids Art), Karyn Tripp (Teach Beside Me), Leslie Manlapig (Pink Stripey Socks), Malia Hallowell (Playdough to Plato), and Shelley Brewer (STEAM Powered Family). These women are a group of engineers, teachers, math nerds, art lovers and writers who all believe that STEAM is important for children to experience and learn.