Kids seem to always be asking questions -- How many stars are in the sky? Why is the weather so hot? How do animals know what to do when it gets cold outside?
Believe it or not, even young children are able to understand some scientific concepts. Never assume that your child's too young to understand something -- always try explaining it first (don't underestimate their intelligence)!
Here are 5 science concepts that kids can grasp with easy ways to show your child the 'science behind the question'.
How do flowers and plants grow? - pollination. This is the process of pollen from one flower being transferred or moved to another flower. Insects are very important to this process.
Take kids outside to look for a butterfly or bee near your garden/flowers. Tell your child that when an insect lands, they get pollen on their feet (kind of like we get dirt on our feet when we walk outside). When the butterfly or bee moves on to another plant, they leave some of that pollen there (like when the kids track dirt into the house :). This is how fruits and vegetables start - the flower that shows up on the plant first needs to be pollinated.
Why do we see some birds in the winter and not others? Migration is the process of moving from one place to another. Some birds migrate. Animals need to find a place where they can live if it becomes too hot or too cold. Some of them choose to move to another location. People migrate too, but we usually say 'they moved to another city'.
Some great animal migrations that kids would love to follow include butterflies, hummingbirds and whales. Journey North has a great online booklet for kids about hummingbird migrations and also booklets that describe the migration of monarch butterflies. You can also join as a Citizen Scientist to help track hummingbirds during their migrations.
Why is there ice on the windows in winter? Why is there water on the outside of my drinking glass in the summer? When water forms on an object, it's called condensation. You can talk to kids about how the air feels differently at different times of the year. Sometimes it's dry outside and other times it feels very moist (you might describe moist air as feeling heavy).
In the summer, fill a glass of water and bring it outside. Because the air outside of the glass is warmer than the water inside the glass, you will see beads of water form on the outside of your cup. This is condensation.
It also happens in the winter when the air outside of the house is colder than the air inside. When the air is moist (like when it's snowing), you will see condensation form on the inside of the windows. Kids might draw pictures on 'wet windows' or you may see it freeze into an amazing design like the photo above.
How do bears sleep all winter? Some animals can't migrate and yet they aren't able to live in the cold weather, so they hibernate. Hibernation is when an animal 'sleeps' through winter, but they don't sleep like people do. Explain to kids that the animal's body slows down so it doesn't need food; it justs needs a warm place to sleep.
Most kids are familiar with bears hibernating; frogs and bats also hibernate. You might think that rabbits and squirrels hibernate because we hardly ever see them in the winter, but they do not -- they live in a den or nest for the winter and try to stay out of the cold weather.
Unfortunately we can't observe animals hibernating - so the next best thing is to introduce your kids to books about the subject. Another idea is to visit a local nature center or zoo and talk to the staff about animals and hibernation - they will be a wealth of knowledge!
What's the 'fog' above that pot? Next time you're making mac 'n cheese or pasta, have your kids watch the steam that comes out of the pot when the water boils. Where does it go? This is evaporation - the process where water turns from a liquid to a gas (in this case, it enters the air around us).
You can also explain that this is what happens after it rains - the water on the ground evaporates into the air as the sun dries the ground. The same thing happens to kids when they get out of the bathtub or the swimming pool - their hair is wet, but dries over time - evaporation! Pretty cool, huh!