Children are natural scientists. The same curiosity which drives the human child to acquire language and mobility in order to explore and connect with their environment, also drives them to learn everything they can about that environment.
All we have to do is keep up with their questions.
Children want to know everything. How big is a blue whale and where does it swim, and where do all the toads go in the winter, and where does the sun go when it sets, and where was I before I was in your belly? All we have to do is explore these questions with them. And to give them exposure so the questions have opportunity to arise.
Exposure to what? Everything. Anything. The local library. Lakes. Forests. Ponds. Rivers. The ocean. Cities. People. Museums. Planetariums. The stars. Science Centers. Ideas. Islands. Boats. Planes. Trains. People. Art. Language. Music. People. Books. The internet. Pop culture. Mountains. Religions. People. Animals. People. People. People.
The world is a puzzle and each piece of it we can give to the child is a gift. It doesn’t matter what pieces. Any pieces. All of the pieces we can, however we can. How the child puts them together is their job. Our only job is to provide access.
To say yes to the bug house living on the kitchen table because someone is raising caterpillars; yes to standing in front of the chrysalis display at the science center for 20 min, even though it is hot and crowded, because someone is captivated; yes to
having your pockets stuffed full of rocks and sticks and berries and leaves on every hike; yes to having your windowsill “decorated” with rocks and pinecones.
And to be curious ourselves.
When a child is around adults who discuss politics and world issues, and ask questions, and read books, and listen to music, and plant seeds, and explore nature, and do meaningful work…they naturally do the same. What we wish the child to be doing always begins with ourselves, right? That’s what I’ve found.
We must do what is authentic to ourselves, and allow the child to do what is authentic to them.
And when we include the child in the conversation, he learns to see himself as capable of examining on his own. Or rather, he never stops doing so in the first place. All of the questions are never answered. And every question leads to another. The science is never ‘all in’, it is a dynamic process. A conversation. Talk with the child about new discoveries. And take joy in the child’s discoveries.
Be authentic. Be curious. And cultivate a sincere love for answering questions. No need to plan science. Just plan adventures. Plan opportunities. Allow experiments, even when it involves all of the couch cushions, or your sewing scissors, or a mess you know they’ll need assistance cleaning up.
A scientist is just a grownup who never lost their curiosity.