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Step 1: Ask a question
For the first step, help your child form a question, hopefully one that can be answered! Good questions start with question words: How, What, When, Who, Which, Why, or Where? For example, which cup holds the most water? Which of these four objects do you think will float in water?
Step 2: Do background research
For young kids, background research can include talking together about what they already know about the question they're asking. Maybe you have a book or have seen a show about the topic. The goal for this step is to engage your scientist in some thinking.
Step 3: Construct a hypothesis
A hypothesis is nothing more than a good guess at an answer to the question from Step 1. Ask your child, "Do you think the red cup or the blue cup will hold more water?" "Do you think the nail will sink or float? Do you think the tin foil boat will sink or float?"
Step 4: Test your hypothesis by doing an experiment
Here comes the part you and your child have been waiting for! Help your scientist carry out the experiment. Encourage your child to be a careful observer of everything that happens. Talk about the steps to the experiment. "First, let's fill up our pitcher with water. Then, slowly pour the water into the cup."
Step 5: Analyze the data and draw a conclusion
This step is all about results. What happened in the experiment? Ask your child, "Did the foil sink or float?" "Which cup held the most water?" At this stage, help your child answer the question developed in Step 1.
Step 6: Share your results
Encourage your child to talk with siblings and other caregivers about the experiment. Have him talk about the steps used to conduct the experiment and what he learned.
Science experiments can be quick and fun to do at home. Sharing the scientific process with your child will help him begin to think and plan as scientists do.
Recommended children's books
Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs
This is a very kid friendly introduction to how a scientific theory is formed through the careful collection and analysis of evidence — and how new evidence can turn a theory upside down.
How to Think Like a Scientist
Using everyday situations as examples, the author shows kids how to ask the right questions and set up a valid experiment — two critical pieces of the scientific method.
I See Myself
The child becomes the scientist in this picture book for preschoolers — a young girl finds out about vision, light, and reflection by playing with a mirror, a flashlight, and a bouncing ball. Part of the Science Play series, which encourages hands-on discovery about the world.
The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition
Ms. Frizzle has a mission: her students need science fair projects. What better way to get ideas than to learn from some of the all-time greats? The class heads to the museum to see the exhibit Great Scientists Through the Ages, where — suddenly — Galileo comes to life! An excellent introduction to scientists and what they do.
The Simple Truth About Scientists
Bust all those myths and find out how real scientists use their sharp observation and predicting skills, test, collect data, and describe what they learn.
Science Fair Bunnies
This entertaining story featuring the inquisitive Clyde and Rosemary introduces children to scientific reasoning, logic, predicting, experimenting, recording observations, charting data, and analyzing results.
All scientific inquiry begins with a question, something at which Jack is quite adept. He wonders why crackers have holes, why feet stink, and why hair doesn't hurt when cut. This book is sure to generate even more inquisitiveness about children's everyday experiences.
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