“Get out of the way!” That’s what popular scientist and TV personality Neil deGrasse Tyson feels is the best way for parents to get their kids interested in science. Get out of the way, and let your kids’ natural curiosity lead. This is because children often find their natural curiosity curbed when adults tell them off for just exploring their surroundings. (Admit it, how many times have you told them “don’t touch that, it’s dirty!” or “don’t go there, it’s not safe!”)
Studies have shown that kids can truly develop a lifelong passion for science at around the age of 10 – so making sure children are getting the right exposure to science, be it in school or at home, can really make a difference to whether they have an interest in science later in life.
And now with Singapore gearing up to become the world’s first Smart Nation, an education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will equip children with the necessary skills to contribute to our Smart Nation goals and embrace the new opportunities ahead.
Besides “getting out of the way”, here are seven things parents can actively pursue with their kids to help develop the little scientist in them.
1. Don’t make it “about” science
Re-introduce science through hands-on activities in the form of playtime, such as building a robot or circuit board, collecting plants from the garden, or inventing their own online game. Once you get them going, explain how what they are doing is not just all fun and games.
2. Turn your kitchen into a “science lab”
You don’t need a proper laboratory to cook up some exciting (and sometimes edible!) experiments, when you can just use your own kitchen. There are tons of “kitchen science” experiments for kids available online – from making a volcano out of baking soda and vinegar, to creating stretchy slime you can eat – you can find most materials in your own kitchen cabinet or at your local grocery store.
3. Watch science and technology shows with your child
It is not all just lengthy and complex documentaries (but if your kids are into those, even better!) Great shows such as the classic Bill Nye the Science Guy, Mythbusters, How It’s Made, and more, are good for the whole family to relax to on a Saturday afternoon.
4. Go on behind-the-scenes tours
From getting up close and personal with supercomputers, to exploring science labs to show us the world of cells and molecules, tours are great for kids to meet, interact and learn from the people who work in these spaces. While these science and tech facilities are usually off-limits to the general public, they are sometimes open for a limited time, such as at this year’s one-north Festival, which is part of this year’s Singapore Science Festival.
5. Learn through websites and apps
While parents often see electronic devices such as iPads and laptops as distracting and unproductive, there are a variety of apps, online games and websites that kids can engage with to sharpen their STEM skills. For example, kids can learn to code through Swift, a fun and interactive iPad app where users control with real code as they tackle puzzles that teach key programming concepts.
6. Take trips to museums and science centres
Make a trip down to Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore’s first and only natural history museum, and browse a treasure trove of 2,000 artefacts in its biodiversity and heritage galleries. They include the genuine fossils of three diplodocid sauropod dinosaurs, which are among the largest creatures to roam the earth 150 million years ago. Or head to the Science Centre Singapore, which has over 1000 exhibits spread over eight exhibition galleries, covering topics from the human body to solar systems.
7. Go to fun events
Singapore’s focus on STEM has brought about a steady stream of fun and interactive activities and events for all ages, and are good opportunities for parents to take their kids to explore the fun in science with others.
The Singapore Science Festival, (which starts this weekend!) between 15 July to 5 August, features over 30 public events around Singapore. Highlights include X-periment! at Vivocity’s level one Central Court (15 to 17 July, 11 am – 10 pm), a carnival with interactive innovations and experiments for visitors (read: lots to touch, push, prod, and explore), and the Science Buskers Festival (Vivocity level one, 16 & 17 July, 11.30 am – 7 pm), a competition where children perform a creative “show-and-tell”. It’s free so bring the kids – they’ll love it!
Singapore Science Festival (SSF) is Singapore’s largest annual science event. Themed “Build Your Smart Future”, the Festival will spark excitement and curiosity about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) as the building blocks of a Smart Nation. The Festival features over 30 events to encourage families and students to discover, explore and embrace science. Find out more at http://www.sciencefest.sg/