Recently we headed outdoors to do some gardening and while we were outdoors Immy discovered that her plastic paddling pool had partially filled with rainwater. I was working close by (pulling weeds, urgh!) when she called to me, excitedly telling me how the pebbles she was throwing into the water were all sinking. Taking advantage of her curiosity I decided to capitialise on this teachable moment by asking her if she could find anything in the yard that might float instead of sink? And the hunt was on!
We ended up with all manner of natural (bark, gum nuts, seedpods, flowers, sticks, rocks) and man made (an assortment of plastic toys, a piece of cardboard) objects in the water. The most interesting of which was a plastic ball with holes in it that floated at first but then sunk as it filled with water! Immy had a marvelous time hunting for different objects and testing her theories about which would sink and which would float. Apart from setting the initial challenge, all that was required of me was a little verbal encouragement to help her organise and explain her theories and results (predominantly through questioning), the learning was most definitely child initiated and child led.
How you respond to a child’s experimentation and exploration can influence the learning potential of their investigations. Here are a few ideas for taking advantage of the teachable moment, supporting children’s learning through everyday experimentation;
- Ask good questions: “Why do you think the ball, bowl and knife all float but not the rock?” I have posted previously about asking open ended, thought provoking questions here.
- Point out similar observations in new situations that encourage continuation of the learning and theory forming: “Look at those leaves floating in the puddle. Remember when you were testing what floats and sinks at home? I wonder if we can find anything else in this park that floats?”
- Support their recent interests and explorations by looking for other opportunities for them to experiment: in this instance, collecting objects from around the home for testing at bath time would be one way to achieve this.
- Consider what other resources you have that might support their interest: books, toys, outings, etc.
- Follow the child’s lead and don’t be concerned if they lose interest, it is likely that they will revisit their learning again at some stage. Don’t push.
- Keep it interesting, active and hands on, especially for little kids.
What have your children been experimenting with recently?