Fostering an interest in science in your toddler

Science is the study of the physical world, so in a sense, Baby is already one of the most determined scientists you know. You can help him hold onto that sense of curiosity and wonder about the natural world even after the playing-in-the-dirt stage of his development happens, just by incorporating some pre-science interests into his daily life.

The basics

 Some strategies are classics because they work.

  • Books on science: Books about science help toddlers learn about the ways science affects the world, and can help him learn about the ways he could participate in the world of scientific discovery as he grows. Toddler-friendly books about scientific subjects teach toddlers about science through pictures, word games, and simple stories.
  • Museums: A museum trip is always an exciting way to break up Baby’s routine now and then, and science museums, and especially children’s museums, tend to be more hands-on, which often makes them favorites for children Baby’s age. Science museums and children’s museums are a fun way to teach all sorts of lessons you might not even think of. Many of the museums around the country even offer toddler days or toddler specific afternoons where lessons and themes are picked for the age group. Local parenting boards can be a great resource for finding out about discounts and times.

Getting more hands-on

Baby doesn’t need to hit the books, or even leave the comfort of his own home.

  • Busy boards: These toys are a neat way to decorate a wall and teach lessons about science. Each trinket is a chance to teach a new lesson. Most have light switches to talk about the basics of electricity, locks, telephone jacks, timers and more. Just by playing with these, Baby will start to have a better understanding of the inner workings of some of our everyday scientific inventions – and build his fine motor skills while he does.
  • Water displacement activities: These can be set up using a clear, plastic container, stones and rocks, plastic toys, and a permanent marker. Take the plastic container, fill it with water halfway and mark the water line with a marker. Place the small plastic toy across the top of the container (this is the goal!) Ask Baby to use all the rocks to get the water level to rise. It’ll take the right combination of rocks to get the water level just right to the top!
  • Magnets and other toys: These can be a fun way to teach about scientific ideas. Lessons about science are around every corner if we look and are in the right mindset to point them out. Toddlers love magnets! There are also stuffed animals that map out the skeletal system and mobiles to hang in the playroom that teach about the solar system. Fill Baby’s world with opportunities to learn at every turn, and he’ll start to take some of those lessons in without even noticing.
  • A small garden: You and Baby can start to get practice growing things either indoors or outdoors. Even very small-scale gardening will start to teach him a tiny bit of responsibility and also about the life cycle of a plant, and the way plants need sun, water, and soil to grow. There are small kits for toddlers around Baby’s age that are designed to help him grow something as simple as a few mushrooms or a larger set of herbs and vegetables, but you and he can also strike out on your own with an easy-to-grow seed and a pot and some soil of your own.
  • Collecting bugs: No bugs need to get hurt in this project – you and Baby can look into getting a “critter case,” which is a humane way of collecting bugs and keeping them contained while you talk about them, before you and Baby set them free back into the wilderness. 

Sure, these kinds of activities don’t guarantee that Baby will want to be a mad scientist when he grows up, but they certainly aren’t going to discourage in interest in beakers, bubbles, or the scientific method.

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