This month, let’s take a closer look at the Cognitive Development Domain, focusing on nature and science.
Cognitive development involves how children think, explore, and figure things out. It refers to things such as memory, and the ability to learn new information. This domain includes the development of knowledge and skills in math, science, social studies, and creative arts.
Research shows that even at a young age, children have the capability to observe, explore, and discover the world around them. The National Science Teachers Association recognizes that these skills can be encouraged from birth. For example, giving infants and toddlers opportunities for exploratory play and teaching science and engineering practices in Preschool help to foster children’s natural curiosity and engagement with their environment. This lays the foundation for science learning in K-12 and beyond.
You can help your child develop science skills at home.
- Explore new objects and situations with your baby. Let them see you study an object, and look at it with wonder and curiosity.
- Read non-fiction, informational books about plants, animals, and other science topics. Make sure the books have photographs rather than illustrations.
- Allow your infant to explore different materials through their senses.
- As you investigate an object, ask your child questions. For example, if you are looking at a fish swimming, you can ask, “How do you think he breathes? Why do you think he’s that color? What different body parts can you see?” As you ask questions, point to what you’re asking about.
- When doing different experiments or activities with your child, be willing to repeat them so your child can see the outcome multiple times. For example, two objects may look the same but one floats and one sinks in water.
- Throughout your day, be mindful of opportunities to show your child an unfamiliar phenomenon. For example, if you are washing dishes, show your child what happens when you add dish soap to water. As you do this, explain what you are seeing. For example, “I notice that the water and soap didn’t mix. It looks like the soap sank to the bottom of the water. What do you think would happen if we stirred the water?”
- Read non-fiction, informational books about plants, animals, and other science topics. Make sure the books have photographs rather than illustrations. Ask your child questions that will be of interest. For example, you can ask how animals in the wild are similar to, or different than pets.
- As you cook or bake, encourage your child to make predictions about what will happen when ingredients are mixed. Ask them to provide an explanation for why they think this will occur. Then, allow them to mix the ingredients and explain what they see.
- Encourage your child to ask questions and think about how things work. The best way to encourage behavior is through modeling. Ask lots of questions while talking to, and playing with your child.
- As you investigate a phenomenon, ask your child open-ended questions. First, ask your child what they notice. Then, ask more specific questions about their reasoning. Let your child make the observations and predictions.
- Encourage your child to make comparisons. Once your child has drawn comparisons between two animals or natural objects, ask why they think the objects are similar and why they’re different. For example, if they have compared a snowshoe hare and a jack rabbit, ask why they think it might be helpful for each animal to have certain characteristics.
- Prompt your child to think critically about how things work and ask questions. You can do this by asking lots of questions yourself, or by asking what they wonder about a particular phenomenon.
Here are some great resources about how to support science skill development at home:
Next month, we’ll focus on the Creative Arts Expression portion of the Cognitive Development Domain.
Miss the most recent article in our series? Read it here.