It could be argued that toddlers are almost always doing science…listening to sounds as they bang two blocks together, playing in the sink as they “wash their hands,” exploring the textures of food and toys, or watching what happens when they drop something over and over again.
For young children, science is learned through play, hands-on, open exploration of things they can look at, touch, smell, hear and sometimes taste. Science is often best when it relates directly to their world (rocks, leaves, water, worms, clouds) instead of topics they usually have had no experience with (rain forests, oceans, space).
Science is also best when adults can see the world from a toddler perspective and understand what they might find interesting…adding sand to homemade play dough to change the texture, switching out water toys to give a new way to pour, providing a bunch of cardboard boxes for stacking and hiding things in, or collecting bugs in containers so they can look more closely.
We have a lot to learn from toddlers. Every day is a new day, full of wonder and curiosity. They are fascinated by all of the small things adults take for granted…the feel of sand pouring between your fingers, a butterfly landing on a flower, the zooming sound of cars going down the road.
The way to lead great science explorations with toddlers is to rediscover your own wonder about the world. Get in touch with your inner toddler…pay attention to sounds and textures, play with water the next time you wash your hands, ask questions, model curiosity and excitement, notice how things roll and move. Science does not have to be complicated. All you need to do is explore the world along with them.