'The Curious Kid’s Science Book' showcases the fun, educational and sometimes-gross side of science
Author Asia Citro's new text features a collection of experiments and scientific challenges that offer endless opportunities for exploration.
Photo courtesy of Asia Citro
The Curious Kid’s Science Book (The Innovation Press) is a new release from Seattle mom and author Asia Citro. With more than 100 hands-on scientific activities for kids ages 4 to 8, Citro has curated a collection of experiments and scientific challenges that offer endless opportunities for exploration. Harnessing the power of common household items, kids can answer scientific questions about the world around them, like “What kinds of food mold the fastest?” and “Is slug slime as strong as a glue stick?” The book’s open-ended format draws on kids’ natural curiosity to guide them through experimentation, rather than with detailed lists of step-by-step instructions. Chapters are organized with handy supply lists, helpful hints for thinking about each item and real-life applications of the science behind the activities. Have just a few minutes for some science on the fly? Activities that don’t require any advanced preparation are clearly marked, so your kids (and you) have more time to “Find the smallest amount of baking soda needed to pop a bag”!
SC: The scientific challenges in your new book, The Curious Kid’s Science Book, are purposefully open-ended to allow for exploration. What’s your advice for parents of younger kids on how to walk that fine line between leaving things open-ended and keeping them engaged?
AC: Young children are natural explorers. I think the more adults dictate what to do in a given activity, the more quickly children lose interest. That being said, each activity has extensions or further challenges that parents can use if they feel they’d like to step in to boost their child’s engagement. The book has only been out for a few weeks, but I’ve already heard from several readers that they were shocked to see their children spend hours with just one activity from the book. Unlike adults, who tend to be more comfortable with step-by-step directions, children are fueled by curiosity and creativity and crave open-ended activities. I believe that providing them with opportunities to learn through play is vital to their learning.
In the chapter dedicated to mold, bacteria and fungus, you’ve included a disclaimer and safety information for kids. Why do you think it’s important to include these activities, rather than leave potentially uncomfortable/dangerous/yucky things for older kids?
I had two big reasons for including that section. My first reason is that, as a parent, I would much rather my child learn how to be safe with bacteria and mold than be completely in the dark because she/he has been sheltered. The second reason is that I think kids hear about “germs” and mold all the time in their daily lives. These subjects are of high interest to them because they want to learn everything they can about their world. Bacteria in particular are fascinating for young children, because with the use of agar petri dishes, we can really make something that seems “invisible” appear. It was so enlightening for my daughter to see why adults are always asking her to wash her hands with one of our experiments — I definitely wanted to give more children the opportunity for that kind of learning.
You remind parents that experiments don’t need to work in order for them to be valuable. Can you offer some advice on how to help kids understand the importance of failure?
I think your attitude and response as a parent is huge! Adopting the attitude of seeing failures as interesting and informative, rather than an indicator of wasted time, is key. In science, many things fail. It’s part of a very important process of figuring out what does work. Every time you find something that doesn’t work, it gives you information and new ideas for what to try next!
Let’s say I’m fresh out of slugs — can you tell me which is stronger: glue or slug slime?
Like most of our activities, your answer will vary depending on what type of snail or slug you use, what type/brand of glue you use, and what items you test with. In our testing, however, we did find that the glue we tried was stronger than the slug slime — but only barely!
Find more ideas from Asia Citro on her blog Fun at Home With Kids: funathomewithkids.com