Knowing the process by which your child is growing gives you many options to help support and advance development. Use the below activities to ignite your child’s passion, nurture a weak area, or foster the advancement of a strength.
Animals & Habitats: Children this age present an interesting mix of fantasy- and reality-based ideas. Their animism (belief that animals and humans act the same) is strong, as is their creative idea formation. Build off of both and support the development of your child’s schema (foundation knowledge), logic skills, and creative thinking with these activities:
Observation Skills, Schema Building, Logic Skills, & Scientific Foundation: For all of these activities, give your child binoculars, a magnifying glass, a pencil and clipboard (or digital equivalent), and a durable digital camera, so she can record, review, and report her discoveries.
- Nature Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of items for your child to find in your backyard or around your neighborhood (e.g., 3 twigs that look like something else like a letter or 4 rocks that can be grouped in different ways such as size, shape, color, etc.) It’s an eyes-only adventure (e.g., no picking flowers). Encourage him to take notes, draw sketches, and record what he finds. See how he can categorize his discoveries, or make comparisons. For those who want to go further, check out the online awards for finding a great diversity of organisms!
- Feed the Birds or Squirrels: Spread peanut butter around a paper towel roll and roll it in bird seeds. Slip it over a tree branch and have your child observe and record what wildlife she discovers. You can also use pipe cleaners with cheerios and make them into letter shapes!
Ant Diet: Find an active anthill (that does not have biting ants!) and devise an experiment to discover what foods they prefer. Lay out various options (small amount of honey, bread crumbs, sugar, lettuce, tuna fish, etc.) at least an inch apart, all equidistant from the anthill. In a safe location (e.g., feet off the ground in a chair), ask your child to time how long it takes for the ants to find the food. What do the foods they choose have in common? What do the foods they reject have in common?
- Tie this in with The Magic School Bus Gets Ants in its Pants by Joanna Cole, Linda Beech, John Speirs, and Bruce Degan or The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Bugs. Want some jokes? Take a peek at this.
- Encourage your child to go further with his insect investigations with this online interactive or use his logic skills to help the bug get to the flower.
- Tie this in with your insect discoveries at Fraboom or extend the investigation at National Geographic Kids.
- Make it meaningful on a national scale: When your child goes on a bug hunt for common bugs, record what he finds and submit his data to the Lawrence Hall of Science online and compare his findings with children across the U.S.
- For motivated or gifted learners: Check out the Low Life Labs, an imaginary environment where ants and other insects are investigated. Here's information about how these creatures adapt to their environments are then used to develop robots!
- Camouflage a Toy: Take a stuffed bear or animal toy and hide in plain sight, but against a background that will camouflage it. See how long it takes your child to see the animal. Talk about camouflage for survival.
Online Nature Walks: Explore these online resources to observe and describe various plants and animals:
- Ask your little observer to go on a walk in a virtual forest and record his observations while learning about layers of habitats within.