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I grew up doing science experiments with my Dad, in a kind of playful exploration. My wife and I are both 'sciencey' people (Software Engineer and Civil Engineer).

I'm trying to create an environment where my daughter feels positively about science and to make it fun.

But I'm stuck. As soon as I say the word 'science experiment' she turns up her nose. Maybe I can call it something else. Or start doing it myself and involve her in it.

My question is: As soon as I say the phrase 'science experiment' my six year old daughter turns up her nose - what do I do?

  • Maybe just say "let's find out what happens if …" – BanksySan Nov 28 '17 at 21:43
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The easiest solution is to avoid calling it a science experiment. The harder thing to do is to get a child interested in things that aren't particularly interesting to her.

My advice would be to tailor your teaching in large part to what interests your daughter, especially initially. Mixing science projects in with a lot of non-science projects as well means everything has the potential to be interesting. Pay careful attention to the kinds of questions she asks. Design experiments together when you can. But don't push too hard; you want to encourage a love of science, not a resentment of it.

I am 'sciencey' as well, and did a lot of experiments with my kids from an early age on. Initially I focused on the physical and fun, stuff that could look like magic but had a rational explanation, like CO2 (from vinegar and bicarb) putting out candle flames in a bowl (with the candles cut to differing lengths so the flames would go out in a step-wise fashion) or blowing up a balloon on a bottletop, etc., to teach a concept like gasses. But we also did a lot of other non-science projects that they were interested in. Interestingly, a lot of stuff that doesn't appear to be about science has a lot of science in it (like why does Sculpey get hard when you bake it?) You can introduce the science at the end in a discussion while cleaning up, etc.

Teaching kids - especially in their "free time" - has to be rewarding for them if they are to enjoy it. No one knows your daughter like you do. Use that knowledge and her questions to explore all aspects of science together.

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Well, if your science experiment can be actually "helping at home" or "doing something fun with mom & dad"....

If your daughter balks at the idea of an experiment, might it be that she actually resists what she perceives as "a lesson"? Check your own approach, sometimes we sciency folk overdo it out of enthusiasm. (Ask me how I know...)

So involve her in your daily life, but encourage her to ask questions and wonder about the "secrets" or "the magic" going on., then fill in the science if she's interested.

A few examples my kids loved around kindergarten / primary school:

  • bake a bread
    Why is the dough rising? Where do the bubbles come from? Then get her a bit of yeast and watch it proof in warm water with a bit of food (sugar).
  • bake muffins
    Same principle, but with baking powder / baking soda.
  • plant seedlings for the summer
    Beans will "grab" the pole, other plants lean towards the light, even if you turn them, and if you plant seedlings at the walls of a glass jar wrapped with dark paper, you might even get a glimpse of the root system.
  • sweeten your tea
    Now, where did the sugar go? I can't see it any more, but I can taste it. Or, more advanced, don't stir but note the different refraction if you dump the sugar on the bottom of a glass
  • go swimming in the ocean, salt your breakfast eggs
    Lick your arm after swimming and discuss how you can get the salt out of the sea water again.
  • do dishes
    Fat won't come off unless you use soap. Why? Float a few drops of oil on water, add a drop of detergent.

None of these were originally done for the sake of the experiment, but just "happened". Keep your eyes open and be prepared to provoke and answer questions. If she's hooked, she will want additional experiments.

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I agree with anongoodnurse that you don't need to call things science experiments. If she isn't asking her own questions, say, "Why do we do this?" "What will happen if...?" "Would it be better if..?" Talk about questions where you aren't sure of the answer, and then say, "Let's find out." Don't limit this to mixing chemicals in a beaker. Do this when you are brushing your teeth, when you are boiling an egg, when you play a musical instrument, and when you are walking outside.

By the way, the usual description of the scientific method in elementary school is poor. It is not what scientists actually do, and scientific thinking is not restricted to a rigid framework like that. You don't have to make a hypothesis first and have a control, and you don't need to publish your results afterwards.

  • Ask questions. State what you aren't sure about.
  • Find something to measure or observe. Measure time with a clock. Take a picture. Observe the color, texture, or taste of something you cook. Ask how you feel.
  • Try it. Collect data that could change your mind or teach you something.
  • What did we learn? Ask how sure you are of any conclusions, and how general they are. This will naturally lead to more questions, which is great.
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