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TIPS TO HELP AT HOME

Science and technology is not about people in white coats conducting secret experiments in laboratories and engineering isn't limited to fixing and repairing things. They're happening all the time in the world around us and even inside our bodies.

You can help to build your child or children's interest in science and also help to reinforce and put into context what they have been learning at school. Science books, visits to a science museum or home science kits can be fun but there are many other ways you can ignite your child/children's imagination with simple day-to-day experiences and household items. Here are some ideas:

GENERAL

  • Encourage your child/children to take an interest in all the details of the world around them and ask plenty of questions about how things work. If you are unsure of the answers, you could both investigate them to find out. Point out all the technological and engineering marvels around them, such as buildings (e.g. tower blocks); vehicles (on the road, rail, sea or space); bridges, locks and canals; and appliances (e.g. computers, televisions, mobile phones).
  • Set your child/children challenges and ask them to come up with ways to solve a problem or discover an answer (e.g. you could say that you are trying to decide which material to wear when it rains and encourage them to devise an experiment to find out).
  • Encourage your child/children to make observations about the things they see, hear, smell, taste and feel and record these in a notebook.

ENERGY

  • Talk about the different forms of power used around the home (e.g. electrical sockets, batteries, gas).
  • Talk about food as being the source of our power. Talk about the different food groups and ask your child/children to help plan a healthy menu for the family.
  • Talk about the importance of keeping safe when using electricity (e.g. keeping electrical items away from water, holding the plastic part of an electrical plug - not the metal prongs).
  • Share news stories about renewable energy with your child/children. Explain what is being done to try to cut down the use of fossil fuels and how these can damage the environment.

FORCES

  • Point out examples of forces - pushes (e.g. pushing a shopping trolley or a button) and pulls (e.g. a car pulling a trailer, combing hair).
  • Show examples of friction in use (e.g. tyres on roads, knobbly pedals on bikes to stop feet slipping, gritting the road in icy weather) and point out shapes that are streamlined to cut down air resistance (e.g. sports cars, ships, jet planes).
  • If your child rides a bike, ask him or her to think about all the forces that are being utilised as they ride (e.g. pushing the pedals, friction against the road, gravity holding the bike down on the ground).
  • Give your child/children simple magnets to play with and ask them to test them on different surfaces or with different objects to see which they attract.

MATERIALS

  • Show different examples of materials (e.g. wool, metal, wood, glass, cotton, rubber). Talk about the source of the material (e.g. cotton from cotton bushes or wool from sheep) and what the properties of the material are (e.g. see-through, flexible, strong, light). Ask the child to think about why the material was chosen for that particular purpose (e.g. rubber used for Wellington boots because is it waterproof, inexpensive, flexible, strong and can be moulded into different shapes).
  • Talk about how materials are used for a particular purpose because they conduct or insulate against heat or electricity (e.g. saucepans made of metal to let the heat through quickly but with a wooden handle to stop you burning your hand).
  • Discuss which materials are able to be recycled.
  • Point out examples of liquids, solids and gases.
  • Talk about the fact that when some materials are mixed together they change and can't be separated back into the original ingredients. A good example of this is baking bread or cakes. Why not get your child/children involved in some baking - a very tasty experiment!
  • Give your child/children a group of objects and ask them to see how many different ways they could be sorted and grouped (e.g. according to colour, size, shape, material, weight).