Friday, May 29, 2015

On learning Science (plus books on Science and Nature)

I've had people asking me about how we teach Science (and Natural Science) to our kids. Thus far, we've yet to really have any sit down Science lessons, and all we've done is integrated Science into our everyday living. Science is everywhere: from how your refrigerator works, to why it rains, from chasing butterflies as they flutter to wondering about how babies come about. While we'll probably have to take time to explore various topics in depth in the future, right now what we've found helpful would be to:

1. Go on walks together, and take time to immerse in nature.
We spend most weekends at some park or green space (we can't deal with the crowds in malls!), and that's where the kids get time to learn more about nature. They can identify the calls of the kingfisher, they pluck all sorts of grass flowers to examine, they ask all sorts of questions. If you're a little lost as to identifying that particular butterfly or tree or bug, try getting and bringing along one of these Science Center guidebooks (more info on those here). 

2. Set up a nature table, and give them time to examine natural materials.
A nature table can be a flat space anywhere in the home, where you can display various natural materials. Since natural materials may be messy, it might be good to have this outside the house. The boys collect leaves, flowers, fruit from their walks, and these are left there for them to examine and play with. Magnifying glasses are useful to have (we get ours here), and the kids can display their nature-related crafts there too. 

3. Ask questions, and explore the answers together.
Ask the kids questions: Why do you think this happens? What do you think will happen if I drop the apple? How is this bird different? Do you think this animal eats plants or other animals? Why? The kids would probably also ask you all sorts of questions too, and it can be fun to explore the answers together. Find videos of the topic you were discussing on Youtube. Google your questions. It's interesting what you'll learn alongside with them!

4. Let them experiment.
A lot of Science is about observing natural phenomena, and it helps that children get to do experiments and then learn to observe and form conclusions about what they have experienced. One great site to check out for experiments would be this (check out his book too, which contains pretty great experiments!) 

5. Read, read, read. 
For learning about Science, give them good books. Non-fiction titles can be a little dry for some kids, especially if they are not enthusiastic about the topic they are learning about, but Science does not need to be confined to non-fiction reads! Here are our favorites (I'll introduce books on specific topics in the future):

:: Books by Joyce Sidman: Joyce Sidman introduces readers to the natural world through poetry. The poems are relatively simple, so that you can discuss the poems with children five and above. I love how you can read about pond life, or snails, or owls, while enjoying beautiful, rich language!

:: Books by Dianna Hutts Aston: Each book covers a certain topic (say, on eggs, nests, or rocks), and then delves deeper by exploring various aspects of the topic using beautiful illustrations by illustrator Sylvia Long. You get to learn that eggs can have different shapes, they can be clever, they can have various textures. My kids love browsing through her books!

:: Magic School Bus Books: This is by far, my eldest boy's favorite Science series! We started him on the videos (you can get the series here, or search on Youtube), and now he's been pouring over the books. Do note that the rectangular books are the original titles, and have more content compared to the square books which are based on the videos. We find the original titles hard to find in the library, so we usually purchase them from Amazon (they are a good investment as my kids keep reading them!) You can also find a lot of second-hand copies of this series (but mostly the square books) at the Evernew Bookstore at Bras Basah, where each sells for $2.90 each. Check the right-hand side table outside the store facing the library, and dig dig dig!

:: Nature Upclose series: This series by John Himmelman, is great for learning about life cycles of various animals. Each story follows the animal of interest through it's various life stages, and each page is richly illustrated. The language used is simple and text is sparse, so this series is also good for emerging readers to try their hands on!

:: Oscar the Cat series: Children learn about various aspects of Science through a series of conversations between Oscar the cat, and an animal friend. Oscar chats with a bird about electricity, or discusses how sound works with a bat, or asks a moth about light and darkness. It's a great series for introducing Science to preschoolers!

:: Books by Steve Jenkins: Steve Jenkins is a pretty prolific author and has written many books on various topics: from prehistoric creatures, colors in animals, to how animals see and deep sea creatures. I love browsing through his books, as they manage to approach each topic in a interesting manner, while peppering each page with his gorgeous illustrations. (We did some additional activities for one of his books, "The Beetle Book", which you can read about here.) 

:: One Small Square series: This series of books specifically looks at various habitats and the organisms that live in them. The illustrations are lovely, and while these are non-fiction books, I find that the information covered comes in bite-sized chunks that doesn't overwhelm the reader. Do note that these are meant for older children (Junior J is 6 and likes browsing through them).

:: Books by Nicola Davies: Nicola Davies is another author who has written various books on nature, of which we enjoy very much (I particularly liked "Outside Your Window" since it introduces nature in poetry, and the illustrations are gorgeous!). Her books cover all sorts of topics, from poop (yes poop, and this was a book that the boys were VERY interested in!), to bats and turtles.  

:: JJ's Science Adventures: My kids love this series (right now there are only two titles, you can read our review of the first book on magnets over here) for two reasons: One, the scientific concepts are told in a comic book form, two, you follow the characters through an adventure where they solve puzzles, which also teach you various science concepts (Junior J finds them very interesting!). These are also great for kids in Singapore, since each book covers the topic according to the PSLE syllabus! We had a lot of fun reading the first title and playing with magnets after, and would be sharing activities to go with the second book on heat and light soon!


To kick off the June holidays, we'll be giving away one copy of "JJ's Science Adventures: Heat and Light" to one reader of this blog! To enter in the giveaway, just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter widget below. Don't forget to leave your name and email address in the comments section below, so that we can contact you if you win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We received a copy of the book "JJ's Science Adventures: Heat and Light" for review purposes. Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are our own.

Linking up with: 

Growing with the Tans


  1. I am always amazed by how you incorporate Science lessons into your day - so this is very helpful! I should do more with the kids. Sean enjoys Magic School Bus books now but will check out the other authors you mentioned too!

  2. My 6.5-year-old enjoys Magic School Bus and Young Scientist.

  3. My son is 3.5y and the only science book I think we have is wonders of nature. Which is fantastic. This is a great list you have here and I will be referring to it in the years to come. Thanks!

  4. My 6.5yo loves Science and Young Scientist is one of his favourites.


  5. Thank you for this post! I really needed more ideas on the teaching of science. These books look fantastic! Ryan is 6 and loves What do you do with a tail like this. :)

  6. Thanks for your recommendation ! Hope to win this to bring science into my 6yr old

  7. Love your blog and thank you for sharing! Ryan is turning 4 and he is an avid reader but I have yet to expose him to non-fiction... Hope this is a good chance to win some JJ's Science Adventures for him to start his journey with non-fiction :) My email

  8. We have the first copy of JJ's Science Adventure and my boy loved it!!! He's showing really keen interest in science... Loves reading young scientists as well and it will be great if we can get the 2nd copy of JJ's Science Adventure too.

    Name: Alicia Wee

  9. Both my kids love the "Young Scientist" magazines. Also they enjoyed and learned lots about living creatures from the "Wild Kratts" series.

  10. Forgot to add...
    My girl is 10 at P4 and my boy 8 at P2

  11. thanks for compiling the tips! will be sure to try them out... :)


  12. My girly 4yo enjoys the non-fiction readers from scholastic. She is keen on the young scientist magazine we received at a fair.

    Kiera Evangelyn Goh



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