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How parents can help 4th graders learn science through everyday play!

– Carol Lloyd

Get ready to feel the earth move! Fourth-grade science looks deeply at the hidden reasons behind how things work. Kids will learn about the patterns of waves and how they cause objects to move. Energy is a core idea this year — what it is and how it can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents, or from object to object through collisions. They’ll practice the process of designing and testing a device that converts energy from one form to another.

They’ll also learn about the history of planet Earth, and that the locations of mountain ranges, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. They’ll explore more deeply how plants and animals have internal and external structures that work to make them survive, grow, and reproduce. You can support this at home by asking open-ended questions about why things happen the way they do and offering opportunities for your child to play and experiment.

How parents can help with 4th-grade science

Collision course

Playing with how objects transfer energy to other objects is as simple and fun as flicking marbles or pennies. Spread pennies out on a table and flick one penny into the others and watch how it causes the other pennies to move. What happens if you flick it harder? Softer? What other objects can you use to transfer energy in this way?

Rubberband band

You can make a surprisingly effective instrument using just a small cardboard box, two pencils, and several rubber bands of different sizes. There are many tutorials online, but essentially your child cuts a hole in the top of the box, tapes the pencils parallel to each other on either side of the hole, and then stretch the rubber bands over the box so that they rest on the pencils, crossing the hole. Play by plucking each rubber band and noticing the different sounds each makes. Now experiment with pressing on the rubber band above the pencil and noticing how it changes the sound. Shorter, thinner, tighter bands create shorter sound waves and a higher-pitched sound. If your child is interested, encourage her to design and build her own instrument.

Find the right environment

Buy some inexpensive plant seeds at the store. Have your child plant the seeds in three containers and vary each one’s environment in one slightly different way. Say one is in direct sunlight, one is in indirect sunlight, and one gets no sunlight. Or say one is watered daily, one is watered every two days, and one is watered weekly. Have your child observe what happens to each plant. What is the best environment for this particular plant? How would your child conduct this experiment again to learn more?

Adapted and abridged


How parents can help 3rd graders learn science through everyday play!

– Carol Lloyd

Good news for dinosaur fans: third graders will learn about the types of organisms that lived long ago and also about their environments. They’ll learn that when the environment changes some organisms survive and reproduce, some move to new locations, and some die.

They’ll work on constructing an explanation using evidence and on understanding cause and effect. They’ll study the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object and the cause and effect relationships of electric or magnetic interactions between objects.

These are big concepts, but you can support them at home by playing some simple games. The key is to get your child talking about what’s happening and why it’s happening. And give evidence for their answers!


How parents can help with third-grade science

Design an organism

Two or more people can play this game. Players take turns drawing a piece of an organism, real or imagined. With each addition to the drawing, the player says how the new body part helps this organism survive in a particular type of environment and then passes the paper on to the next player to add another body part. You may end up with a scaled, horned, thick-furred, flippered beast that can thrive in the ocean, desert, and polar ice caps! Once the creature is finished, encourage your child to colour it in and give it a name.

Magnet play

Magnets are great toys for older children. What kinds of inventions can they think to make with them? How about a latch to keep a door shut or a handbag closed? Talk to your child about the way the magnets behave with each other. How does the distance between objects affect how strong the force is? How does the orientation of magnets affect the direction of the magnetic force?

Sticky balloons

Remember the rub-a-balloon-on-the-hair-and-stick-it-to-the-wall trick? Have your child charge up a balloon or two by rubbing it on his head or sweater. Now see what kinds of objects it attracts and repels. What happens to his hair when he holds the balloon next to his head? Why?

Adapted and abridged

How parents can help 2nd graders learn science through everyday play!

– Carol Llyod

How does land change and what are some things that cause it to change? What are the different kinds of land and bodies of water? How are materials similar and different from one another? What do plants need to grow? How many different types of living things live in a place?

Second-grade science is fun. Second graders ask and answer questions about what plants need to grow and how animals play a role by dispersing seeds and pollinating. They’ll compare the diversity of life in different habitats. There’s lots of building, touching, and testing as they learn about the properties of materials and what they are best used for. They also learn about the kinds of land and bodies of water on Earth, and how wind and water change the shape of the land.

The core concepts in second-grade science are all around us, and the best way to support your curious child’s learning is to ask questions, observe, and discuss what your child is observing whenever you have the opportunity — on a walk, at playtime, and even at snack time.

How parents can help second graders learn science

Sweet states of matter

Have your second grader place a scoop of ice cream in a glass. Pour soda water over it. They’ve created a delicious treat, and also a lesson in states of matter. Ask them to identify what is solid, liquid, and gas in the glass. How do they know? What happens as the ice cream melts?

Who lives in your neighbourhood?

The next time you and your child take a walk around your neighbourhood, near the school, or in a park, talk about what living things you see. What else lives here that you don’t see? Count the number of plants and animals that live in the area of your walk, from the biggest (people!) to the tiniest (insects) and talk about how each gets what they need to survive.

Guess the mystery object

Second graders are honing their observation skills. How much can they tell about an object if they can’t see it? Take turns secretly placing a small object in a paper bag and seeing if the other person can identify it by touch. Try to make it difficult! Ask your child questions about what he can observe about the hidden object. For example, if he guesses the object is a 5-rupee coin, ask how he can tell. (It’s flat, round, and hard!) How can he tell it isn’t a 2-rupee coin or a one-rupee coin? (It has a smooth edge!)

Abridged and adapted

How parents can help 1st graders learn science through everyday play!

– Carol Lloyd

What happens when materials vibrate? What can we see in the dark? How do the different characteristics of plants and animals help them survive and grow? These are some of the questions that first graders learn to ask and answer in science class. First-grade science is all about observing patterns and understanding cause and effect in everyday life.

First graders will explore the concepts of sound and sight through observation and experiments. For instance, when you bang a spoon on a pan, it vibrates and makes a ringing sound. When you bang a bigger or smaller pan, what happens to the sound? When the room is dark, what can you see? What happens to the colours? When you switch on the light, what changes?

How parents can help first graders learn science

Use some of your free time with your child to explore these ideas. Make sure it’s fun, playful, and open-ended. The idea is to explore ideas, much more than getting a “right” answer.

These three games will help your child understand the science concepts their teacher is covering this year. Even better, they are playful ways for you and your child to explore together.

Freaky Friday

Pretend your child is the mom or dad and you are the child or baby. (You can also pretend to be the mama or papa dog and puppy or some other animal family.) Challenge your child to come up with five things that the parent can do for the baby that the baby cannot do for themselves. While this may seem like a standard game for very young children, it helps your child think about how young animals are different from their parents in important ways.

Bodypart charades

This is a fun game the whole family can play together. Everyone writes down five to 10 body parts of all different animals (including humans) on little scraps of paper and puts them in a bowl. One person picks out a piece of paper and acts out and describes the body part by answering “What do I do?” If the body part was a “cat tongue,” the player could say “I lick fur clean and taste meat” and then do their best to act it out. If it was “monkey tail,” the person could say “I swing from trees without hands or feet!”

Blind journey

Explore the landscape of sound by taking turns blindfolding the other and leading them around the house or the neighbourhood. After the walks, talk about what sounds you each heard. What were the lowest sounds? What was the highest? Talk about how you think the sounds you heard were made. For instance, the whirl of the washing machine was made by clothes being washed in the washing machine. The plop plop of water dripping from a faucet was made by droplets of water striking the solid surface of the sink. Talk about which sounds were easy to identify and which ones were more mysterious, and why.


5 tips for raising an empathetic child

– S. Michele Fry

Does your child cry when you cry? Does she want to give a dollar to every homeless man with a cardboard sign? Or do you have the kid who noticed neither the tears nor the homeless person? The first child may have a deep natural capacity for empathy. The second child, not so much. Empathy is at the root of what it means to be human, experts say, and it’s at the core of all good relationships — personal and professional. Some children may naturally have more of it than others. But not to worry, empathy — the ability to understand and share the feelings of another — is something that experts say can be enhanced, learned, and practised.

How do you foster an empathic environment at home? Well, to teach empathy you have to show empathy. A “do as I say, not as I do” style won’t cut it. Your kids are watching you — and they copy you. Try these suggestions to strengthen your child’s empathic muscles and avoid habits that destroy an empathic mindset.

  1. Model caring for others

    Show concern for people outside your circle, as well as your family, friends, and associates. Give the letter carrier a bottle of water on a hot day. Join the street musician in a song you know. Talk to strangers in the grocery store line.

    Don’t judge others. Don’t call people names. Don’t be rude and disrespectful. Don’t sit around talking smack about the neighbours, especially the ones you also hang out and barbecue with.

  2. Model good listening skills

    Here’s how:

    • Actually listen.
    • Let your body language and facial expressions convey that you are listening by nodding and offering plenty of “uh-huhs”.
    • Respond to what people say.

    Don’t formulate your response while someone else is still talking. And don’t interrupt.

  3. Be forgiving

    Remember, forgiveness is not about the other person. It’s about how you act and feel. Let your child see you being the bigger person.

    Don’t hold grudges, seek revenge, be mean or unkind, or give “the silent treatment” to loved ones.

  4. Challenge prejudices and stereotypes

    Encourage your kids to be inclusive, so that means you need to be inclusive, too. What’s your group of friends like? It’s important to let your child talk about race, prejudice, and stereotypes.

    Don’t be afraid to talk to your kid about race, inequality, and discrimination. If you see incidents of prejudices or stereotyping, don’t let them pass without comment.

  5. Help them learn to recognize, express, and manage their feelings

    Your child’s other feelings could be getting in the way of their ability to feel empathy. Help your child learn to identify other people’s feelings when reading books or watching movies or TV shows.

    Don’t shut your child down with phrases like, “Stop. I don’t want to hear it” or “Big girls don’t cry.” Don’t discount or disregard their feelings. Don’t ignore emotions they are having a difficult time expressing or are attempting to suppress.


This is an abridged version of the article, you can read the full article here.

Teens have less face time with their friends — and are lonelier than ever…

– Jean Twenge

Ask a teen today how they communicate with her friends, and they’ll probably hold up their smartphone. Not that they actually call their friends; it’s more likely that they text or message them on social media.

Today’s teens — the generation I call “iGen” that’s also called Gen Z — are constantly connected with their friends via digital media, spending as much as nine hours a day on average with screens.

After studying two large, nationally representative surveys, it was found that although the amount of time teens spent with their friends face to face has declined since the 1970s, the drop accelerated after 2010 — just as smartphones use started to grow.

Compared with teenagers in previous decades, iGen teens are less likely to get together with their friends. They’re also less likely to go to parties, go out with friends, date, ride in cars for fun, go to shopping malls, or go to the movies.

It’s not because they are spending more time on homework or extracurricular activities. Today’s homework time is either unchanged or down since the 1990s, and time spent on extracurricular activities is about the same. Yet they’re spending less time with their friends in person — and by large margins.

As previous studies have shown, it was found that those teens who spent more time on social media also spent more time with their friends in person.

So why have in-person social interactions been going down, overall, as digital media use has increased?

It has to do with the group versus the individual.

Imagine a group of friends that don’t use social media. This group regularly gets together, but the more outgoing members are willing to hang out more than others, who might stay home once in a while. Then they all sign up for Instagram. The social teens are still more likely to meet up in person, and they’re also more active on their accounts.

However, the total number of in-person hangs for everyone in the group drops as social media replaces some face-to-face time.

So the decline in face-to-face interaction among teens isn’t just an individual issue; it’s a generational one. Even teens who eschew social media are affected: Who will hang out with them when most of their peers are alone in their bedrooms scrolling through Instagram?

Higher levels of teen loneliness are just the tip of the iceberg. Rates of depression and unhappiness also skyrocketed among teens after 2012, perhaps because spending more time with screens and less time with friends isn’t the best formula for mental health.

Some have argued that teens are simply choosing to communicate with their friends in a different way, so the shift toward electronic communication isn’t concerning.

That argument assumes that electronic communication is just as good for assuaging loneliness and depression as face-to-face interaction. It seems clear that this isn’t the case. There’s something about being around another person — about touch, about eye contact, about laughter — that can’t be replaced by digital communication.

The result is a generation of teens who are lonelier than ever before.

Why social skills are key to learning

– Ellen Booth Church

You may be hoping your child will learn how to read and write in the first few months of preschool or kindergarten. But there are many other skills she needs to master before an academic focus is appropriate. Studies show that the most important skills to learn at the beginning of the year are social: cooperation, self-control, confidence, independence, curiosity, empathy and communication.

In the first months of school, early childhood teachers are most concerned with children who have behavioural and attention problems. It’s simple: If a child is not able to take turns, listen and sit in a group, how can they learn what is being taught? That is why teachers spend a good deal of time early in the year on the basic social skills of preschool and kindergarten. Even if your child has been in a child care centre or another type of program, they still need to learn the social and emotional dynamics of this new group. Luckily, their previous experiences with social interaction both at home and in other programs will help them make the transition. Once these basic social interaction and group behaviour skills are in place, they are more ready and able to concentrate on academics.

The first basic skills: The four C’s

Here are a few examples of teachers’ goals for the beginning of the school year. Ask your child’s teacher to tell you about her objectives and for her suggestions on how you can support these skills at home.

  • Confidence: One of the first skills teachers focus on is the development of your child’s sense of confidence or self-esteem. This means helping them feel good about who they are, both individually and in relationship to others. This is a lifelong skill that will help them feel competent now and as they continue in their schooling.
  • Cooperation: Games, stories and songs help your child learn how to work with others — no small task at this age! This teaches them how to empathize and get along with others.
  • Curiosity: Perhaps one of the most important skills she needs to develop at this stage is a true thirst for learning. Their teachers will use a wide variety of interesting materials and ideas to engage your child’s natural curiosity. Recent research shows that novel or unusual activities and materials engage the brain more than predictable ones, thus causing the brain to pay close attention.
  • Communication: Expressing themselves and representing their ideas, feelings and knowledge about the world is a key skill for your child. It is at the core of all reading, writing, math, and science skills. If they feel comfortable talking about an idea or opinion, they will be more open to learning and taking the risks of thinking that are needed to learn anything.

What you can do

Help your child develop essential social and emotional skills by making connections with school friends at home. Ask them who they would like to invite for a playdate. It is often easier for children to make friends in their own space one-on-one than in school. Many teachers have found that a child who is having difficulties making friends or sharing in a large group often can make a close connection to a new friend on her home turf. This relationship can then carry over to the classroom setting. Once there is a connection to one child in the classroom, more are soon to follow!

The experiences your child has at the beginning of the year provide the foundation that will enable them to become an enthusiastic, lifelong learner — enthusiastic because they have discovered that learning is fun as well as meaningful.