Young children are coming to grips with how the world is put together.
They enjoy learning where things come from and how they are made. You can help
with games that can solidify their sense of the world around them.
vegetable, or mineral?
Everything your child sees can be classified as either an animal,
vegetable, or mineral. In biology, there are two kingdoms: animal, of which we
people are members, and plants. Matter from the earth - including rocks, dirt,
and various metals - are minerals. This last one can be tricky to some kids
because plastic and oil, which do not look anything like rocks, would be
classified as mineral.
Help your child to analyze the characteristics of each of these
categories. What do animals have in common, if anything? Are there
characteristics that only certain animals have in common?
Are there similar features that are the same among all plants? Among all
minerals? What are they?
in nature or by people?
Another way to classify objects is to determine if they were made in
nature or made by people? This is, in fact, a good way to explain the meaning of
the word natural - that it is as it appears in nature. Many objects around us
are comprised of a combination of these. Your house, for example, has wood that
was made in nature, but it was modified by people so that it could be useful.
solid, or gas?
Children can understand that physical properties of things can vary. They
can be either solid, liquid, or gas. Once you explain a few examples, kids have
fun identifying nearby items by these properties.
Water is a fascinating example because can be all three, turning from
liquid to solid when it freezes and from liquid to gas when it boils and
evaporates as steam.
Once your child has a firm understanding of the distinctions mentioned
here, itís fun to play a guessing game in which one person thinks of an item
and everyone else has to figure out its properties by asking questions about it.
Jay Davidson lives in Palo Alto and has been teaching in San Francisco
for 31 years; he teaches first grade. He is the author of Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents, which is available for
$12.95 from Amazon.com.