Figuring out how the world is made


               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.

Animal, 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?

Made 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.

Liquid, 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.

Twenty questions

            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

This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

All columns are copyright © Jay Davidson.  Permission is hereby granted for individuals to download and copy them for individual use.  There is a modest charge for printing these columns in any publication.  To receive that permission, contact   Jay Davidson