As a parent it is important to me to provide my daughter with opportunities to explore, discover, think and engage with Science and Technology. In today’s education system we are trying to encourage girls to further explore Science as an area of interest and to pursue jobs in Science and Technology in the future, as in the past Science was a field considered only for men. There are inspiring women working in careers in Science and Technology that help improve and advance the world one day at a time, so I think its important to continue to encourage girls to strive to the goal of pushing boundaries and making a difference.
I believe that every kid should be able to get their hands dirty and explore the world around them through their five senses even starting at a very young age. From the time my daughter was 6 months I have provided her with multiple Sensory Opportunities to encourage thinking and growth and development. Sensory and Messy Play has some many benefits to a child’s development. I plan to promote learning and trying new things, and teaching her that she can be anything she wants to be! I want her to know that girls can be interested in book smarts and geeky hobbies without judgement.
Why Encourage Kids to be interested in Science?
Encouraging science during Early Childhood Develop is essential to developing your child’s scientific thinking, critical thinking and logical reasoning skills. We are constantly using our scientific skills on a daily basis even to make simple decisions such as what clothing to wear based on the weather. Sharing in children’s sense of wonder and exploration as they uncover and discover science allows you to connect with your child through open ended questions and discussion as well as allows you to reconnect with your own senses as you explore with your child. Developing scientific skills allows children to explore new materials and experiment with them such as loose parts. Children learn through play by exploring, investigating and discovering which are all essential parts of Science. Science allows children to use all of their senses to explore which is essential to childhood growth and development. Sensory experiences are one of the first ways babies play and learn so it should be encouraged within their first year of life.
How can we encourage Kids to explore Science and Technology? How can we get girls excited for Science?
- Most children love to read or listen to a story at some point of the day, so this is a great starting point for introducing scientific concepts at a young age.
- The Education System has started introducing STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) activities in the classroom to promote students 21st century learning. Students of today will need the following skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and curiosity in order to succeed in the jobs of the future. You can encourage kids to engage and explore the world around them with STEM toys, you can check out The Ultimate Guide to STEM Toys for suggestions.
- Offer engaging activities that promote critical thinking such as Coding, or Problem Solving such as Escape Rooms.
- Expose them to positive Role models in Science, especially Women.
- Let them explore Science and Technology through Hands on Exposure such as KidSpark at the Ontario Science Centre! Ask open ended questions that encourages discussion.
Books to Encourage Science
Ontario Science Centre KidSpark Area
KidSpark is an entire level in the Science Centre that offers fun filled discovery and adventure for children under 8 years old. Checkout the Ultimate Guide to the Ontario Science Centre for details on the whole building. KidSparks engaging hands on science activities offer family friendly experiments and lots of tactile opportunities for the kids to touch and play. KidSpark was developed with the younger crowd in mind, and provides children with a more hands on exposure to science. KidSpark offers unique areas for different aged children as there are two toddler sections in addition to the main area that allows children up to 8 years old to play. All KidSpark activities are for children 8 years of age and younger WITH their caregivers. There are lots of different science opportunities and displays to entertain toddlers as well as educate and further advance their development through sensory exploration. The Science Curriculum in Ontario is shifting to include STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics) Activities to encourage critical thinking and communication, and KidSpark offers multiple opportunities for children to engage in these types of Activities. If you want to encourage STEM learning at home checkout our STEM Gift Guide.
Ontario Science Centre for Toddlers – KidSpark for Toddlers
Now most people many not think about visiting the Ontario Science Center with toddlers, however the Toronto Science Centre offers something for everyone in the family to enjoy. KidSparks Toddler zone offers lots of new material and toys for children under 3 to explore and play. Within KidsSpark, the Science center for toddlers area offers 2 unique play opportunities that separate the young children from the bigger kids creating a safety zone. KidSpark is a sensory overload for young children as there are so many bright colours, lots to touch and feel, and a variety of sounds to explore. There are 2 toddler areas, one on each side of KidSpark and they offer different science for toddlers play experience while still allowing parents to keep an eye on their older kids. The Science Centre in Toronto is not the only location that offers a unique learning experience for toddlers to engage in science as you can checkout Crawl at the Vancouver Science Centre. Toddlers can enjoy exploring different sounds, textures and shapes as the KidSpark area is designed for the youngest visitors and promotes play, exploration and development of motor skills.
Toddler Area One – Left of the KidSpark Entrance
This area helps babies and toddlers develop their gross motor skills such as standing and crawling as there is a play area full or foam ramps and blocks for children to crawl and explore. Children can explore their own reflection in the mirrors located within the play area. Spark their imagination with the use of puppets in the puppet theatre. Engage their senses as they touch and feel the Sensory Wall of objects that have different textures.
Toddler Area Two – Right of the KidSpark Entrance
This area is more of a traditional play area as it is filled with toys for kids to play with such as blocks, and other baby toys. However right next to the fenced in area is a block area where kids can explore multiple types of blocks: Mega Blocks, Foam Blocks and more!
KidSpark Activities for Under 8
KidSpark offers play to learn experiences for all young children to explore, discover, create and imagine.
Water Play Area: Kids can splash and play in the Water Play area as they learn about cause and effect as they explore the movable dam, water wheels and bubble makers. Pack an extra set of clothes as although there are a few aprons to protect clothing, your kid is sure to get wet!
Roller Coaster Design Station: Kids can explore early skills of speed and how height and length influences the movement of the ball down the rollercoaster track, this activity encourages kids to use some engineering skills.
The Market: Let their imagination run wild as they pretend to go grocery shopping, or act as the cashier in the Marketplace. Kids can learn about counting, sorting and ordering with the use of play food, buggies and cash registers.
Build a House: Children can be part of the construction crew as they place tiles to act as walls and roofs on this play house. Kids will practice sharing and working together as they build the house of your dreams!
Grow a Garden: Kids can use their green thumb as they pretend to be farmers and plant vegetables and fruits as well as use wheelbarrows to collect their crop.
Performance Shows for Toddlers and Young Children at the Science Centre:
1) Sensory-friendly Saturdays
First Saturday of the Month from 5-6 p.m.
Join staff from the Geneva Centre for Autism in an interactive sensory-based activity. You and your child will learn about different strategies to help address sensory needs and manage behaviour. Sensory-friendly Saturdays were developed to provide an environment that is inclusive, accessible and respectful.
2) Research Live
Saturdays and Sundays 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Help research scientists from local universities learn how children develop, make decisions, and use language to learn about the world around them! For more research opportunities check out Little Scientists through the University of Toronto.
3)Eyes on the Skies
Weekdays at 10:15 a.m., Weekends at 11 a.m
A planetarium show for children 5 years and under WITH their caregivers. Learn about the nighttime sky through singing, connect-the-stars constellations and a journey to the Moon! First come, first served, maximum capacity of 50. Doors close at show time.
**(Descriptions of Shows Taken from Ontario Science Centre Website)
Stroller Accessibility at the Ontario Science Centre
The Toronto Science Centre is completely accessible to strollers as there are ramps and elevators located throughout making it easy to move around. Most exhibits are fairly open making it easy to maneuver a stroller around different displays. KidSpark area offers stroller parking so you can just leave your stroller by the main gate and then go off to explore and play!
Baby and Kid Friendly Facilities
The Science Centre has two small rooms located to the left of the KidSpark entrance that ensure diaper changes, feeding, and potty training are simple.
Nursing Room – Has a chair to allow mothers to breastfeed in private, and also has a changing table for quick diaper changes.
Kid Friendly Bathroom – The bathroom located in KidSpark has been designed with the child in mind as there is a regular size as well as toddler size toilet and sink making it easy for toddlers and young children.
Eating Area – Located just outside KidSpark area is the KidSpark Cafe which keeps the kids’ interest as there is a large marble run that they can watch AND hunger satisfied with a visit to the KidSpark Café. Choose from a variety of snacks and hot and cold beverages as well as fresh salads and sandwiches, hot dogs and Pizza Pizza®. The KidSpark Cafe area also has high chairs that can be used to make feeding easy.
Don’t forget to visit KidSpark on Level 4 on your next visit to the Ontario Science Centre as all activities are free with admission. Be sure to check out the KidSpark Calendar for a list of upcoming special events.
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