Short stuff: Education focusObservation is an important skill that helps children learn to read and develop an interest in science.
By teaching them to observe everyday things, they will increase their ability to recognize letters and words that will support their reading. As parents you can help your child learn to observe by taking walks in the neighborhood, looking at things in your house, and, most importantly, by asking your child questions as you observe things together. Here are some questions to get you started.
Observation outside your home
Take a walk with your child in the neighborhood each week. Choose a few things on the list. Change what you do from week to week.
Talk about what you see in nature.
Ask your child to describe what they see.
Notice if there are any changes from the previous week.
Notice how things smell. Talk about the differences between smells.
Notice where plants grow. Talk about why plants grow where they do.
Listen for sounds of birds. See how many different birds you can hear.
Look for insects on the sidewalk, in the grass and under things. Watch how the insects move.
Keep a count of how many different animals there are in your neighborhood.
Look at the trees. Are they all the same? How many different trees do you have in your neighborhood? What shape and color are the leaves?
When you get home, let your child record what she observed in a journal.
Observation inside your home
Look at all the chairs in your house. How are they the same? How are they different? What are the names of the different types of chairs? (chair, stool, bench, etc.)
Look at the clothes in your house. How are they the same? Different?
Look at the pots and pans. What shapes are they? Why are they different sizes and shapes?
Look out the window with your child each week and ask these questions: What do you see? What do you see that is from nature? (trees, flowers, clouds, sky, birds, rain, wind, weeds, snow) What do you see that is man-made? (sidewalk, buildings, cars, lights, cables, lines, traffic light, signs) How have things changed from last week? What is the shape of the things you see? How many rectangle shapes do you see? How many triangles? How many circles? What other shapes do you see?
If you have a bird in your house, ask your child to observe it. How does it behave in winter? What does its beak look like? Does it sing more during the morning than during the evening? Why does it stop singing when the cover goes on the cage?
If you have a plant in your house, talk about it. How often does it need water? Do the leaves fall off? If so, when? What color are the leaves? What shape are the leaves? What is the name of the plant? Where did the plant get its name?
Astrid Schuler is a kindergarten teacher in Liberty School District 99 in Cicero and is a member of the Kohl McCormick Academy of Outstanding Educators. Carolyn Riley is a science and social studies methods instructor for Northern Illinois University.