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Learn to fail. Fail through science. 

How science can teach children a very valuable skill from an early age.

 

 

 

 

 

As parents, we want to minimise the risks for our children, the risk of them failing, the risk of them hurting themselves, physically or emotionally. This is simply nature. On another hand, we want to raise independent kids, who feel confident enough to stand for themselves and try things out. A paradox.

All of our little ones will go at some point through what we call the “Why phase” — a wonderful and dreading phase sometimes which can drive parents insane, after hearing why? but why mummy? but why? and why?… it can be difficult to come up with reasons and explanations! What it demonstrates though is that children are naturally inquisitive and curious, which is a wonderful thing and we should nurture this quality. After all, creative problem solving and curiosity are two highly valued skills in business.

Science offers a safe ground for children to learn to fail. Here is a way you can encourage them to try things out:

Now imagine, your little one is trying to build the tallest duplo or block tower, ever… just because. The tower falls and now you can hear the screaming and potentially massive tantrum. Our natural reaction is often to comfort them and tell them, “that’s ok, you can make another one. Come, I’ll help you”. This is of course great to be there for them but it doesn’t give them a chance to understand why it didn’t work and test something else. Next time, try something along these lines:

  • You see him or her build a tower. Chances are, their tower will look something like this.
  • Then the tower falls (which is inevitable) and they scream.
  • Try to first put a word on their emotions. Are they frustrated, angry, annoyed, sad, disappointed… Ask them first and if they cannot identify their emotion, start listing some that you believe are relevant. When you touch the right one, they will say it. 
  • Then, discuss what has happened. It might simply be to reformulate what you have seen. “I have seen that you wanted to build a tower, the tallest possible one, so that you could reach the sky. But before you finished, your tower collapsed and you got really [frustrated] because you put in such an effort to build it.”
  • What do you thing went wrong? Discuss what you have seen — there was no base, the blocks weren’t lined up, the other hand knocked the tower as you were putting another block…
  • What could we try to make it work better next time? Maybe make a base, a pyramid shape, one holds the tower whilst the other one put the blocks… Be creative. 
  • Then try again together and observe.
  • If it falls again, go back to the beginning. 
  • If you achieve what you wanted, the tallest tower you have ever made, celebrate and discuss why it has worked this time. 

This is a STEM activity in itself and soon enough, they will get used to this approach and start coming up with solution themselves.

A scientific approach consists of 6 steps:

  1. Ask a question: What happened to our tower? Why did it fall?
  2. Gather information and observe (research): It didn’t have a base. Blocks were not straight….
  3. Make a hypothesis (in simple words, guess the answer!): If we make a base, it is more likely to stand straight.
  4. Experiment and test your “guess” (hypothesis): Try another tower with a base. 
  5. Analyse your test: When I added one block on the top of the other one, it fell really quickly. When I tried to make a base, it was less wobbly.
  6. Present a conclusion: So, if we want to build the tallest tower, we need a good base first.

Science is fun and the above approach can be used in so many different situations. Have a go at home and start nurturing their curiosity - it's a wonderful thing, for them and for you :).

About WhooshPop:

We truly believe that children are curious and inquisitive by nature, which makes them natural scientists. This is what WhooshPop — science classes for little ones — is all about. We create a safe and fun environment where children can explore, experiment and discover the world around them with their friends and families. We use plenty of hands on activities, songs, games and stories to bring the world of science alive. The parents love playing with their little ones and get inspired to carry on exploring at home.

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