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Cheap Toys that Help Children Learn Science

May 16, 2011 | By Harvey Craft

Science education benefits from the stimulation of young minds. Cheap toys and activities help parents teach children about the fun and magic of science.

Students in the United States don't compare well with other nations. Science is often responsible for the beginning of lower grades after elementary school. Parents can help children carry a positive attitude with them as they advance to more complex science courses and it doesn't cost a bundle.

Three Good Toys for Teaching Physics to Children

Gyroscope, rare earth magnets and compassA toy gyroscope.
This can be purchased for $5 to $7. Gyroscopes are essential for the navigation systems of ships, planes, and even rockets. They are sometimes confused with old-fashioned spinning tops, but can accomplish entertaining balancing acts that fascinate both young and old. The fundamental principal behind the gyroscope is inertia. The action of the gyroscope explains why bicycles roll steadily - the spinning wheels act as gyroscopes and resist a change in direction.

Rare earth magnets.
Sometimes referred to as neodymium or ceramic magnets, these little wonders are many times stronger than simple iron magnets. Even small ones have a magnetic field that can easily penetrate a human hand, allowing the magnet to hold small metal objects to one's palm when the magnet is placed on the back of the hand.

A simple compass.
Electromagnetic force is an integral and essential part of life. Magnets are the central part of speakers large and small, and the Earth generates a magnetic field due to its iron core which protects life from harmful solar radiation. Magnetism is also the reason compasses point north and south - they are responding to the Earth's magnetic field. A toy compass will be deflected by a magnet.

Parents should not allow small children to play with these unsupervised, as they might want to put them in their mouths. Also, these magnets can pinch fingers when they snap rapidly together.

Collections Encourage Science Skills

Heart-shaped rock collectionChildren are natural collectors and the things children can collect are virtually endless. But for earth science skills it's hard to beat a rock collection. Many worthy rocks are available in the backyard, but small samples of dozens of different rocks and minerals can be found from Internet sources and hobby shops. Prices vary from less than a dollar to many dollars depending on scarcity.

Many rocks are tumbled to remove rough edges and enhance color, but the rock as it naturally occurs is scientifically more relevant simply because plain rocks present themselves as they really are. Crystal form and fine structure is more easily observed in non-processed rocks and minerals.

Collections also teach classification skills and provide opportunities for show-and-tell. Cheap plastic organizers can be purchased in department stores for storage and organizing.

Seeing the World up Close

Magnifying glassCheap magnifing glasses are available for a few dollars, and one can open up a new world for a developing mind. Parents should try to get one that can magnify at least ten times. Many types of magnifiers are available. Some have light sources and can be placed over a sample for a clear and steady view.

Magnification is necessary to gain knowledge of traits of things that are too small to be observed with the naked eye. Many little critters can be seen swimming in stagnant water, and insects take on a entertainingly ghoulish appearance. A magnifier also complements a collection allowing children to observe their collectibles in detail.

Enhance Science Education by Finding Science in Ordinary Life

There are companies that sell many inexpensive science toys, but parents can enhance science learning by knowing what children are studying at school and helping them practice what they learn at home. For example, if life science is the topic, it's easy to plant seeds and grow flowers or vegetables.

Children are fascinated by celestial things, and with just a little reading parents can learn enough to explain the phases of the moon and why stars vary in brightness and color. There is no end to what parents can teach children while they teach themselves.

Children are naturally curious - curiosity is the spark that ignites learning. Children that excel in school typically have parents who encourage learning. It doesn't take a science teacher to teach basic science. There is science in virtually every toy.

Source: Priddy, Roger. My Big Science Book. London: Priddy Books. 2004

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : children, child, kids, science, education, parents, parenting, school

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