Today’s review is : The Curious Kid’s Science Book: 100+ Creative Hands-On Activities for Ages 4-8 by Asia Citro. She is a former science teacher with Master’s in Science Education (also wrote A Little Bit of Dirt: 55+ Science and Art… and 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids). And, coincidentally, her child went to the same outdoor preschool as my child, just in a different year.
A condensed version of the description on Amazon: “What happens if you water plants with juice? Where can you find bacteria in your house? Is slug slime as strong as a glue stick? How would your child find the answers to these questions? In The Curious Kid’s Science Book, your child will learn to design science investigations to determine the answers! Children will learn to ask their own scientific questions, discover value in failed experiments, and — most importantly — have a blast with science. The 100+ hands-on activities in the book use household items to playfully teach important science, technology, engineering, and math skills. Each creative activity includes age-appropriate explanations and (when possible) real life applications of the concepts covered.”
Audience: Parents of kids age 4 – 8.
Reviews: 138 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4.7 stars. Positive reviews note that they like that it uses everyday materials, focuses on allowing children to explorer scientific concepts on their own without being fed every answer, giving project ideas that require preparation and guidance but allow the student/child to ask questions, complete the experiment, and then answer the questions they asked. Some reviewers wished for more guidance on how to do the experiments and how to explain the science to kids. Some didn’t like the focus on process rather than on concrete products, and one didn’t like that several of the experiments unfold over many days – not instant gratification.
Content: Intro on why science is important and why kids experiments don’t need to work perfectly to be valuable. How to Use this Book. Basic experimental design (kid asks a question, guess what answer will be, decide on steps, decide how to measure results, answer question), supply list. 100+ activities, divided into 8 chapters (Plants and Seeds, Water and Ice, Mold, Bacteria and Fungus, Engineering, Food and Candy, Baking Soda and Vinegar, Environmental Science, Living Things).
Format of activities: Photo, title. Then either some introductory questions followed by “mission” which summarize the project OR a few sentences of intro followed by “Make your guess” – what does your child predict what might happen? Then materials, directions (sometimes – often not included), helpful hints, suggestions for how to track data. Sidebars can include: “real life application” or ideas for extensions of the activity, or a story of a child who did the experiment and what their results were.
Here are some sample pages:
Clarity of instructions: This is a book about the scientific PROCESS more than about projects. There are many experiments where you give your child a a collection of ingredients / materials, and they try a number of variations on one experiment… will it work differently with salt water than sugar water, etc. Directions are not always clear and may assume you’ve read other science experiment books – for example, the plants chapter refers often to a “sprouting bag” without explaining what it is… it’s obvious to those who’ve looked at kids’ science projects a lot, but maybe not to others. Asks question, doesn’t give answer for WHY or for what would we expect to happen. AND… it only tells us one child’s experience, and sometimes I wonder if you could replicate it or whether it was a fluke… Examples: put celery stalks in cup of water, cup of sugar water, cup with food color, cup with lemon water, cup of water with peppermint extract. After 24 hours, the color had traveled. The child “thought she could smell peppermint. but she wasn’t sure. She might also have tasted lemon, sugar, and peppermint in the leaves.” Or child watered 4 pea plants – with water, lemon juice, milk, and club soda. The club soda plant died quickly, lemon juice died, milk plant lived but had lots of mold on the soil and the plant watered with water did fine. This is interesting as a process experiment with that child, and would lead to a good discussion with them. However, I wonder whether the club soda result would replicate. So, while I like the example of what a child experiences, I’d also like a summary of what we would typically expect.
Summary of Strengths: This is a book about the scientific process. The focus is on taking children’s questions, designing activities to explore them, then trying out lots of variations on the basic experiment (where they change only one variable at a time to see the effect on the results – will it work differently with salt water than sugar water, etc.) There are several things that would fit well into family life – give your child vinegar and baking soda while you’re making dinner, and let them explore. Exploration and process are the goal, not any kind of polished finished project, or finding the “one right answer” to a question. Good graphic design, and fun engaging photos.
This is part of a series where I review STEM activity guidebooks that are written for parents or teachers who want to teach science and engineering concepts to kids age 3 – 7 or so. For a full list of resources I recommend, including books for adults, books for kids, websites, curricula, toys, apps, videos, podcasts and subscription kits, see my resource page: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/resources/.