How to Incorporate Science Lessons into Family Life

Mighty Mommy welcomes Everyday Einstein to learn creative ways to incorporate science lessons into your everyday family life (no test tubes, lab coats, or eye goggles required!)

Cheryl Butler,
January 6, 2014
Episode #262

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MM: That's amazing! And so easy to do. Next, how do you integrate science lessons during outdoor play?

EE: There’s so much value in just being outside and looking at nature. The science is all set up, with no clean-up required. Sometimes when the weather is warm, the kids and I will go on adventure walks where we will choose some random outdoor spot and try to get a closer look at what’s going on. Some examples are sitting and watching a spider spin its web, looking for butterfly eggs under leaves, watching bugs navigate the ground, or peeling apart flowers to see how the parts fit together.

I really can’t stress enough how important this is for science education. There’s a great book by Richard Louv called Last Child in the Woods that talks about what he calls “Nature Deficit Disorder” and what the effects are on kids and their love of science. Fortunately this is one disorder that’s simple to fix and requires no medication.

MM: How about taking advantage of common materials that most of us have around the house like dish detergent, paper products, light bulbs - can you use those to teach science?

EE: There are the classic examples with acid-base reactions like vinegar and baking soda of course, but a more exciting one (at least to me) is a demonstration of something called the Coanda effect.

To see it, get a hair dryer and point it upwards, then stick a ping-pong ball on top of the part where the air comes out and turn the hair dryer on. The air blows the ping-pong ball up in the air, as you’d expect, which is no big excitement (actually just this part is pretty exciting for little kids). But then if you slowly change the angle of the hair dryer so it isn’t pointing upwards anymore, the ping-pong ball will seem to defy gravity as it hangs suspended in the airstream coming from the hair dryer. This happens because the air hitting the ping-pong ball gets wrapped around the surface of the ball and shoots downward, like a waterfall streaming over the side of a cliff. The downward force results in an equal and opposite upward force by the air below the ball, keeping it from falling to the ground.

MM: What are some of your favorite teaching moments with your own kids?

EE: My favorite moments are when I’m not involved. Not because I don’t love to be involved, but because I love it even more when they take the reins and start trying to figure things out on their own. Our philosophy on education in general is to provide them with as many resources as they can, and not let our teaching get in the way of their learning.

MM: Do you recommend any particular materials or reference books or web sites to have on hand when you need to find answers?

EE: This might sound like heresy since I host an online science podcast, but my personal favorites are mostly really beautifully illustrated reference books. Theodore Gray’s The Elements, the Encyclopedia of Weather and Climate Change, Peterson’s Field Guides, and just about any book published by DK.

Sometimes though, there are things that videos just capture really really well. The Universe documentary series is really great. In terms of tv shows, The Magic School Bus, Cyberchase, and Wild Kratts are all favorites of my younger children, and a lot of those episodes you can find on Netflix.


Thanks so much, Lee, for sharing all that fantastic information with us.  I know I can’t wait to start experimenting during our next family dinner!

Do you homeschool or find ways to incorporate learning during ordinary parenting moments?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.  Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

As Lee shared with us during this episode, there are some wonderful opportunities to take advantage of  teaching while parenting, and best of all there are lots of times when we as parents can step back and let them figure things out for themselves—that’s probably one of the most rewarding ways to watch our kids learn.  Until next time - Happy Experimenting around the homestead!

Science experiment and hair dryer images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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