We don't need to be Einsteins to teach science inquiry to our kids. And, it doesn't even take much time. We can teach children to think like scientists by simply building smart science questions into our everyday conversations.
While shopping for a kitchen appliance at Target Saturday (yeah, that's how exciting my weekends are), I overheard something wonderful. A mom was pointing to each blender, slow cooker and food processor and asking her son "...and how do you think this one works?"
Wow, such a simple thing to do once in a while, and this question yields big benefits! It gets kids to wonder, think in terms of HOW and WHY, and get curious enough to figure out things for themselves. Plus, this is no ordinary thinking. It's the holy grail of thinking--that higher-order, critical thinking that all educators and parents dream they can inspire!
Even very young children are capable of beginning to think critically. (They can definitely manipulate stuff strategically to see how it works, too). The boy answering his mom's questions at Target was probably only 4-years old.
The same is true for my family. Like most toddlers, my 20-month old loves to take everything apart and try to put it back together. (This is why you should never visit my house unless you call ahead. We need time to shovel a path for you through the building blocks, bricks, Tupperware containers and unidentified objects.) And, believe it or not, my grandmother told us that when my dad was only 2-years old, he found a screwdriver and took off EVERY door knob in the house! (Hmm, insert family jokes here about screws being loose.)
Seriously though, kids of all ages are typically capable of more than you think they are. Keep your expectations lofty. Teach them to constantly ask themselves HOW and WHY. Then, their curiosity will take over, and they'll be begging to do some hands-on learning!