Even though your baby isn't ready to study slides under the microscope, she can still explore nature and the basics of science. Very young children learn through their senses to explore the world. Encourage the wonder of discovery with activities that encourage hands-on play and provide opportunities to teach a few science-based vocabulary words.
Something as simple as a walk in the park or a trip to the backyard can turn into a scientific exploration. Hands-on activities that allow your baby to explore through his senses will help him learn. If your baby is crawling or walking, make the experience a sensory activity about science and let him experience how grass feels under his feet. Watch as he touches and smells the flowers. Babies who aren't yet mobile can still make discoveries outside. Carry your baby through the park or sit with him under a shady tree and let him touch the leaves on the tree. Name the natural objects he sees such as a tree, a flower or the grass. Plant a seed with your older baby. Encourage him to dig through the dirt, drop the seed into the soil for him and then watch it grow over the course of a month or two. Don’t let your baby put the seed in his mouth.
Looking at Birds and Animals
The great outdoors offers much more than trees, grass and flowers. Start with a library book that features pictures of feathered and furry creatures, such as "About Birds: A Guide for Children" by Cathryn and John Sill or "First 100 Animals" by Roger Priddy. Spend time with your baby watching the birds. Hang a bird feeder to attract birds to your yard. Put seeds in the feeder and look in books for pictures of the specific birds that come to your feeder. Point to the pictures and say the bird's name. For example, say "cardinal" as you point to the picture of the bright red cardinal in the book and then point to the cardinal at your feeder. Don't stop at bird watching, though. Point out other animals. Point to and then name the squirrel chasing another squirrel up the tree, the ants on their ant hill or chipmunks in the neighborhood. In the spring, go to a duck pond and show baby the brightly colored male mallards and the plainer female mallards with their ducklings.
Encourage your baby to discover how different items feel with a texture-based science activity. This sensory exploration allows your baby to experience the way different items feel. Give your baby an array of things to feel such as fuzzy craft fur, a smooth board book, a bumpy towel and a soft blanket. Move his hands to the textured items, showing him that he can touch the items. Let him feel two items at once or switch the objects one at a time. Provide opportunities throughout the day to reinforce this activity. Let your little one feel his bath towel in the morning or remark on the lumpy applesauce he eats during lunch. Say the names of the items and the matching textures as your baby feels them. For example, say, "The towel is fuzzy" or simply say, "towel" and then "fuzzy" as his hand runs over the surface.
Textures aren't the only way your baby can experience the world through her senses. Give your baby a few bottles filled with different scents. Rinse empty plastic water bottles and then fill them halfway with water. Add a few drops of vanilla to the first bottle, a few shakes of ground cinnamon to the second bottle, and then squeeze the juice from an orange slice into in a third bottle. Bring the bottles up to your baby’s nose one at a time, letting her smell them. Don't allow your baby to put her mouth on the bottles or eat the contents. As you let your baby smell each scent, say the name "vanilla," "cinnamon" or "orange."