Kids naturally love to try things to see what happens. They experiment, fiddle around and often have fewer restrictions on what they think is possible. To tap into this and direct these wonderful energies in the learning of science, you just need a little bit of guidance and direction.
One kind of direction can come in the form of books. Cy Tymony, the author of Sneaky Uses for Everyday Things, has also written the books Sneaky Science Tricks, The Sneaky Book for Girls and The Sneaky Book for Boys. They each teach about scientific principles and important skills, and have direction for useful crafts and fun projects.
Sneaky Science Tricks
Sneaky Science Tricks is about learning in a fun way using scientific principles (such as Bernoulli’s principle). You don’t just read about science, though, you get to do science. To get the maximum benefit, I suggest using this book with your kids, rather than having them do it on their own. This will allow you to explain any questions that they have and to share your own childhood experiences. Even if your kids aren’t science types, they’ll enjoy spending quality time together. When younger kids do these activities, all they know is that they’re having fun and only later realize the scientific basis. This kind of hands-on application leads to a lot of “aha!” moments.
Grouped by topic and full of very clear illustrations, the book introduces basic concepts such as air pressure and balance, with plenty of project ideas. It then builds on that knowledge with more complicated applications. Though definitely not comprehensive, the book almost feels like a basic science curriculum in one handy volume. The projects are fairly easy to implement, and use mostly household items. You could work through the book in order, or pick and choose projects as you like.
Chapter titles for this book include: Science Tricks, Measurement Projects, Astronomy and Navigation Tricks, Magic Tricks and Trivia. There is also a list of world and U.S. city latitudes in the back of the book for use with the Astronomy and Navigation chapter. Book projects include: making all kinds of weather measurements, making your own voltmeter, making tools to find your way home and using science to do magic. In the back of the book, the trivia section is full of facts that are all science-based and great for parties. Well, geeky parties anyway.
The Sneaky Book for Girls
The Sneaky Book for Girls has some similarities to The Daring Book for Girls (and The Double-Daring Book for Girls), but mostly tries for cool and science-y things that girls would want to do. Chapters include Spy Girl, Fly Girl, Danger Girl, Crafty Girl and Magic Girl. In Spy Girl you will learn to make your own periscope, create a vest to hold all your gadgets and write with invisible ink. It also includes a long section on notable women in history. Fly Girl addresses air pressure projects and boomerangs, and includes a section on women aviators. Craft Girl helps you use household items for projects such as making shadow puppets, and also includes a text message abbreviation list. Magic Girl teaches you some science-based magic tricks. At the very back of the book, there is a decent science and technology resource list.
This book will help your girl nurture her interests in science and technology. It includes directions on making plenty of cool gadgets that only the boys usually get to make. A particularly useful and important chapter is Danger Girl, which teaches crucial skills like escaping a grasp, how to protect yourself with everyday objects and being resourceful in general. Encourage your daughter to learn all the skills and you’ll have a little MacGyver on your hands. This is an especially good gift for geeky girls that are into science.
The Sneaky Book for Boys
The Sneaky Book for Boys is similar to the book for girls, but with a decidedly boy slant. It taps into boys’ natural tendency to be sneaky. Chapter titles include: Sneaky Tricks, Sneaky Science Projects, Sneaky Resourcefulness and Sneaky Animals and Humans. That last chapter has a sidebar on sneaky human tricks that describes what people have done to get out of situations in prison, war time and the collapsing World Trade Center. There is also a decent science and technology resource list in the back. Again, this book has definite similarities to The Dangerous Book for Boys, but it really serves a slightly different purpose. These sneaky books are all about projects and activities.
All three of these books are a very handy size, 5″ x 7″. While I think they are wonderful, all three do have significant overlap. Each one adheres to its title really well, though, so pick the one(s) with the slant you’re looking for. The Sneaky Resourcefulness chapter in the Boys book and the Danger Girl chapter in the Girls book are important reads for you and your kids, and those have little overlap with each other. For the rest of the chapters, give them a look on Amazon, where you can read the table of contents. This will help you decide which books are right for you. While you’re there, check out Cy Tymony’s other books in the Sneaky series.
I recommend these books to parents, parents-to-be and to interested children. All three of these books retail for $10.99 but, as usual, are cheaper on Amazon. Please use all possible safety precautions while trying experiments and activities in these books.
Wired: Very clear, simple and basic illustrations. Fun and interesting activities and projects that teaches kids while they have fun. The Boy/Girl books also contain some important basic safety knowledge.
Tired: Some of the content overlaps among the books.
Note: I received copies of these three books for review.