From the detective sleuth who solves local crimes to the friendly pediatrician who hands out lollipops -- and, of course, helps sick kids to feel better -- community helpers keep the neighborhood going. While preschool community helper activities may seem like simple social studies content, you can also flip them into science lessons that play to your little learner's senses of wonder and discovery.
Police Detective Science
While sitting your preschooler down in front of an episode of CSI isn't exactly advisable, you can help her to learn some of the basic science behind the detective's sleuthing ways. Police officers and detectives often use fingerprints to identify criminal suspects. Help your preschooler to see how each person's print is different with a compare and contrast type of activity. Press the tip of your child's finger onto a non-toxic craft ink pad. Have her make a print on a white index card and label it with her name. Repeat this process for yourself and other family members and friends. Compare and contrast the prints to see how the police can use these unique identifiers when trying to solve a case. Ask your preschooler questions such as, "Are the lines on my print the same as yours?" or "Does your print have the same circle pattern that your friend Janey's does?"
Doctors, nurses, EMTs and paramedics are all community helpers that your preschooler can identify as working in the medical field. The science of the human body is a creative way to learn about what these helpers do on a daily basis. Although your preschooler isn't ready to start learning how to do in-depth medical procedures -- not matter how intellectually gifted you think he is -- he can learn about the basics. Teach your child about the human heart by helping him to take your, or his own, pulse. Sit down next to him in a completely quiet place and help him put his index and middle fingers on your wrist, moving them slightly until he feels the beat of your heart. Have him count the beats, up to the highest number that he knows. Get up, jog or dance around the room and repeat the pulse test to show him how exercise can change your heart rate.
While dentists technically fall into the medical profession, they are community helpers with one specific talent: taking care of teeth. Show your preschooler just how vital the dentist's job is and try out a tooth-staining activity. Fill one plastic cup with milk -- a healthy drink -- and another with a tooth-rotting soda. Use a brown or dark colored soda to maximize the effect. Hard boil two eggs for your child. Have her put one egg into each cup, letting them sit overnight. Ask your child, "What do you think the milk will do to the egg? What do you think the soda will do?" In the morning, take the eggs out and compare them. The soda-covered egg will look ugly and stained when she compares it to the pristine -- healthy -- milk egg. Add another layer of learning and have your child try to brush off the soda stains on the egg with a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
It might not seem like there's anything remotely scientific about what your mail person does every day. That said, you can still try a postal-themed science activity with your preschooler based on this letter-carrying community helper. Take your child on a trip to the post office and show him how the postal personnel must weigh letters and packages before sending them off to their destinations. Go home and make a few faux letters, thick envelopes and packages. Box up items with different weights -- such as a toy truck, a pair of socks and hardback books -- and tape the packages shut. Hand each package to your child and ask him, "Which one do you think would cost the most to mail? Why?" Put each box on a bathroom scale -- one at a time -- and make comparisons between the weights. Try this with smaller letters or cushioned mailers that you fill with paper.
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