Everyday science for kids – science in sports and hobbies

Explore suggestions to discover the science in everyday activities – including the sports and hobbies of your children.

Science is all around us – it’s in our homes, the vehicles we drive, outside in nature and in the foods we eat.  Whether we realize it or not, science is important to us all. Having an understanding of science is beneficial to all youth; they gain important life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and decision making that will help them throughout life even if don’t plan to work within a science field. 

This Michigan State University Extension series is designed to help parents and other adults who work with youth explore everyday science opportunities with youth – see part one: “Everyday Science for Kids – Science at Home.” This article focuses on exploring science in sports and hobbies.

Science starts with questions. Youth are naturally curious, so if they ask a question like, “Why does that happen?” or “What’s that?” this is where scientific exploration begins! Let’s look at sports or hobbies as an example. Helping your child with the sports and/or hobbies they are involved in will lead to some scientific discoveries. 

Whether your child is involved in playing a sport or a musical instrument, there is science involved. Directing them to explore the equipment that’s involved in their sport or the parts of an instrument they play is a great first step in helping them make observations. For example, they can look at a basketball or the parts of an instrument. Help guide them in further explorations about their observations, such as “I wonder what this basketball is made from?” or “Why is this part of the instrument made of metal?”

Lead them into their own discovery of these answers. Ask them what they think the answers are. Next, ask them where they could find the answers. Have them do the research, i.e. asking their coach or teacher or searching online. Further research opportunities may include a visit with a local sports team or a musician.

They will naturally want to play with the basketball or instrument. Obviously, they will do this if they are at practice or take lessons; but you can help include more science discoveries by prompting them to compare a basketball with too little air, too much, and one just right.  What difference might this have on a player’s ability to dribble and/or shoot?  Have them test this. Do they see any differences? Or if the instrument isn’t properly tuned, what happens to the sound and how can this be tested?

Further explorations can include how what they do affects the basketball and/or instrument, i.e. how they hold the basketball when they shoot or their breathing (if it’s a woodwind) when they play the instrument. Guide them into questioning and finding what works best and why? Additional discoveries can include having them compare a basketball with a tennis ball and soccer ball; expand this to having them test each of them. What do they do when you bounce them? Can you throw them the same distance? If available, you can use this same method having them test different instruments. 

Continue to help spark an interest in science for your child; help them to continue to ask questions, find possible answers, and then, test and observe what happens. If you would like to find more opportunities for your child to learn about science and technology, please visit the Michigan 4-H Youth Development science and technology website.

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