Toddlers Are Scientists

My 2-year-old has the best enthusiastic science teacher facial expression.

The other night, she was eating green beans and paused to catch my eye with an intriguing half grin. “What’s inside?” she asked.

She knows what’s inside. This is not her first time splitting green beans. But she left the question hanging, making sure I was watching.

Then she pulled the green bean in half and screamed her delight over the amazing discovery we just witnessed together.

And isn’t that what being a science teacher is all about?


I looked up the definition of “scientist” and found a few different ones. My favorite came from

“A scientist is someone who systematically gathers and uses research and evidence, to make hypotheses and test them, to gain and share understanding and knowledge.” (Our definition of a scientist – The Science Council ~ : The Science Council ~)

By this definition, all of our babies are scientists. Think about it! They’ve landed on this planet, and they have to learn everything from scratch.

  • The laws of physics.
  • Anatomy and physiology of this body they have been given.
  • Time. Matter. Space.
  • Everything on our planet and in our existence that needs to be discovered.

They start right away and they don’t stop. It is simply amazing to me to watch them work.

I remember, with my firstborn, I watched the milestone checklists and some of the developmental things that my friends’ children were doing. Her developmental track ended up being pretty close to normal (a few things ahead or behind, but generally well-matched).  And I marveled at it.

One week, she would have no interested in crawling. The next week, she was mobile.

One month, I tried to show her colors and she had zero interest. A few months later, she was asking me to tell her all the color names.

But the change didn’t come from my efforts to push the education on her. It came from her own inner growth and desire to learn.

By the time she was 1 ½ years old, I figured out that our educational time was:

  • 20% teaching.
  • 30% facilitating by providing interesting things for her to study and practice.
  • And 50% just giving her the time and space to do her own research.

But that takes time. And patience.

Toddlers Are Scientists

From an educator standpoint, my daughter’s exuberant study of green beans is fabulous.

But from a mom who is tired and needs her child to hurry up and finish eating so they can make it out the door to their appointment, this is an impossibly slow meal!!!

My daughter is 2 ½ years old now. We do sometimes need to practice doing things quickly – putting our science on hold. That is life. But more often, I need to slow down and remember how important this time is. Our world is beautiful and complex. There is so much to learn. And there is so much joy in learning if we don’t start drowning it out in busy-ness!

So, tell me — what has your toddler discovered today?!?