Free Events for Kids! Next week's World Science Festival

For the last few years, Brian Greene, the Columbia physicist, and all around fantastic dad,  has worked with NYU and other partners to bring us the World Science Festival in New York City. The series uses all five senses to engage us in cutting edge scientific ideas. There's dance and performances illustrating string theory and art exhibits about physics, and gourmet kitchen classes about chemistry. And they've always made kids' events a centerpiece of the free events:

 Top of the list for me is the Ultimate Science Street Fair on Sunday, June 2. Centered around newly renovated Washington Square Park, the street fair features booth upon booth of well-planned and fun science-based games that draw big crowds, and most important: animatronic DINOSAUR and real Kareem Abdul Jabar-- he'll read to kids from his book on African American scientists and inventors, AND give a little introduction to the physics of basketball.

There's a CSI booth where kids can solve a mystery (you could not keep the 7-12 year olds away from this one last year), and a hands-on exhibit so kids can compare the skulls and teeth of walruses,  cougars, warthogs, lions, and dolphins, there's even a polar bear observation station (you have to see it!)

Kids can build their own little garden at Window Farms, use a solar telescope, play video games that sneak in some cool physics and biology tricks, they can make their own healthy snacks at Eat Play Learn with the White House pastry chef, Bill Yosses,

Young astronomers and their parents can see the stars up close at Pier One's star party beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.  Festivities include stargazing, dancing, local food trucks, and a Stargazer sail, right in the middle of Brooklyn Bridge Park.
New this year are Apprentice programs, where youngsters 8 and up can do anything from learning about oceanography from the whales, apprenticing to a Robot Maker ; an evolutionary biologist (bug hunter), the entomological neurobiologist (bug listener); a science reporter (and you get to report live from the festival!) and other  cool science jobs. These programs are all located at NYU Kimmel center on the south side of Washington Square. Drop off your kids for an hour or so and enjoy the sights in the Street Fair, while they get psyched about a career where their skills will always be in high demand.

Get to the free events early, order tickets for the Apprentice programs now (they're selling out fast!), and most of all, enjoy a family Sunday in the Park with Science!

Listen so your children will talk.

Start listening and responding the minute your child makes their first little noise. Let them know you're listening. Let them talk as much as they want to.

Once they start going into longwinded explanations of how tricycles make it rain, or how to get to the highest level of their favorite video game, you don't necessarily have to listen to every word, but let them talk, nod, ask a few open ended questions (that means they can't just be answered with a yes or no). Ask them about their day and sit and listen to their replies.

Make eye contact, acknowledge their experience.

If they ask you why a balloon is round, google it with them if you don't know the answer-- feed their curiosity, their trust, and their honesty by being open and helpful. If they tell you about something they did wrong, don't punish them, stay calm and kind, and help them problem solve a way to fix it or make amends. If they tell you about their body parts and going to the bathroom and what their poop looked like, listen to that too. If they ask you a question about a body part and you don't know the answer, show them how you look it up properly, on a trusted source, like Medline Plus, part of the National Institutes of Health Web site.

If you remain their trusted Listener, one day when they're teens you will hear something important that you need to know. They will tell you everything that's going on in their lives, and their friends' lives, and you will be able to help when other parents have no idea what their kids are getting into. You may help them realize they don't want to do drugs. You may help them learn how to say no to a pushy boy. You may save their lives. You may find that "teen rebellion" doesn't really exist unless parents make it happen.

Engaged parents, happy babies

Engaged parents, happy babies