Most parents can help their children with the core subjects of Math and Language Arts, but balk at providing help with physics. This is because many of them perceive physics as being a science associated with formulae and theory. The fact is that Physics is part of the Science curriculum in every grade starting with basic concepts and ideas and working the way up to more complex issues. Science is not all about conducting experiments and there is a lot that parents can do at home to help their children understand the concepts being studied in class.
Physics is the branch of science that deals with the properties and interactions of matter and energy. In the younger grades, parents can easily explain the answers to such questions as “Why does my boat float in the bathtub?” by telling the children about the buoyant properties of water and the materials from which the boat is made.
Magnets and the forces of magnetism can be investigated through the use of ordinary household objects. Using magnets, parents can help children determine which objects are magnetic and which are not. This can lead to an investigation of the properties of these objects in an effort to find out why magnets are attracted to some objects and not to others. In turn, this leads to knowledge of positive and negative magnetic fields.
Gravity is another facet of physics that can be studied at home. Test the speed at which objects of different sizes and weights will fall when dropped from the same height. Racing toy cars down ramps to test the speed and distance is a fun activity for younger and older students alike. When students have fun when learning, they are apt to remember the concepts better and can relate it to other aspects of Physics.
Use balloons to study friction or different materials on ramps for toy cars. Use an old tennis ball and newspaper to learn about energy. For example, parents can cover an area with newspaper, soak the ball in paint (washable of course) and drop it to measure the distance between the globs of paint when the ball bounces on the newspaper. The more force used in hitting the ball will increase the distances between the bounces and thus the globs of paint on the newspaper.
Refraction can easily be studied using a glass of water and a spoon because the spoon will look bent at the point where it enters the water.
With the Internet, there are many lessons available online as well as worksheets parents can use to provide help at home. Most of these sites offer background information to help parents understand the concept more clearly and enable them to provide at least some of the help their children need.