Imagination is the engine that drives exploration, and getting it to spark doesn't require expensive gadgets or gizmos. Sometimes inspiration arrives in a $2.95 bag of plastic dinosaurs, a lump of clay or a few vials of food coloring. Play doesn't just pique kids' interest; it encourages them to learn the rules governing the creatures, objects and machines they romp around with. Children love to argue over which dinosaur ranks as the coolest or whether one ancient behemoth could defeat another. The excitement of thunder lizards or whatever game they invent can help you teach concepts such as geologic time, petrification and fossils.
You can browse science-based toys in catalogs, but even science fiction and fantasy books and movies can spark your child's interest in rockets, space, lasers, sea monsters, ancient technologies, buried civilizations and dozens of other cool, science-related subjects.
When the questions begin to outstrip your ability to answer them, it's time to …