Critical thinking skills are important in a child's intellectual development. The ability to solve problems through research and study is something your child needs to perform well in school and in life. Children respond well to hands-on, fun methods of learning, and detective activities are good ways to get your child interested in learning.
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Find the Footprint
A good and simple detective activity is one in which your child will learn how to match a muddy footprint with a shoe. Have someone wear a pair of shoes. Don't tell your child which pair of shoes to look for. Have the person step in some mud and track it in a designated area of your kitchen or other hard surface. Be sure the mud is not too runny, and that there are no rugs nearby. After your accomplice leaves the footprint, bring your child into the room. Place a slightly dampened paper towel over the dried footprint, being careful not to smudge it. Then, have your child lift up the paper towel and set it aside to dry. Once it's dry, place clear contact paper over the print to keep it from fading or smudging. Your child should compare the print with the bottoms of shoes to determine which pair made the mark.
Creating a secret message will teach your child better writing skills while also teaching him about chemical reactions. Use natural substances to help him with this activity. Milk, lemon juice, grapefruit juice or moistened baking powder will all work. Take a small paint brush or cotton swab, dip it in your child's chosen substance, and have him write the message on the paper. This will help him hone his writing skills, as he must be careful not to overlap the letters. Sandwich the message between two sheets of blank paper. Use a warm iron and lightly run it across the papers. Do not use the high setting, otherwise you might parch the paper. Peel back the two cover sheets and your child's message should show up. The chemicals in the liquid substances react to the heat, making it a good detective and science activity.
Double-sided puzzles for older children help develop an attention for detail and hone problem-solving skills. You can make your own or purchase them from a game store. If you make your own double-sided puzzles, write a secret message in numbers or symbols on both sides of heavy cardboard or craft foam. Cut the board into different shapes and sizes and mix them up. Each number in the message should stand for a letter, and each symbol might stand for a word. For example, a drawing of an eye might mean the word "I" and a heart shape could either mean "love" or "heart." When the puzzle is complete, your child will then work to figure out the secret message by decoding the numbers or symbols.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a site dedicated to teaching children from kindergarten through 12th grade. The activities on this site give an idea as to what an FBI agent does on the job. For example, in the section aimed at younger children, the FBI has safety tips, information about the different jobs dogs do for the agency, sliding tile games, matching games and easy-to-read cartoons about what it is like to work for the FBI. For middle school and high school kids, activities range from completing a mission to find a missing package, information about a day in the life of an agent, a history of the agency, and a rundown of how agents conduct investigations.
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