Creativity Engineering Science & Tech

Nerding: A Beginner’s Guide

In just a few short weeks, there’s been a great response to the launch of Raising Nerd, with lots of “interesting” feedback. One consistent response to our articles has been, “Yeah, that’s great, Clueless Dad, but your kid is already a Nerd (proud dad moment). How do we get our kids started on the path to Nerding?”

Have no fear, we have you covered!

It’s true; NerdBoy has always been a huge fan of science and engineering. His curiosity continues to drive him deeper into the exploration of the abyss of our universe, robotics, and beyond. The good news is that all kids are curious, and it only takes a tiny nudge in the right direction for them to explore the world of Nerd.

Here are five easy – and cheap – ways to get your Nerd-to-be started on his or her own way:

  1. Reading (solo or together with you) – First and foremost, feed their minds with fun stories and interesting facts. The "I Am Albert Einstein" by Brad Meltzerwilder the better! We are HUGE fans of encouraging kids to read; and for young nerdlings, there’s no better way to stoke their imaginations than by opening a cool sci-fi, fantasy or adventure book. Some of our favorites include The Magic Treehouse Series, Franny K. Stein: Mad Scientist series, The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), and of course, Harry Potter. Lots of Harry Potter.As for non-fiction, take a look at Brad Meltzer’s new “I am … “ series, in which he uncovers what it was like to grow up as historical figures like Albert Einstein, Amelia Earheart, or Jane Goodall. Or enjoy Meltzer’s fantastic book from his series on The History Channel, History Decoded.Looking for a good science book? The new LEGO Non-Fiction Series from Scholastic including LEGO Planets and LEGO Dino Safari. For the advanced Nerds, AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors by Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown; Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, or What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by the brilliant Randall Munroe.
  2. Recycling – If you’re like us, you probably have a drawer or shelf overflowing with old computers, mobile phones, broken headphones, stereo equipment, and miscellaneous gadgets. Those items are Nerd nectar and shouldn’t just collect dust. Supply your nerd with a screwdriver, pliers and a hammer and stand back! In a matter of seconds, those once top-of-the-line “gotta have it” gadgets will look like the trash can at an abandoned Radio Shack.Allowing your Nerds to rip apart old electronics teaches them how these things are made, how they work and provides them with a hands-on approach to problem solving. Safety note: be sure to keep them from playing with any toxic items like batteries and ensure they are recycled appropriately.
  3. Build Something (Anything) – One of NerdBoy and Girltastic’s favorite weekend pastimes, besides unnecessarily waking me up early, is to visit the power tools demonstration area at Home Depot. This is where the weekend-warrior shoppers get to test the newest equipment. Your little Nerds-in-training will spend what feels like hours, cutting, drilling, assembling and demolishing blocks of wood. They think it’s just fun. But for me, it’s teaching them the basic construction techniques as well as problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination.You could also set up your own demonstration station at home with scrap building materials to help teach your kids these same basic skills. Give the LEGOs, Magformers, and Lincoln Logs a rest for the day and let them hammer nails, drill holes, saw boards, drive screws, mount hardware – let their creative maker-builder go wild! In addition, it’s a great opportunity to teach them the proper way to use these tools in a safe and productive manner.
  4. Drawing/Writing – Have paper, will create! Enough said. What better way to instill creativity than by giving the little nerdlings an old notebook or some scratch paper and let them draw their own inventions? Give them a story starter or a riddle and let them draw their own ending. Or find a cool image on Google and have them write and illustrate a quick story about what’s happening in the photo. Just search for “funny story starters” or “weird animal photos,” then click for images. There are no limits when creating on paper!
  5. Cooking – Cooking and baking are art forms, but at their very soul, they are simply chemistry experiments that taste good (sometimes). Set your Nerds free in your kitchen, and see what concoctions they create. Or, pick a fun recipe from the amazing Tasty’s YouTube channel. Or even better, combine their passion for baking and fantasy and make a recipe from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory. It’s the project that feeds the mind and stomach!

Bonus: LEGO Rebuild

Yes, LEGO is fun. And cool. But most of all, LEGO provides an opportunity for you to stretch your Nerd’s creativity. Every Nerd loves to build the latest and greatest LEGO Star Wars or LEGO Ninjago playset, but, if you really want to challenge your kids, try this. After they’ve finished building their set using the instructions, have them take it apart and rebuild something completely different using the same bricks. No instructions, no new pieces. At first, they’ll struggle to come up with something unique, but as they start clicking bricks together, you’ll soon see a Master Builder emerge, seemingly out of nowhere.

Let us know what you think. How are you fueling your Nerd’s passion for creativity, science, engineering or whatever? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    July 18, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    In terms of books for the younger set, my son loves Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell, which is also about Jane Goodall. I don’t have them yet, but I’ve heard great things about Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer. The same authors also have Ada Twist, Scientist coming out, which features a little black girl.

    Personally, I’m an ecologist by training, so I spend a lot of time outdoors with my kid. I ask him a lot of questions about what he thinks is going on and provide some context for what he’s seeing.

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