There is a myth in the education and STEM world that young children cannot learn higher order skills like data collection or animal classification. Many people say it is too much for them to grasp. In my experience, they absolutely can! Children in the 3 to 6 year old range are naturally extremely curious and observant. Think about the last time you were walking outside with a young child. I bet they asked a thousand and one questions about everything they could see around them. Face it, they see EVERYTHING! Sometimes even things you’d rather they didn’t haha. Instead of shushing them, encourage them! Unfortunately, kids do not stay so curious and excited by the world around them forever. While you have the opportunity, be sure to capitalize on that natural curiosity by teaching them simple data collection tools, like tallying and making graphs. Sounds too complex? All it really is guided counting.
Keep it casual, maybe make it a game if you like. On your next backyard play session or neighborhood walk, take along a simple data collection sheet, like the one I have created and attached here. Use it to start counting the different kinds of animals you see along the way. Is it an animal that flies? Walks on the ground? Climbs in trees? Swims in ponds and streams? Fill in the data table with tally lines, dots, stars, whatever you like 😊 and then color the boxes below for each tally mark above. See graphically how many of each kind you saw! Who knows, maybe your child won’t be the only one who learns something new!