One of the most frequent questions I get is from parents or grandparents of kids showing a strong interest in meteorology:
How can I encourage their interest in weather and science? And do so without breaking the bank.
No problem: buy them some weather instruments!
It turns out than many of the meteorological professionals I deal with (myself included) were weather nuts as children. Nothing got us more excited than a powerful thunderstorm, snowstorm, windstorm, or hurricane. Even heavy rain was fun. And a number of my colleagues can remember back to a particularly major weather event that inspired them to take up meteorology as a career.
Signs of a budding young meteorologist include watching the Weather Channel for several hours or viewing the weather segments on more than one local TV station.
But even for kids not destined to be a meteorologist, a hobby in meteorology can help then become better observers of the natural world, better in math and quantitative reasoning, and more appreciative of the cycles of nature.
So what are my recommendations?
Start with getting a rain gauge, with plastic ones ranging from cheap wedge units (around $5-10) to professional quality cylindrical types (around $30). No money? You can make a serviceable rain gauge with a big can and a ruler.
Kids can measure rainfall totals each day and record them in a log book (or spreadsheet if more computer oriented). They can get monthly totals, find the highest and lowest daily amounts, and compare their totals to others in the area (and precipitation can vary a lot in short distance!).
Next up, an inexpensive digital thermometer. Many of them are remote reading and even tell you the day's max and min temperature. You can get something good for $10-20 dollars.
Lots of fun keep track of the day's highs and lows and trying to understand the weather conditions that produce the warmest and coolest days. When during the day is temperature warmest and coldest? Can you explain that? And as with precipitation, kids can learn math at the same time, calculating averages for example, and learning to plot observations. You may not believe it, but many folks come to college without knowing how to read graphs. Weather kids know.
Some children are more visual and any young meteorologists needs to learn about clouds, so why not pick up a cloud chart for them? Inexpensive ($10-15) and colorful, the charts are perfect for your young scientist's wall. Sometimes you can get free ones from the local weather service office. They will rapidly learn the different cloud types...cirrus, cumulus, stratus, etc.
Have an older kids that wants to know more? There are a lot of good choices, but you would not go wrong with Jack Williams Weather Book (see image)
Some of these items are available in your local discount store or Bartells/Rite Aid--like the digital thermometers. Rain gauges are available in garden stores, hardware stores and Home Depot, and online (e.g., Amazon). Cloud charts are easy to get online.
There is, of course, a HUGE amount of weather data available online at numerous web sites, but I think that is it is more educational and valuable for the younger meteorologist to start their career actually observing the weather and recording their observations.