The power of science in early learning


Why is the sky blue? Why are our ears shaped the way they are? Why do scones rise in the oven?​

From a very young age, children are naturally curious and inquisitive about the world around them.

As early childhood educators, you are no doubt bombarded with numerous questions on a daily basis about how things work and why things happen.

While not every child will teach themselves geometry at age 12 like Albert Einstein, there are a myriad of simple ways to integrate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) learning into early childhood education and care (ECEC) environments and programs.

Whether it be constructing water channels in the sandpit, observing the movement of the sun, seeing scones rise in the oven or exploring nature, early childhood educators can help spark a love of science.

Not only are these activities fun for both child and educator, the inquiry processes that underpin the teaching of science are in fact a great fit with early childhood teaching and learning practices.

Scientific exploration and research give children and adults the opportunity to explore, inquire, to problem-solve, cooperate and communicate with others and to be even more excited and curious about the world around us.

Research shows that children naturally engage with scientific concepts and processes in their play and as they explore their world. Early childhood educators can recognise, celebrate and build on these moments.

The Early years learning framework (EYLF) suggests educators draw on a 'repertoire of pedagogic practices', including learning through play, creating learning environments that support investigation and experimentation, and through intentional teaching to stimulate wonder and collaboration.

In the lead up to National science week (13–21 August 2022) we have pulled together some ideas to help services bubble up some fun STEM learning activities.

Time to experiment

In the kitchen

Hungry to learn about science? The kitchen is a great place to explore science with children. Depending on the experiment, you might be able to create a delicious treat to share in the process.

The human body

Science not only teaches children about the world around them, it can also teach them more about themselves. Learning about the human body from a young age can go a long way in increasing the confidence of children and their understanding of their own bodies and its functions.

  • It's hot in here – understand and explore different temperatures.
  • Acoustics – discover and identify different sounds by using a coat hanger.
  • Exploring the senses – use ordinary items to explore and identify different senses.

Little engineers and problem-solving

Engineering activities in early childhood, help children develop problem-solving and critical things skills. These activities are also often conducted in a group setting, which challenges participants to communicate effectively and cooperate with their team.

The big wide world

Science encourages a real life understanding of the world around us. While there remains plenty of unexplained phenomena, there are many simple activities that can help spark an interest in the world at a young age.

Out in nature

Research shows nature play is a highly effective way of embedding STEM in early childhood education. Nature play is widely referred to as unstructured play in natural settings and gives children the opportunity to learn through exploring their environment and testing their theories hands on.

Further reading

Making bubbles: Scientific research in early childhood settings

Children learn science in nature play long before they get to school classrooms and labs

The Mudbook: nature play framework

Additional resources

National science week

Glass – more than meets the eye (PDF, 11MB)

Early childhood activities – National science week (PDF, 4.7MB)

The little scientists

Australian Council for Educational Research – science in the early years

Questacon at home – fun science activities for kids

Science tricks for kids

Human body science experiments

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Last updated 29 July 2022