Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children

Kathleen Tuite


Tuesday 15 November 2016

- Kathleen Tuite and Máire Corbett


Aistear’s Exploring and Thinking theme is all about supporting children to learn about and make sense of the world around them. Curiosity is one of the learning dispositions central to Aistear. Children are naturally curious and fascinated by plants, animals, nature, cause and effect and how things work. Science is all around us, and children need to be actively supported to engage with it and enjoy all that it has to offer.


In this weeks blog we look at some simple ways in which early years settings have introduced scientific exploration with babies, toddlers and pre-school children. Through photographic examples we see where early years eductors facilitate children’s active involvement in the scientific process, by providing materials, encouraging children to observe, predict, describe and theorise about what they are doing and enquiring about. Where adults have posed questions and commented as children play and investigage. Where adults have helped young children to grow in their thinking and scientific understanding.

This weeks blog also highlights how young children can be supported with scientific exploration by providing time and opportunities to engage with nature, to play and experiment with natural and man-made materials. Science is all around us and children are budding scientists who touch, taste, smell, push, pour, bang, turn things up-side down, inside out and watch what happens!.


Below are a collection of these scientific opportunities and we would like to thank all the early years settings whom we have collected these examples from.

We would also love to hear from you about what opportunities you are providing in your early years setting!


Ceramic plant pots of different sizes on grass - Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children


Planting is a great way of giving children a love of nature and a sense of time. Talking about the bulbs or plants, looking at the picture and planting the bulbs right way up are valuable experiences for children. This setting laminated the picture of the bulbs so it is clear and weather proof.



A nature table with pine cones, acorns, chestnuts and leaves  - Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children This nature table is a really hands on space for active learning. The pictures at the back feature beautiful autumn scenes and the pine cones, acorns, chestnuts and leaves provide opportunities for children to touch, feel, smell and discuss the real life items.


Display of leaves - Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children Novel ways of displaying leaves. The leaves are laid on clear contact paper and another sheet of contact placed over them. They are then secured on a window, so the light shines through. The shape of the leaves, the veins on the leaves, the lovely colours are all great talking points with the chilren, sparking their curiosity!



Child holding spoon of muck with a worm - Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children Children love worms. Digging in soil reveals many wonders….not least the wiggly worm! Teasing out where worms live, what they do, how they aerate soil, why birds like them….lots of opportunity for scientific conversations!


ScienceWeekBlog6 Dinosaurs have an eternal fascination for children. Having them outdoors and exploring with them in nature makes the experience even richer. The complex names of the various dinosaurs intruige children and they love trying them out. Discussions about dinosaurs give opportunities for talk about volcanos, lava, the idea of extinction and other lovely words like paleontology, excavation, herbivore and carnivore can be tried out too!


Close up of apples growing on a tree - Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children Growing food is a great way to introduce children to agriculture science. If you are lucky enough to have an apple tree, treasure it! If not you can grow smaller things like rhubarb, as this setting did!
Rhubarb plants - Early Years Educators supporting scientific enquiry with young children These photos are from Stepping Stones Preschool, based in the grounds of Stonehall National School, Co Clare.


Scientific enquiry with babies and toddlers too!

Treasure baskets can be a wonderful way to support scientific enquiry with babies and toddlers. With the addition of some household items for example, plastic scent bottles, shells, spools and recycled materials.



Puddles for toddlers can offer many opportunities to explore cause and effect, what happens if I wiggle my fingers and hands in the puddle, what happens if I add some stones or twigs into the water? Scientific enquiry and hands-on experiences.


  Sand outdoors for toddlers to explore with their whole bodies, the science of movement, the impact of weight, flattening the sand, displacing the particles of sand with the movement of the feet or hands. Great fun too!


  Investigating the affordances of nature. What happens when grass is mixed with water? What will happen when the dishes are placed at the end of the water spout? Toddlers make all sorts of scientific enquiries, investigating their own working theories. This is why it is critical to provide interest and opportunity both outdoors and indoors.


  Playdough supports scientific investigation, the materials, how they go from wet to dry, then sticky, then pliable enough to allow young children to shape, pound, stretch, roll, flatten. Toddlers and young children can explore elasticity and early years educators can support them with concept formation and the use of scientific language in their descriptions.


The above photos were taken with kind permission from the parents of the children attending Scallywags Crèche, Fenagh, Co. Carlow, along with the opening photograph.

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas as this is Science week, please share in the comments box below. 

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

STEM(2) Early Years(1) Belonging(3) Decision Making(1) Recycling(2) christmas(8) Growing up in Ireland(3) pets(1) Breathing(2) trust(2) San Miniato(3) Thinking(1) Jenga(1) ears(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Games(1) Primary School(2) grandchild(1) Exercise(1) Awards(2) Plastic(1) Interactions(1) risk(2) Learning Story(1) Mud kitchens(1) Titles(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Vertical grouping(1) Our Little Seed(1) Qualifications(1) Sequins(1) Afghanistan(1) Childcare(2) Appreciation(1) First 5(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) community(4) Communicating(1) Irish(1) Window(1) MA(1) Scents(1) Touch(1) Mental Health(3) Quality(3) Nuturing interactions(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Shapes(1) Cognitive development(1) Snacks(1) outdoors(3) Wesco(1) Iraq(1) Mealtimes(1) Workforce(1) INTO(1) Twitter(1) Children's Rights(1) University(1) Creative(1) Arlene Forster(1) National Awards 2018(2) Margy Whalley(1) EM Standing(1) Trigonometry(1) supportive environments(1) budget(1) Trade Unions(1) Blocks(1) environments(1) Supernanny(1) stories(2) Ariana Pucci(1) Health(1) Death(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Through the looking glass(1) Training(2) Annual Conference 2017(2) Xbox(1) UN(1) Feeding(1) emotional environment(1) Awards 2019(1) experience(1) Playdough(1) under 3's(3) Research Seminar(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Favouritism(1) Photographs(1) Impact(1) Magda Gerber(1) Map(1) books(4) Creativity(4) Child mental health(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) San Minia(1) reading(4) Art(6) Vietnam(1) research(5) Culture(2) meals(3) Kerry(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Academics(1) Policy(2) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Obesity(1) Degree(1) Easter(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) Time Out(1) National Holiday(1) Scéalta Blog(73) Adoption(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Laughter(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) ERASMUS+(3) DCYA(3) Self Help Skills(1) educating(1) worries(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Environment(1) Story(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Maternity Leave(1) Norway(2) Montessori(2) parents(5) Siolta blog(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) social media(1) play(28) role playing(1) EECERA 2016(1) mushrooms(1) Brain(1) dogs(1) Independence(1) Arithmetic(1) RIE philosphy(1) Settling in(1) Nutrition(1) Wilenski(1) routine(2) Italy(1) Masterclass(2) Empathy(1) Party(1) The Lullaby Book(1) AsIAm(1) baby room(1) Drawing(2) MECPI(1) Budget 2019(2) Weather(1) Bereavement(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Aistear(97) Snack Time(1) Dance(1) Self-Esteem(1) Learning Story Awards(1) food(1) Sculptures(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Sweets(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) UNCRC(1) curiosity(3) Certificate(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Workplace Relations(2) educarer(1) Fabric(1) Socioemotional development(1) Recycle(1) Traditions(2) journey(1) Graduation(1) Santa(2) refugees(1) science(3) Lego(2) maternity health(1) Awards 2018(3) Craft(1) Identity(4) Treasure Chest(1) PIP(1) blog(28) Thanks(1) preschool(2) development(6) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) outdoor play(6) Annual Conference 2019(1) Mount Everest(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Time(1) linc(1) dublin(2) Mixed age groups(2) Behaviour(3) toddlers(3) Seas Suas(1) Professionalisation(4) memories(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) story time(1) Line-ups(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Reggio Children Network(1) Maynooth University(1) Meet the Members(1) Eritrea(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Confident(1) Inspirational(2) SPICE Framework(1) scéalta(24) Routines(1) Potential(1) Limerick(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Family wall(1) Biting(1) Early Years Educators(1) Challenges(1) Music(2) animals(2) Playschool(1) Care routines(1) Rituals(1) Painting(1) Well-Being(6) Workplace well-being(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Learning Stories(7) Trade union(1) Inter-generational(1) Visitors(1) Consent(1) Mayo(1) IGL(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) communication(4) Kilkenny(1) bonds(1) Maths(4) Maths Week Ireland(1) Mark Twain(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Albert Einstein(1) Patterns(1) Decisions(1) Ceremony(1) Wrapping paper(1) Positivity(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Learning journals(1) Malaguzzi(1) education(2) Thank you(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Giraffe(2) First 5 strategy(1) Childhood(1) feisty(1) Gardening(1) Funding(1) Leargas(1) Grief(1) Celebrations(4) Sustainability(3) Buddies(1) Reggio Emilia(1) CIT(1) play stories(1) Interests(1) emotions(2) Educators(1) Builders(1) planning(1) Technology(2) Budget 2018(1) Yoga(1) Syria(1) Wonder(1) Stress(2) Event Guide(1) Spiders(1) Celebrate(1) Glitter(2) Light table(1) Engineering(2) Motor neuron disease(1) Arts(1) risk assessment(1) respect(4) Mindfulness(2) Wendy Lee(2) Facebook(1) Plants(1) Autism(2) Shoes(1) College(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Role play(1) Access and Inclusion Model(1) Prexit(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) NCCA(2) Pen green(1) Sustainable(1) Family(1) Cork(1) Sport(1) dining experiences(1) Home Corner(1) Flowers(1) listening(1) Investment(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Self-regulation(1) NAEYC(1) Penguins(1) Exit interview(1) Advocacy(1) Communications(1) Laugh(1) Maths Week(1) AIM(1) Maynooth(1) Relaxation(1) Competent(1) Winter(1) Snakes(1) Imagination(3) TOY Programme(1) Employee(1) ICBN(1) Engineers Week(2) GDPR(1) Magic(1) Running(1) Pobal(1) Exploring(1) Inclusion(1) Síolta QAP(1) dining(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Fantasy play(1) listen(1) Mathematicians(1) Performing(1) risky play(2) Oireachtas(1) Graduate(1) overhear(1) friendships(1) Leprechauns(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Traffic Lights(1) Children's Research Network(1) Gratitude(1) The Jelly King(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Children(1) Exclusion(1) CPD(1) ReCreate(2) Names(1) Administrative Burden(1) Online(1) Reggio(1) Valentine's Day(3) Little Buddies(1) Affordability(1) Capable(1) Book Club(2) Kids Own(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Care-giving routines(1) interacting(2) learning(14) Trick or treat(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Community involvement(1) relationships(11) ECEC(1) Loss(1) eating(1) Queues(1) Anxiety(2) ECCE(6) Halloween(2) curriculum(5) Buddy Bench(1) Smiles(1) United Nations(1) Mo Scéal(1) National Awards 2019(1) conversations(1) science week(2) Magnavacchi(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Maria Montessori(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) early childhood educator(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Treasure(1) Orla Kenny(1) Performance Management(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Storytelling(2) Christmas Creativity(2) outdoor space(3) Teamwork(1) babies(5) Inter-generational learning(1) Mantra(1) documentation(2) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) early years research(1) Change(1) Síolta(92) transitions(9) Identity and Belonging(3) Upcycling(1) Meal time(1) Frustrations(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Love(2)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine