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:

Equality(1) Role play(1) conference(1) communication(4) Recycle(1) Aistear(122) Early Learning and Care(1) Thinking(1) Maths(5) Irish guidelines(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) early life(1) outdoor space(3) play therapy(1) baby room(1) Advocacy(1) Grief(1) iOS(1) Twitter(1) Mud kitchens(1) books(4) blog(36) AIM(2) staying connected(1) Lego(2) Online(1) DCYA(5) Sustainability(3) Scéalta Book Review(1) Oireachtas(1) refugees(1) Confident(1) Queues(1) Celebrations(4) Culture(2) Gratitude(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) early years research(2) budget(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) outdoors(3) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) DES Inspection(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Budget 2018(1) World Health Organisation(1) christmas(9) Learning Stories(9) ERASMUS+(3) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Siolta blog(8) Adoption(1) Treasure(1) Favouritism(1) planning(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Patterns(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) ICBN(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Pobal(1) The Lullaby Book(1) College(1) NAEYC(1) Human Resources(1) CCTV(1) National Awards 2018(2) Maths Week Ireland(1) Buddies(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Professionalisation(5) Childhood(1) Opportunities(1) Penguins(1) early years learning(1) Anxiety(2) Loss(1) Iceland(1) E.coli(1) Plants(1) Weather(1) Certificate(1) mental health problems(1) Meal time(1) Through the looking glass(1) First 5(1) National Awards 2019(1) early childhood educator(2) Engagement(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Appreciation(1) Buddy Bench(1) science(3) Workforce(1) Horizon 2020(1) Awards(2) Empathy(1) social science(1) child-centric(1) UN(1) Party(1) Japan(1) play(34) Primary School(2) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Bereavement(2) Childcare(3) risk(2) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Workplace Relations(3) Arithmetic(1) Exit interview(1) Creative(1) Maternity Leave(1) Giraffe(2) MECPI(1) TRAP(1) Communicating(1) Rituals(1) art of the relationship(1) INTO(1) dublin(2) Mathematicians(1) Wonder(1) community(5) Upcycling(1) reopening(1) Flowers(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Study Trip(1) Decision Making(1) RTE Investigates(1) Care routines(1) Investment(2) Communications(1) risk assessment(1) Thanks(1) Document Learning(1) Tuscan Approach(2) experience(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Prexit(1) Awards 2018(3) St. Patrick's Day(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) babies(7) European Project(1) Graduate(1) Child Care(1) Masterclass(2) AsIAm(2) memories(1) Training(2) Academic Skills(1) Meet the Members(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) CPD(1) trust(4) Consent(1) Family(1) Leargas(1) STEM(3) Exclusion(1) Sustainable(1) Inspirational(2) transitions(10) Early Years(1) life long learning(1) show and tell(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) imotion(1) interacting(2) Research and Professional Learning(1) under 3's(3) Sessional service(1) Workplace well-being(1) Glitter(2) toddlers(3) NCCA(3) routine(2) Frustrations(1) Confidence(1) Book Review(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) dining(1) School Age Childcare(1) gender stereotype(1) Super Shed Stories(2) apps for children(1) Playdough(1) phone apps(1) Stress(2) purpose(1) The Jelly King(1) supportive environments(2) COVID-19 crisis(1) educating(1) Imagination(3) Magic(1) documentation(4) eating(1) Dance(1) Wrapping paper(1) Story(1) play pod(1) Mount Everest(1) Treasure Chest(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Independence(1) Sport(1) Scents(1) parents(6) Research Conference 2019(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Santa(2) Trick or treat(1) role playing(1) TOY Programme(1) child-centred approach(1) Family wall(1) family time(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Awards 2019(1) pets(1) keep in touch(1) Our Little Seed(1) learning(19) Affordability(1) SPICE Framework(1) Biting(1) Change(1) respect(5) Reggio Emilia(1) Interests(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Yoga(1) structure(1) Laughter(1) Spiders(1) Diversity(1) Learning Journal(2) Valentine's Day(3) IGL(1) Nutrition(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) science week(2) MA(1) youdoodle(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Nonverbal(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) New Appointments(1) grandchild(1) feisty(1) Research Seminar(1) story time(2) Special Needs Assistants(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) conversations(1) Mark Twain(1) racism(1) behavioural science(1) Syria(1) Kerry(1) Norway(2) Social Skills(1) Health(2) learners(1) Book Club(2) Performing(1) Potential(1) Orla Kenny(1) emotions(2) Digital(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) ECCE(7) Early Childhood Ireland(4) development(8) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) education(2) Gardening(1) ELC(1) keezy(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Positivity(1) code of ethics(1) Maynooth(1) Fabric(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Visitors(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Capable(1) Rich Documentation(1) ECEC(3) Leprechauns(1) COVID-19(6) Maria Montessori(1) Window(1) Fee Play(1) Italy(1) Kids Own(1) reading(5) Recycling(2) Competent(1) Covid pandemic(1) Mixed age groups(2) Pobal sector profile(1) Mealtimes(1) Drawing(2) San Miniato(4) Employee(1) journey(1) friendships(1) bloom app(1) aistear blog(3) responsive relationships(1) preschool settings(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) EECERA 2016(1) Wilenski(1) Youtube Series(1) Art(6) Eritrea(1) Iraq(1) Titles(1) risky play(2) Settling in(4) Traffic Lights(1) Motor neuron disease(1) research(6) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Pre-School Services(1) Awards Night(1) Reopening Childcare(1) dogs(1) Home Corner(1) Quality(4) Leadership(1) First 5 strategy(1) annual conference(1) Maths Week(1) environments(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Academics(1) CIT(1) Children and families(1) Celebrate(1) Whole Group(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Support(1) Building Resilience(1) listen(1) Administrative Burden(1) Teamwork(1) EM Standing(1) Creativity(4) Kilkenny(1) Feeding(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Nuturing interactions(1) Facebook(1) ReCreate(2) Policy(2) Routines(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Line-ups(1) bonds(1) RIE philosphy(1) Scéalta Blog(99) Rising to the Challenge(2) Thank you(1) Mayo(1) Trade Unions(1) Time(1) Inspections(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Traditions(2) Infection Control(1) Winter(1) Seas Suas(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) emotional environment(2) Exercise(1) developing motor skills(1) Vertical grouping(1) Names(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Smiles(1) PIP(1) Laugh(1) Visual Impairment(1) Impact(1) Easter(1) Obesity(1) social media(1) reopening ireland(1) play stories(2) Limerick(1) Light table(1) ears(1) ECEC Setting(2) Liz Kerrins(1) Behaviour(3) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Early Years Educators(3) Budget 2019(2) Wesco(1) children development(1) Learning Story(1) Qualifications(1) National Holiday(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) lockdown(1) Brain(1) Child mental health(1) Playschool(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) UD(1) Design(1) Mental Health(3) Deirdre Rogers(1) Music(3) collaboration(1) dining experiences(1) Síolta(120) Ariana Pucci(1) Covid19 crisis(1) value(1) Síolta QAP(1) Death(2) Pen green(1) june29(1) Children's Rights(3) Photographs(1) Halloween(2) Malaguzzi(1) Learning Stories Award(3) United Nations(1) Sequins(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Touch(1) relationships(17) Shapes(1) COVID-19 Reopening(1) Vietnam(1) Identity(5) Infectious diseases(1) Blocks(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Jenga(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Arlene Forster(1) Self-regulation(1) Your place(1) Pedagogy(1) Cognitive development(1) awards 2020(1) Community involvement(1) Well-Being(9) linc(1) learning bias(1) Reggio(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) maternity health(1) Map(1) Snack Time(1) Little Buddies(1) Maynooth University(2) Montessori(3) Irish(1) stories(3) play pods(1) Games(1) Care-giving routines(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Inclusion(3) Trade union(1) Technology(3) Educators(2) educarer(1) Mindfulness(2) Reflective Practice(1) healthy eating policies(1) Ceremony(1) Body Language(1) Mantra(1) Event Guide(1) Reading Time(1) Elders(1) meals(3) Belonging(3) Children's Voice(1) Relaxation(1) Xbox(1) Interactions(2) Degree(1) Cork(1) Shoes(1) childcare services(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) SAC(1) Sleep(1) gender bias(1) Funding(1) Staff Motivation(1) Love(2) Annual Conference 2019(1) University(1) HR(1) research submissions(1) Mo Scéal(1) Magnavacchi(1) listening(1) continual professional development(1) worries(1) Self-Esteem(1) Children(4) Performance Management(1) Graduation(1) Snacks(1) overhear(1) Sculptures(1) mushrooms(1) Craft(1) Painting(1) Fantasy play(1) Hand Hygiene(2) Challenges(1) Wendy Lee(3) pablo(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) Running(1) GDPR(1) Breathing(2) Children's Research Network(1) Self Help Skills(1) Magda Gerber(1) Builders(1) Plastic(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Engineers Week(2) Snakes(1) curiosity(3) Participation(2) Sociodramatic play(1) Socioemotional development(1) Storytelling(6) Budget 2020(1) Sweets(1) Albert Einstein(1) Decisions(1) Learning journals(1) outdoor play(6) Autism(4) Universal Design(2) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) curriculum(5) Arts(1) primary education(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Interaction(1) scéalta(40) Margy Whalley(1) animals(2) Inter-generational(2) Inspired Practice Award(5) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Intention(1) food(1) Exploring(1) preschool(4) UNCRC(2) Trigonometry(1) Afghanistan(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) man up(1) Time Out(1) GoToMeeting app(1) Engineering(3) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Supernanny(1) movement behaviours(1) Summer(1) Digital Devices(1) Environment(2)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine