Teaching Science in Early Childhood

ALI Staff | Published  February 27, 2024

Teaching science in early childhood exposes young learners to more than foundational concepts in STEM.

It sets the stage for learning well beyond those early years and taps into students’ curiosities and interests about the world around them.

It’s also essential to brain development in early childhood as students learn higher-level language and thinking skills through inquiry-based learning.

Early childhood is the ideal time to introduce children to science, as it helps them find answers to those natural wonderings.

Let’s take a closer look at the power of introducing young learners to scientific thinking and how to make it happen in your classroom, even if you don’t have a science background.

What does science look like in early childhood education?


Young learners planting seeds


What does science look like in early childhood education?

Science in early childhood education can take on a few different forms, but it’s typically more than a science article for kids.

It’s about includes hands-on exploration, observation, and experimentation.

Play-based learning is also a powerful tool in preschool science that taps into students’ innate curiosity and problem-solving skills.

Learning through play makes science concepts more accessible and engaging for children who are already exploring the world that way. 


six Benefits of Teaching Science in Early Childhood

The benefits of teaching science in early childhood start with engagement.

Science concepts for preschoolers are meant to stimulate curiosity and get students asking about the world around them.

It may even answer questions or wonderings they already had.

Let’s look at a few more. 


1. Promotes Critical Thinking

How students approach science looks different in a preschool science area vs. a middle school classroom, but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful.

Exposing children to STEM concepts early on can still support critical thinking skills, which are so important in future grades.


2. Encourages Problem-Solving

Through inquiry-based learning, children get introduced to brainstorming, testing simple hypotheses, and experimenting with solutions.

It encourages the kind of thinking that supports higher-level critical thinking down the line and rewards asking questions.


3. Builds Confidence in Students

It feels good to conduct experiments that come up with a definitive answer, especially when it’s a question students already have.

Even when the answer isn’t cut and dry, learning how to make discoveries instills confidence in children’s abilities to explore and investigate.


4. Develops Language Skills 

The scientific process for kids is a great way to get children talking. They can discuss their observations, ask questions, and describe what they see, hear, touch, and more.

This develops a higher-level vocabulary and basic communication skills. 


5. Supports Social-Emotional Learning. 

Working on hands-on projects as a classroom or in small groups encourages collaboration and cooperation, two key aspects of social-emotional learning.

It helps students see the value in teamwork, sharing ideas, and making discoveries together.


6. Lays Groundwork For Future Learning

Early exposure to science sets students up for success in kindergarten and later grades. Skills students learn to connect to science are helpful in accessing other content areas, too, including literacy and math.

Teaching science in early childhood can touch every aspect of early childhood brain development.

It can foster a lifelong love for learning. While it may sound intimidating, you’re likely exploring some of these concepts already by the very nature of hands-on learning.


Science Activities for Early Childhood

When it comes to science activities for early childhood, keep it simple.

Consider questions already asked by students that you can connect to science concepts and basic experimentation. Use familiar tools around the classroom to create opportunities for play-based learning.

Examples of early childhood science activities include sink or float experiments, bubble towers, and nature walks.

Any activity that ask students to measure, observe, make predictions, or classify objects start with science. Model how to use all five senses to answer questions.

Make use of resources already out there. 

Kide Science, a library of story-based lesson plans for children ages 3-8, is an easy way to get started. Read-alouds and imaginary play scenarios are likely already an important part of your classroom.

These activities complement that with a cast of colorful characters that lead students on a journey of scientific exploration. 


How to Teach Early Childhood Science Without a Science Background

You don’t need to be a scientist to challenge young learners, embrace experimentation, and connect students to the world around them in a deeper way.

Want to learn more? This podcast with Aino Kuronen, co-founder of Kide Science and a former educator, is a great listen on the impact of story-based learning in connecting kids to the curriculum. 

Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Kuronen speaks from experience. She wasn’t a scientist when she became interested in teaching science from an early childhood development perspective. She just knew that for students to access science, it had to be fun and engaging.

  • Teaching is full of rewards, but it can also be challenging. Tapping into student curiosities with playful inquiry can feel like its own reward. It also doesn’t have to feel as hard, especially when it’s student-led.

  • It’s natural to feel discomfort in teaching something new for the first time. Storytelling, play, and connecting students to real-life experiences can make it easier to lead young learners through a preschool science curriculum.

  • You’re not alone. There are resources out there to enhance STEM and science learning, and you don’t need to come from a science background to access them. A play-based approach is a great way to access science for toddlers and young students.


Why is it important to teach preschoolers science?

It’s important to teach preschoolers science because it introduces skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and explaining their thinking. It sets them up for kindergarten and beyond. Perhaps most importantly, it’s fun and engaging.

Children are more likely to connect to content when it meets them at their level, and introducing children to science using play-based learning or storytelling techniques is a great way to do that.


Which STEM subjects are of interest to you?

Ensuring your privacy is our priority. By submitting this form, you confirm that you are over the age of 18 and agree to abide by our terms and conditions and privacy policy. Accelerate Learning uses your information to contact you about our relevant content, products, and services. You can opt-out at any time.