Exploring the natural world through hands-on science is an important way that children learn. Hands-on science activities encourage children to observe and manipulate items from the environment, while making predictions about what will happen and then testing those predictions. Science allows children to explore, experiment, question, discover, and understand natural and human-made objects and forces. Experiments and activities with science and nature also stimulate children's curiosity, encourage use of all five senses, and help to build vocabulary.
Early science activities are most effective when children have opportunities to explore, experiment, and make sense of the objects they are manipulating, with the guidance and support of an adult who knows how to ask interesting questions. Science study can include a wide variety of activities, including the following:
Remember that some science activities can be messy. Keep science activities under control by setting up a separate science area and guiding children to keep science materials in the science area. Many science activities can also be effective outdoors, where cleanup is simpler. Consider creating an outdoor science area as well as an indoor one.
Child care providers play an important role in children's science learning. Here are some tips to help children get the most out of the center:
For more specific tips on setting up a science and nature center, see Planning a Successful Science and Nature Center in Child Care.
To learn more about science and other learning centers in child care, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: