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What your child learns in Nursery science

Nursery science: what your child learns
Children have naturally enquiring minds, and the science-based activities they do in the Early Years will help develop that sense of curiosity.

Probably the most important rule of school Nursery classes is that children learn best through play – and through play, they’ll begin to learn the very basics of science.

Many of the adult-led activities in Nursery have a science focus, and naturally appeal to young, enquiring minds. They may not be labelled biology, chemistry or physics, but nonetheless, they introduce simple scientific concepts that will be built on as they get older.

Science falls within three key core areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework (basically, the curriculum for pre-school, Nursery and Reception children):

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Physical development
  • Understanding the world

Each core area contains a number of Early Learning Goals (ELGs) that children work toward in the Early Years.

Early Learning Goal: Personal, social and emotional development

Your child will be encouraged to:

Try this:

  • Read books with your child that focus on relationships and roles. There are lots of fantastic children’s books that explore the many different types of relationships, including stepfamilies, same-sex parents, ethnic diversity, disability, and lots more.
  • When your child needs to go to the doctor or dentist, explain why. What will the doctor or dentist do? Why do they need to do it? What tools or equipment might they use? A good health professional will always be willing to explain what they’re doing in child-friendly terms.
  • Involve your child in planning and preparing healthy meals. Take them shopping with you and let them help you find and choose healthy ingredients. Encourage them to be hands-on in the kitchen: they could chop soft fruit or veg with a blunt knife, pour their own fruit juice, and help to pack a balanced lunchbox, if they take one to Nursery.
  • Make sure you role model and encourage good hygiene – show them how to wash their hands properly, use a tissue if they have a cold, and brush their teeth (finishing the job yourself). All the while, talk to them about why you’re doing it: ‘When we play outside and our hands get muddy, they get covered in germs. Germs can make us ill, so when we come inside, we wash our hands to wash the germs down the sink.”

Early Learning Goal: Physical development

Your child will be encouraged to:

  • Learn why physical activity is important to help them live a healthy, active life.
  • Play games and be active in ways such as running, jumping, climbing, crawling etc. There is often lots of active play in Nursery, within and outside of PE lessons, with free access to outdoor play space where they can develop strength, balance, coordination and spatial awareness.

Try this:

  • Embrace opportunities for your child to be active, at home and outside the house, such as in the park or playground. Talk to them about how the activity they’re doing helps them become stronger, healthier and fitter.
  • Talk to your child about how being active affects their body: “Wow, you were running so fast! Put your hand on your chest – can you feel how fast it’s beating? Why do you think that might be?”

Early Learning Goal: Understanding the world

Your child will be encouraged to:

  • Explore the natural world around them, making observations and drawing pictures of animals and plants.
  • Learn some similarities and differences between the natural world around them and contrasting environments, drawing on their experiences and what has been read in class: for example, the teacher / keyworker may read a non-fiction book about deserts; the children then use descriptive words like ‘hot,’ ‘sandy,’ ‘dry’ to describe them, and use different materials to make a desert collage.
  • Understand some important processes and changes in the natural world, including the seasons and changing states of matter (such as ice – water – steam).

Try this:

  • Get outside as much as you can, in all seasons. There are so many things to do and talk about – for example, in summer, you can talk about the sun, why it’s stronger/hotter, how it affects plants differently (some thrive, and some die), how it affects our bodies. In autumn, you can collect conkers and pine cones, put wellies on and jump in puddles, talk about how the weather is changing and why the leaves are falling off the trees, etc.
  • Read books, watch TV programmes and/or visit places where they can see different types of animals. Talk about their characteristics, introducing new vocabulary as you do so. Ask your child to think about why, for example, an elephant has a long trunk, or why female cows have udders and male cows don’t.
  • If you have a pet, encourage your child to help to look after it – a great lesson in what animals (and humans!) need to stay healthy and happy.
  • Plant some seeds or bulbs in the garden, a window box or a pot, and watch them grow. Get your child to check their plant every day and see how it’s growing, and encourage them to be in charge of watering it. Planting vegetable seeds is a particularly good activity, as you can tie in observing their growth with talking about healthy eating and why it’s good for the body – and children are often more willing to try new veg if they’ve grown them themselves.
  • Use objects from nature in arts and crafts activities: you could make a nature collage, press flowers, try leaf-rubbing, or print patterns using apples cut in half, pine cones, feathers etc.
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