If your children are old enough to ask “why,” then they’re old enough to learn science skills. Find out how to start science lessons with children as young as 3!

21st of January 2021

You're Starting Science Lessons Too Late

Today, we’re talking about something we hear from early years educators a lot. 

Our [3, 4, 5 year olds] are too young to learn science.

If your children are old enough to ask “why,” then they’re old enough to learn science skills. 

Now, when we say science skills, we’re not talking about splitting atoms, obviously. 

We’re talking about responding to a “why” with a “let’s find out!” and helping little scientists build the skills the need to find their own answers.

Studies show that over half of questions asked by young children are science-related. This makes sense: science is all around us. Almost everything in the physical world that might inspire wonder can be explained, to some degree, by science!

The goal of early-childhood STEAM education is not to explain all of those things, one-by-one. You’ll be up all night. 

The goal is to gradually show your little scientists that they have the skills to find out on their own. Embody science process skills, show them how to experiment, and they’ll love finding their own answers. The first time you see a balloon fill itself, or make glitter move in soapy water, it feels like magic!

Studies also show that students ask significantly fewer questions as they get older. This phenomenon is particularly stark when it comes to young girls in STEM, where they initially ask more questions than boys, and quickly come to ask fewer questions as they lose interest. By teaching little scientists to think about their questions and find their own answers, you can keep enthusiasm high and teach them to become self-sufficient learners. You won’t always be there to answer their questions (and really, after the millionth why, you probably don’t want to be 😂). 

Here are a few tips to help you develop science skills with the youngest of scientists.

  • Help get things started. Ask simple questions, like “What color do you see?” and “How does this smell?” -- this will help your child verbalize their answers, and develop their already-rapidly-growing vocabulary. It also helps develop communication skills, the bedrock of the scientific process.

kide science process skills

  • Be the mechanism, not the mind. Young children will often have trouble with the physical acts of doing the experiments as they improve their fine motor skills. This is normal! Help them do the physical actions when necessary (and of course, help maintain focus), but encourage their natural curiosity and enthusiasm! This is their greatest strength. Nurture it.

  • Maybe emotion belongs in science after all. Early emotional experiences in science are the key to developing a positive attitude toward science. Play, stories, and humor are especially important for young children that may not be forming long-term memories yet. They might not be remembering the facts, but they can recall the positive emotional experiences that will develop their love of science. 

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