Children are born with a sense of wonder and a passion to understand the world around them. They naturally ask questions, observe, and try out solutions - all important parts of thinking scientifically. As young children explore through play, they learn many science concepts. And even more learning occurs when a child is offered a variety of learning opportunities.

Here's a look at how children develop science skills, age by age:


A Child May

0 to 2

  • use her senses to identify objects and people around her.
  • begin to predict and anticipate sequences of events and notice cause and effect.
  • begin to classify objects in a simple but intelligent way.
  • use language to classify objects according to basic characteristics (toy animals, blocks, books).

2 to 3

  • ask many questions about why things are the way they are and how things work.
  • observe similarities and differences between objects.
  • conduct his own experiments, such as stacking the blocks in a new way.
  • be able to predict cause and effect.

3 to 4

  • enjoy sorting and classifying objects.
  • begin to classify things by their functions.
  • notice and compare similarities and differences between objects.
  • use words to describe the things she observes.
  • become interested in complex experiments and using new materials in a variety of ways.

4 to 5

  • enjoy exploring and using new materials and objects.
  • use concepts such as height, size, and length to compare objects.
  • enjoy learning about real-life places and things and how they work.

5 to 6

  • engage in long-term science projects such as growing plants, recording the weather, and collecting and comparing shells.
  • classify items by a variety of similarities and differences.
  • have a long attention span for activities that interest him.

This article originally appeared in the March, 2001 issue of Early Childhood Today.