Science skills for kids: 5-6
The science skills commonly acquired during the first year of formal schooling build on the curiosity which was fostered during the preschool years. Children who are 5-6 years of age are not only developing their skills for thinking scientifically they are able to begin learning scientific concepts that allow them to make connections with their environments and cause – effect relationships.
While all children will learn skills at different rates these are the common skills children will be achieving while at play.
5-6 year olds are learning through play
Just as in preschool, children of this age need opportunities to play and freely investigate ideas which are relevant to them. During play and construction, at this age, children are beginning to trial designs, with blocks, of buildings they see in their surrounding environment such as homes, schools and towers. The trial and error nature of play allows children to see simple cause and effect relationships happen such as when blocks need to be balanced or the tower will fall down.
5-6 year olds are learning to differentiate between living and non- living things
A pre-schooler can bring all objects to life with their imagination. A child who is 5-6 years old will see that there are differences between living and non- living things. Simple observations such as living things have babies, living things grow and change, living things can move are all observations commonly made at this stage of development. Children also begin to understand how the environment influences their lives. An example is “when it is raining I need a raincoat”, “when it is cold I need to wear a jumper and play inside where it is warmer”.
5-6 year olds can identify parts of their natural world
Children of this age are generally fascinated with nature and its endless variety of plants, animals and insects. At this age children can identify elements in their natural environment such as trees, rock, soil and water and understand that they are different to man-made objects in their home or classroom.
5-6 year olds use imagination, pictures and diagrams
Children at this age are beginning to observe, think and report about their scientific investigations. As they have not yet learnt the language to explain their thinking, children will use diagrams. Without prior knowledge to support their ideas children will create imaginative reasons for why things happen. These pictures and diagrams are representations of hypotheses and this skill should be encouraged.
5-6 year olds suggest reasonable ways to solve a problem
In addition to children using drawings to express their ideas, children at this age may begin to simply suggest ways to solve a problem. Children at this age rely heavily on what they can see in front of them and are not yet capable of abstract thought. They require many real life experiences so they can draw on prior knowledge for solutions eg I don’t want my ice block to melt so I will move out of the sun because last time it melted.
5-6 year olds are asking more detailed questions
Children of this age have progressed from “why?” to more specific questions. Asking questions is a skill which needs to be taught and modelled for young children. Children at this age will be able to ask questions about scientific concepts taught, however it is important that they have the freedom to pose questions which are relevant to them.
5-6 year olds benefit from technical language
It is easy for scientific concepts to be over simplified when being explained to children of this age. While it is true that they are not yet capable of abstract thought it is important to begin introducing some technical language. If the correct language is not used then children of this age can be easily confused and concepts are developed on misunderstandings. An example of this is “The sun has gone down” which would be better explained as “our side of the Earth has turned away from the sun”.
5-6 year olds are learning the concept of cycles
Children are now learning that changes often occur in a cycle, eg a life cycle, and that these changes have a pattern to them. Children identify their roles in these cycles eg “I planted the seed and watered it to help the plant grow” or “I was a baby and now I have grown bigger and soon I will be in primary school”.
Children are making simple observations and learning to record them. The development of these skills can best be supported by providing them with varied experiences and displaying an enthusiasm for investigating your world together.
Discover fun science experiments:
Read more about science:
- Science skills for pre-school children
- Science skills for 5-6 year olds
- Science skills for 7-8 year olds
- Science skills for 9-10 year olds
- Science skills for 11-12 year olds
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This article was written by Michelle Barrington for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading education resource for parents. Michelle is a teacher and mother of a toddler who blogs at Gee, You're Brave.