Looking for some nature-inspired science activities for toddlers? This fall science center is appropriate for toddlers as well as preschoolers, allowing the children to explore all the colors, smells, textures and sounds to autumn that we all love so much.
So…it’s kinda like a fall science bin for toddlers, too!
Toddler Science and Sensory Bin Activities
I adore any science center that is based in nature, and the fall season provides so much inspiration!
This is simple to put together, but as always I’m in awe of the learning that naturally took place once my preschoolers got their little hands on the materials. With just some gourds, pine cones, dried corn leaves and tassels, and some fallen leaves, this science center has kept my toddler class busy learning for several weeks, and for upwards of forty five minutes at a time!
You can’t beat learning activities that are so engaging! Id if it’s a science activity for kids, well, even better! We are always looking for more ways to add science projects to our lesson plans, right?
FAQ About Teaching Science to Young Children
The items you include in a preschool science center should be determined by the learning goals for the center. Items should allow children to work and explore in a hands-on manner. Always add realia (real life materials) whenever possible. Include real photographs, too. Science tools for the preschool classroom can include:
~ magnifying glasses
~ platform scale or balance scales
~ measuring tubs
~ note pads and colors for observations
Preschoolers are naturally inquisitive and full of questions, so it makes sense that teachers should take advantage of that curiosity in the classroom. A science center in preschool can channel their enthusiasm for scientific discovery. It can seed a life-long interest in STEM fields, therefor increasing the likelihood of entering the field in adulthood.
Preschool science centers are also important because they are developmentally appropriate. Science centers tend to be process driven and hands-on, which increases critical thinking skills and creativity.
The easiest way to integrate science in literacy activities is to teach science based preschool themes. These themes can be anything from a farm theme or winter theme to space or dinosaurs.
Themes should include a wide variety of books, both informational and fiction stories. Vocabulary words with pictures can be hung in the classroom and used when teaching literacy concepts, too. Science concepts can be taught through emergent readers, too.
Fall Science Activities Using Natural Items
Don’t be fooled into thinking this learning center is too simple. Your toddlers and preschoolers will learn so much, and all of it in a natural and playful way!
These items are not all required. Just pick and choose what you have readily available. The key to making this into a favorite fall activity for your toddlers is to offer a variety of items with a variety of textures. This will add to the sensory piece toddlers love.
How to Create a Fall Science Center for Preschoolers and Toddlers
This part is simple. Just find a bin and place everything inside it. I like to use old Melissa and Doug toy bins. Place like items together. They will get all mixed up with use, but then your toddlers can practice matching materials and sorting them when they are done playing for the day.
How Toddlers Engage in Science Activities
Usually, the fist thing a preschooler does is grab the magnifying glass to look closely at the materials. This toddler is looking closely at a pine cone, which she reports to be pokey on her fingers and black on the inside.
There are three different kinds and sizes of pine cones, and she looks at each one, doing her best to identify and put into words what she sees. These observations are important and part of how toddlers learn science.
Toddlers and preschoolers love to use magnifying glasses. In fact, they are one of my favorite science tools to use with all our toddler science activities.
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I also offered this science activity to my preschool class. One of my preschoolers comments on how bumpy it is, that she thinks it’s weird looking, and asks, “Can we eat it like a pumpkin?” This is a good question for her to ask, and shows how she is making connections to other experiences she has had with things that are similar.
She also talked about how she likes the color, and then wonders aloud is pumpkins can also be “white-ish, yellowish.” These questions give me guidance on how I should expand the fall science center to help her answer her questions.
Another toddler lined up all the gourds so she could look closely at each of them. She discovered they are different colors and different textures.
By handling them she also commented on how some of they are heavier than others. And then she picked up the gourd that has begun to dry out and the excitedly shakes it to listen to the seed rattle inside. “It makes noise!”
Then she stopped and looked at the gourd, picked up another and shook it. “Why doesn’t this one rattle?” The second gourd hadn’t dried out yet, so it didn’t rattle, but this discovery lead us into learning about the things that make up a gourd.
This toddler looks at all the pine cones and carefully lines them up. He is young enough that he still doesn’t consistently identify big or small, but placing them in a line is how is organizes the materials and categorizes them, which is part of being a scientist. He is identifying that three pine cones are different from the other items in the wooden boxes.
And let’s not forget the dried corn tassels. Here are some things that happened with them:
- They can be used for tickling classmates.
- If they are mishandled, they will crumble and fall apart.
- If they are purposely crumbled, they make a big mess like confetti.
- They make noise as they move.
These were a favorite of my younger toddlers. This sensory experience shows them that whole things can be taken apart and made into pieces and smaller parts. They were messy. They were picked it apart and sprinkled in the bin and on the floor.
Tips for Doing Science Activities with Toddlers
Toddler science can be tricky. Here are a few tips to keep you going.
- Keep things simple.
- Science aligns closely to play ideas and sensory experiences.
- Keep the mess contained by using bins.
- Or, take the mess outside or place a king-size flat sheet under the science center.
More Science Activities for Preschoolers and Toddlers
Teaching kids science is so fun! From sink or float science activities to baking soda and vinegar, here are a few easy science activities to keep your kids exploring.
I’m Sarah, an educator turned stay-at-home-mama of five! I’m the owner and creator of Stay At Home Educator, a website about intentional teaching and purposeful learning in the early childhood years. I’ve taught a range of levels, from preschool to college and a little bit of everything in between. Right now my focus is teaching my children and running a preschool from my home. Credentials include: Bachelors in Art, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.