Play idea: Science and nature – Pūtaiao

Children are engaged in science whenever they are learning about the world around them.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • All Early Learning Services 
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • Service Managers
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

This sort of play allows children to develop a perception of themselves as ‘explorers’ – competent, confident learners who ask questions and make discoveries.

Science and nature can help children to

  • learn to question and investigate
  • think and act
  • discover how nature works
  • learn the correct names for animals, plants and nature
  • care for the well-being of others, including plants.

Adults can support children by

  • nurturing their sense of exploration and curiosity
  • creating an environment that promotes observation, exploration and explanation
  • asking questions e.g. What do you think might happen? Why do you think that happened? What do you see happening?
  • inviting them to describe what they see
  • supporting them to touch, taste, listen, see and smell the items
  • encouraging them to come up with their own explanations.

Providing for science and nature

Provide a low display table so children can touch, feel and smell the items. Provide a range of items and perhaps try to include a different item each day.

Science learning also involves activities such as preparing and cooking food, caring for plants and animals, playing with water and ice, recycling and caring for the environment. Even taking apart old equipment to see how things work inside does involve science.

Ideas for equipment

  • non-poisonous plants, flowers, leaves and vegetables
  • bones, fur and feathers
  • glass, metal and plastic items
  • information about nature, animals, electricity and other sciences
  • rocks, stones and shells
  • magnifying glasses, magnets and books.

Te Whāriki

Science and nature play supports learning across all strands of Te Whāriki. In particular, it supports the Exploration strand, where children learn strategies for active exploration, thinking and reasoning. They also develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical and material worlds.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

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