Science and nature play provides children with opportunities to explore their ideas about the natural world and learn about the world around them. This sort of play encourages children to develop their curiosity, ask questions, investigate their environment and learn about ways to find answers.

Learning and development
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BestStart is for families who want more from early-childhood education. Safe, nurturing and educationally focused, we’re committed to growing caring people with curious minds. Together we teach, learn and nurture.Our vision is to work in partnership with families, whanau and communities to enable children to achieve their learning potential.


This sort of play encourages children to develop their curiosity, ask questions, investigate their environment and learn about ways to find answers.

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Children of this age learn best through hands-on experiences with objects and substances. Often teachers are adding the science words into conversation as children are playing and exploring the objects they are most interested in.

Our centres have plants to care for and gardens where children can discover insects and other small animals. We have natural materials available in places where children can explore through playing– things like, leaves, rocks, shells, pinecones, wooden logs, all provide areas of interest that are a springboard for further investigation and learning. 

Science and nature play helps children learn to observe things closely, explain their thinking and communicate their ideas. They learn to classify, measure and predict. They create theories and try them out. They can experiment to see what happens if………. and explain their findings in their own way. All this enriches their understanding of the physical world around them.

Children are introduced to science and cultural ideas about nature. Through diagrams children learn about the anatomy of plants and animals and the life cycles of insects and animals and about habitats and ecosystems. They become familiar with everyday Māori and science names and concepts related to plants in Aotearoa.

Children are introduced to so many science ideas! They can learn what the earth is made of and tangible ideas about the moon, planet, stars and the idea of outer space.

They learn about a range of materials and their properties. They can learn how substances can react with each other. This includes the idea of solid, liquid and gas.

Children develop a growing awareness of simple, easily observed physical phenomena like sound, magnetism, gravity, electricity, and ideas about how objects move through force.

Science and Nature | Pūtaiao me te Taiao

Continuing the learning at home

Take a nature walk – observe what your children notice in nature and focus your conversations around this.

Plant seeds – make a vegetable or a flower garden - talk about germination, plant growth, what the plant needs to grow, what habitat it needs, how it produces flowers etc. Be careful that the things you are planting are not poisonous! Plant a fruit tree and observe how it changes and grows over the seasons.

Search for and observe small bugs and insects in your backyard or local nature reserve – what are the children most interested in knowing more about? Use a magnifying glass to look at the detail of the bugs and insects.

For infants and toddlers physics concepts related to force is the science closest to their natural exploration. Have push toys like large trucks, prams as well as pull toys like the busy bee. Rolling balls or cars down a ramp, PVC piping or a paper towel roll taped to a post or chair leg is fun to create and test. Have a bowl to gather the items once they have fallen and repeat!

For older children, making a marble labyrinth across a playground or back garden using planks and PVC piping leads to physics problem solving – does the gradient/incline of the ramp have an influence on the speed of a ball or toy vehicle?

Playing with magnets or magnetic games are always intriguing and a great way to get hands on learning.

Water, sand and messy play are great ways for children to explore properties and a range of substances that are safe and easily manipulated. They learn for example, the difference between wet and dry sand or that water can be frozen and then melted to return to water.

Make a volcano in the sandpit - looking at the reaction between vinegar and baking soda as a model of how lava may flow down a mountain.

Start a rock collection to explore and note similarities and differences.

Click here to learn how you can make a bug hotel
Click here for an erupting chalk ice experiment