By you and for you! Exciting ideas for investigative play and STEAM learning in the early years

We asked you to share science experiments and investigative play activities that your children have loved doing. There were so many brilliant suggestions that we thought it would be helpful to collate some of them to inspire other practitioners and parents.



We love minibeasts! The three of us really enjoyed this activity where we observed insect silhouettes and recreated them using natural materials (see above).

The children really enjoyed pond dipping in our Belfast sink. It contains leeches, water louse, midge larva and various other creatures, amazing in such a small body of water. Kept the children engrossed for ages!

We love going on bug hunts and looking at all the different insects. The children noticed there were lots of different butterflies visiting our garden so we made a butterfly ID chart so they could look at the differences and colours! It was amazing.

We have had a new play area built recently and all the children and holiday club enjoy digging and exploring for minibeasts. The other day we did find a new one, the children and staff had never seen. A stink bug. Some of the older children then went and made it a home.

We loved collecting woodlice and then investigating which habitats they liked the most – wet/dry/dark/light.

The children in our nursery group have been immersed in the wonder of nature from creatures that fly to creatures that wriggle. Lots of spontaneous learning opportunities leading to many questions and some internet researching for some answers. Some children have overcome their fear of some creatures whilst others have shown their confidence and knowledge too. We also had a snail race too and discovered that the smaller snails followed direction whilst the larger snails decided to have a siesta.

Life cycles and growing

We grew beans inside a jar lined with tissue paper, and every day looked at the growth and tried to predict what would happen next, it was great with my four little ones seeing that growth.

We have been learning about the life cycle of a butterfly and have our very own caterpillars to study. They are in their cocoons and have just been moved into their butterfly net.

Life cycles and growing

Sensory experiments

Covering ourselves in clay/mud and feeling it dry on our skin, learning about textures and evaporation!

I made frozen dinosaur eggs and my daughter enjoyed helping to free the baby dinos and melt the ice. She used salt, vinegar and warm water with pipettes and spoons to speed the process. Great learning!

We love exploring different textures and marks and making lots of different colours. My daughters loved the sensory ice and my eldest loved acting out the bear hunt feeling different textures with her feet.

We began by exploring mixing colour and then progressed to see if we could make ‘skin’ colour and how there are so many variations!

Sensory experiments

Natural explorations

My two boys spent AGES looking at rocks in the river and which ones made the best ‘sploosh’ noise. They were categorising naturally by colour, size and texture. It was amazing to watch and they had a ball!

We have been out hunting for footprints and trails, then using Plaster of Paris to mix and make a mould of the different prints.

We love investigating the beach, we are lucky to have our playgroup on the sea front. We find sea creatures, driftwood, plastic that we collect and recycle. We love the endless play opportunities that the beach provides us all year around.

My just turned 2yr old has really loved when I create rock pools for him. Bubbly water in a tuff tray, then hiding shells, stones and small sea creature toys in it. He spent ages investigating using shells to scoop the bubbles, hiding the crabs etc, and stacking the stones.

We love anything to do with the water and designed our own boats out of natural items to see what floated or sunk! Then we added sails to see how we could make them float faster. Lots of working out the best part of the river to float in as we talked about currents as well as water depth!

Natural explorations

Kitchen science

We enjoyed milk experiments yesterday with food colouring and washing up liquid. They added pipettes and make pictures with the coloured milk letting it dry to see the creations.

We loved watching the colours mix from placing skittles around a plate and adding water!

My children absolutely love using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. This time I added a touch of food colouring to make different colours, they love listening to the fizzing!

Little one decided to make ammonite biscuits, I loved the idea and never thought they could be used for baking, we are trying out other sets next!

Kitchen science

Investigative play

My boys enjoyed making rafts/boats for Lego figures whilst testing different materials. We linked it to their learning about money by seeing how many penny coins their foil boats could hold. Lots of fun learning through play!

Film canister rockets with water and vitamin tablets… we looked at how high they could fly and what would make them fly higher.

Investigating floating and sinking with layered coloured liquids, water, washing up liquid and cooking oil. Some objects get suspended in different layers, some sink completely. Loads to discuss and discover!

We love water play with added food colouring in jars – they use the pipettes and syringes to transport the water to other jars creating new colours and therefore learning about primary and secondary colours.

We love investigating and before lockdown my group of kids looked at how rainwater became clear when passing through different grounds.

Investigative play

With thanks to everyone who entered our ‘Investigative Play Giveaway’ on Facebook and shared their exciting ideas!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *