What is Playful Science?

Playful Science offers resources for families to engage in "playful" science exploration in their everyday lives.

We develop activities and conversation starters that can aid families in identifying, discussing, and exploring science concepts and ideas that surround them in everyday settings.

We aim to design and research experiences that empower families to do and learn science practices together, and that empower parents to elicit and extend children’s curiosities.

Our approach to Playful Science

Science can mean different things to different people. We view science as a process of making sense of the world around us through questioning, observing, exploring, and experimenting to construct causal understandings of the world. Science is about asking “why” and "how" and then seeking out ways to understand.

When students get to generate their own ideas about the world and think of ways to find out more about it, they get valuable experience thinking like a scientist and often end up with deeper understandings of the phenomena and of the practices of science. We believe it is important for young children to gain confidence in their own ideas about the world and in their capacity to make sense of things for themselves and with others.

In our approach to science learning, we strongly believe that children's ideas about the world are the most important starting place. Adults are often great at tapping into children’s curiosities about why and how things happen, so thinking, learning, and doing science during family time can help adults and children see that science is everywhere, every day, and any time! Based on research that values children's ideas in science we endorse an approach to science learning that includes the following:

  1. Children and adults have the ability to think scientifically, just as scientists do! You do not need to know the correct answers to think scientifically.
    The goal of Playful Science is to help families give their children experience in thinking scientifically. So feel free to think and explore without the pressure of “getting it right." It is the thinking together in a scientific way that is important experience children can gain in family conversations.
  2. Science learning and enjoyment of scientific thinking is a process. Our ideas about the world evolve over time as we have new experiences and make new observations.
    We believe that “playful” family engagement with science should be less about finding out correct answers and learning facts, and more about asking and investigating “why” and “how” as you have new experiences and encounter new things in the world.

Suggestions for using Playful Science Activities

We believe that you can help support your child's engagement with science by doing some of the following things...

  1. Ask your child what their ideas are about “why” and “how”. Try to understand what they think about the topic or phenomena. Without making it seem like you have the right answers (or that only scientists have the right answers), throw some of your own ideas out there... generate a LOT of ideas together! Find out what your child is curious about and express what you are curious about.
  2. Point out inconsistencies in the ideas you generate. One goal of science is to make sense of conflicting information by investigating to find out more.
  3. Explore how your ideas fit with other things that you know. Are your ideas possible? Are they likely? Do they explain the “why” or “how”? Do they make sense based on other things you have seen or experienced?
  4. When you and your child are not sure what to believe (or which idea is most likely to be true), try believing one idea and see what you can figure out about it. Then try believing another idea.
  5. Find ways to learn more about your questions and ideas. Do simple tests (experiments, investigations), try things out in different locations and with different materials, and think about how your evidence supports or contradicts your ideas.

[Based upon ideas in the book: Seeing the Science in Children’s Thinking by David Hammer and Emily Van Zee, 2006]

We hope that the exploration prompts we provide inspire you to think of additional activities, ask more questions, and explore ideas and phenomena that are interesting to your family! The prompts are suggestions and guides, NOT scripts that must be followed exactly. When you start looking carefully you can find opportunities for scientific thinking in everyday life!

Visit our Contact page to find out more about the people working on Playful Science.

Playful Science on the App Store

Playful Science activities are coming to the iOS App Store! Because we are collecting data on how you use Playful Science to provide better experiences, you can view our Privacy Policy and GDPR Notice below.

Email Us

For specific inquiries: