Language development through science in early years foundation stage

The project recognises the importance of increasing children’s vocabulary by providing a rich language environment and high-quality interactions. Science in early years is taught through the area of learning ‘Understanding the World’.  It is a rich source of stimulus for language development, drawing on children’s curiosity about the world around them.

Supported by two early years specialist leaders of education (SLE), participants in this continuing development (CPD) programme explored the learning opportunities created by practitioner interactions with young children to extend vocabulary and improve language development through curiosity and investigation in science.

Project framework and aims

CPD included launch and plenary sessions at University of Hertfordshire, school based support and a gap task to implement and explore in classroom settings the approaches and ideas introduced at CPD. Schools borrowed an EYFS science resource kit for this.

Exploring the everyday opportunities in EYFS that provided scientific learning opportunities, this project aimed to:

  • extend knowledge around key questioning skills that will enhance children’s language and extend vocabulary
  • help teachers gain confidence in identifying, planning and delivering science activities in EYFS, both adult-led and by using teachable moments during child-initiated learning time
  • include teachers as part of an EYFS network providing support, advice and ideas

Activities, learning and outcomes

Participants planned and taught short projects on themes such as mini-beasts, structures, space, colour and light, and applied techniques and approaches to develop children’s language including:

  • Focusing on adult interactions and questioning
  • Laminating key questions and posting around classroom as staff prompts for open ended questioning
  • Using more open ended questions to create more valuable observations by children
  • Focusing on using scientific vocabulary and giving children more time to observe, investigate and compare
  • Introduction of provocation tables in classroom
  • Encouraging children to ask their own meaningful questions and draw conclusions based on scientific concepts, prior knowledge and research opportunities
  • Providing space and encouraging children to write their own answers to key questions
  • Introducing awe and wonder into the classroom through science focused activities such as sensory bottles, dark den and light play
  • Introducing Investigation Stations throughout the EYFS- in all 4 classrooms!
  • Introducing the 'Curiosity Cat' who guards the investigation station and encourages conversation and collaborative discussion
  • Using small world resources and a dark den to stimulate storytelling using scientific vocabulary

Impact and feedback

Teachers described ways that children’s language changed as a result of the projects. They noted renewed excitement for science investigations, which engaged children who wouldn’t have previously been engaged. The activities and approaches stimulated conversations arising from children’s enjoyment and curiosity.  In one school the activities were a motivator for boys writing with children using the scientific language modelled to them. In another, the words the children used in their stories from space demonstrated their deeper understanding of key scientific concepts such as 'gravity' and 'thrust'.  Renewed interest in researching using non-fiction books to support learning in their own time was also reported.

Teachers described changes in their practice:  they now use more open ended questions, give children more time to answer questions, more time to ask their own questions. They allocate more time for children to make quality observations and are conscious to use correct scientific vocabulary. Many encourage further investigations through open ended questioning and modelling ways in which science is awe inspiring. Displays of children’s work empower children's confidence and ability in science.

If you would like to know more about the language development through science in early years project which provides continuing professional development and kit for loan to schools please contact