Have you noticed that young kids love to explore and are naturally curious too? Our job as “teachers,” whether that means parents, school teachers, or caregivers, is to provide them with meaningful ways to discover and explore the world around them. A fun preschool science center or science table is fantastic for engaging kids with hands-on learning at home or in the classroom!
What is a Preschool Science Center?
A preschool science center for 3-6-year-olds is an educational space within a preschool or early childhood education setting or at home designed to engage young kids in hands-on exploration. Often the activities are open-ended and made available for a week or so before switching to a new theme.
TIP: There are so many themes that can be explored. It’s best to ensure each theme does not try to cover too much at once. Break down a larger topic or season into several mini units.
The main goals of a preschool science center are to foster curiosity, encourage critical thinking, and promote a basic understanding of the theme and how it relates to the world around them. Let them touch science!
Key Features Of A Science Center
The science center typically includes interactive exhibits and displays that allow children to manipulate objects, conduct simple experiments, and observe natural phenomena.
The center provides a variety of hands-on activities that encourage children to touch, feel, smell, and experiment with materials. These activities are designed to be age-appropriate and safe, promoting sensory exploration and motor skill development.
Kid-friendly scientific tools such as magnifying glasses, microscopes, and measuring cups are perfect to have available. These science center materials help children make observations and measurements, fostering their scientific inquiry skills and more. Check out all of our favorite science tools here.
TIP: You can pair science tools with a bin of water or other filler and include rocks, nature items, shells, and other things to examine.
Books and Visual Aids
Preschool science centers often have a selection of age-appropriate books, posters, and visual aids that provide additional information and context about the scientific concepts being explored.
Educators or caregivers may facilitate guided exploration sessions where they introduce a particular concept or activity, ask open-ended questions, and encourage children to think critically and discuss their observations.
The science center can have rotating themes or activities to keep children engaged and excited. This could include changing exhibits based on seasons, holidays, or new scientific discoveries. Check out the fun and easy to set up ideas below!
Why Are Science Centers Important For Preschoolers?
A science center or discovery table for young kids is an excellent way for kids to investigate, observe, and explore their interests at their own pace. These science areas or tables are usually filled with kid-friendly materials that don’t need constant adult supervision.
A science center may have a general or specific theme depending on the current season, interests, or lesson plans! Here are some key benefits of a science center! During the use of a science center, kids are…
- Learning how to use a variety of everyday science tools.
- Sorting and classifying different materials and noticing characteristics that differentiate objects.
- Measuring using non-standard measuring tools such as unifix cubes or a balance scale but can also include the use of rulers for standard measurement.
- Building, engineering, and constructing with a variety of materials while learning about famous landmarks, bridges, and other structures.
- Observing and examining objects to see where they fit in the world.
- Drawing what they see through collecting data and analyzing what’s happening.
- Making predictions about what will happen. Will it sink or float? Is it magnetic? etc.
- Talking and sharing with peers about what they are seeing and doing.
- Problem-solving and working through their ideas.
- Getting excited to find out more and learn more.
Areas of Science To Study In Preschool
Categories for preschool science centers vary from physical science to life science to Earth and Space sciences. Common preschool science topics include life cycles, how plants grow or parts of a plant, weather, seeds, space, all about me, and scientists.
A fun introduction to a science table might be to set up a “Science Tools” center with the printable science cards below. Add some kids’ lab coats, protective eyewear, rulers, magnifying glasses, plastic test tubes, scale, and various objects to observe, examine, and measure!
Make sure to pull out as many picture books as possible on the chosen science center theme to have available. One of the jobs of a scientist is to research what they are studying!
Our I Can Explore Science unit is perfect for getting started with a science theme!
Preschool Science Center Bundle
This year, we are adding a growing resource of complete preschool themes with book lists, hands-on activities, and more.
Note: This is a growing resource, and purchasing the bundle will automatically send you future units.
Each preschool unit contains approximately 15 activities, with instructions and templates as needed. Hands-on activities are provided to keep it fun and exciting. This includes sensory bins, experiments, games, and more! Easy supplies keep it low cost, and book suggestions add to the learning time.
Preschool Science Center Ideas
Note: All of the specific packs below are included in the Growing Preschool Themes Bundle featured above!
Explore penguins as part of your preschool winter theme this season! Learn about the life cycle, their habitat, and more! Learn more about the penguin preschool theme here!
Try these hands-on penguin activities for preschool!
Continue to explore the winter season with arctic animals! The arctic animal preschool theme is a great way to introduce animals from the arctic biome.
Preschool Winter Theme
It’s a winter wonderland of preschool activities exploring favorite themes within the winter season! Activities, games, puzzles, literacy station ideas, and more complete this general winter theme. Arctic animals will be a separate theme coming soon. To explore the preschool winter pack, click here.
Check out our entire Preschool Winter Theme here.
Explore the 5 senses, sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch with hands-on activities, games, and various activities to add to a 5 senses preschool science center!
Find more free 5 senses activities here.
Every kid can be a scientist! Young scientists can easily learn basic science concepts, try simple science activities, explore basic science tools, and more through games, activities, and fun projects with a preschool scientist themed center.
Check out our fantastic list of Preschool STEM Activities here.
One of the best science activities for our youngest scientists is learning about themselves first! Emotions, likes and dislikes, favorite things, different faces… learning starts right here with an All About Me-themed preschool center.
Take a look at our All About Me Collage here.
Preschool Shapes Theme
Learning shapes in preschool is essential for cognitive development as it helps kids understand and recognize the basic building blocks of objects around them. It lays the foundation for mathematical concepts, spatial awareness, and problem-solving skills. Additionally, teaching shapes in preschool fosters early communication skills as kids describe and compare the shapes they encounter in their environment. Get your I Can Explore Shapes Preschool Pack here.
Try this Shape Art Activity here.
Preschool Math Theme
Preschoolers should learn math skills because it’s like unlocking a treasure chest of fun and discovery. It builds a strong foundation for logical thinking, problem-solving, and a lifelong love for learning, preparing them for a future where math is not a challenge but an exciting adventure. Start your preschooler with our fun preschool math pack.
See more Preschool Math activities here.
Apple theme activities include the apple life cycle, parts of an apple, an apple taste test, apple games, and more! Click here to read more about the preschool apple activities pack.
Preschool Pumpkin Theme
Pumpkin activities are perfect for a fall preschool theme in October and November! Explore the life cycle, parts of the pumpkin, pumpkin games, and more. Click here to read more about the preschool pumpkin pack.
Preschool Fall Theme
In addition to exploring apples and pumpkins, you can also explore a general fall theme! Fun, hands-on activities like matching the sound, guessing the object, fall sensory bin, and playdough mats are perfect for welcoming the season. Take a closer look at what’s inside the preschool fall pack here.
Preschool on the Farm Theme
Fall on the farm is a fun time to explore the life cycle of corn, paint with popcorn, sort seeds, and build scarecrows! Set up a fall farm theme with this interactive pack for farm activities for preschool.
Preschool Thanksgiving Theme
Get ready for Thanksgiving celebrations with this easy to use Thanksgiving theme pack complete with hands-on activities, games, and printables to make learning about this special day a ton of fun. Read more about the preschool Thanksgiving pack here.
Science is fun outdoors too! Take your preschool science center outside. Even better, take your kiddos outside to experience different seasons and the changes that take place! Check out how we set up an outdoor science and nature discovery area.
Preschool Magnet Theme
Setting up a magnet center is a great way to prep for a group of kids using the materials. A magnet discovery table allows kids to explore magnets in various ways. Try more magnet activities, including painting and sensory bottles to add to your themed table, including this preschool magnet activity.
How to Set Up a Science Lab
Additionally, if you want to set up a simple science lab see how we made ours and what kinds of supplies we filled it with too!