Science activities for primary parents (Y1-6)

Here are some ideas for easy, fun science activities parents can do with their children at home. These are linked to the national curriculum for each year group, but feel free to pick and choose!

Year 1

Plant detectives!

Look closely at any plants or flowers you may have in your house or garden. Can you find spring flowers? Maybe you can look with a magnifying glass. Can you draw them? Can you label any parts? Think about roots, stem, leaves, flowers, buds. What jobs do each part do? You could make a model plant out of scrap materials – maybe a toilet roll stem, or a paper plate flower? You could do some beautiful flower paintings to brighten up your home.

Materials treasure hunt!

Can you find 3 things in your house or garden which are made of wood, plastic, glass, metal, water, or rock? Make a list. Which can you find the most of? Challenge a family member to a race!

Animal style!

Design a bed or pet food bowl for your pet or favourite animal. What would you make it out of? Why? For example, you might use wool to make the bed, but would you use it for the food bowl? Draw your design and label it.

Year 2

Animal habitats!

Imagine you are a zoo keeper and you are making a new zoo so all the children can see the animals. Can you design a new home for an animal? You will need to think about its habitat in the wild. A habitat is the place where an animal lives and includes the other plants and animals that live there, along with the water, weather and soil. Draw the animal in the home you have designed and label all the features, e.g. a pond for a frog to swim, flies for it to eat, a fresh stream for it to drink, mud for it to sleep in. If you can, research in books or the internet facts about the animal.

Time lapse animals!

With an adult’s permission, look at some time lapse films of animal life cycles on you tube (egg, chick, chicken; egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly; spawn, tadpole, frog). Can you draw or paint the life cycle and label the names of the different stages? Maybe you have modelling clay? You could make 3D models!

Year 3

Soil scientists!

If you are able to go into a garden or a park, take a few spoons of soil and bring it home. Look at it carefully – perhaps with a magnifying glass. What can you see? Remove any mini beasts! Now put it into a jam jar with a lid, fill with water and shake. Leave to settle for a day. Can you see any parts floating or sinking? Why might they float or sink? What different things can you see in the soil? Sand, pebbles, dead leaves and sticks, parts of living plants? Draw a picture of what you found out and label it. Which section would be good for a worm? Which parts are living, dead, or never alive?

Shadow puppets!

For this activity you will need a blank wall and a torch or lamp. Firstly, make a shadow on the wall with a piece of paper and investigate how you can make the shadow bigger or smaller. Should you move the paper or the lamp? Towards the wall or away from it?

Now you are going to make a more interesting shadow- a shadow puppet! Cut out a shape of your favourite animal and one of yourself. You may wish to put them on a stick if you have one. Can you make a shadow puppet play for your family? Could you make a monster shadow puppet?! Challenge: Using what you found in the first activity, can you show your puppet coming towards the audience (getting bigger) or going away (getting smaller)?

Year 4

Animal snap!

Firstly, you will need to understand the different types of animals; fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. If you don’t know these already, ask a grown up or look on the internet or in a book. You will need to know example animals in each category and what the differences are.

Ready? Well done! Now your job is to make a game of animal snap. Think of 2 or 3 different animals per category and draw and name the animal on small pieces of paper or card. For example, for fish I will draw salmon, tuna and angelfish. For amphibian I will draw frog, newt and salamander. Each animal has a separate card. Divide your cards into 2 piles and give one pile to a partner. Take turns to lay down one of your cards. If both the cards are from the same animal category, e.g. salmon and tuna, shout snap! First person to shout it wins the cards. Winner is the person at the end with all the cards.

If you want a challenge, try to include animals that your partner might not know- e.g. could you confuse them with an eel or a dolphin? You would need to prove to them that a dolphin is not a fish, using your science knowledge. You could also add categories of mini beasts such as snails and slugs, worms, spiders, and insects.

Year 5

Solar system shadows!

Think about your learning about the solar system. The sun is in the middle of our solar system, and the planets spin around it in orbit. Remember, the Earth is spinning to create day and night, and this apparent movement of the sun creates shadows of different lengths throughout the day. Firstly, if you have not investigated when shadows are longer and shorter, use a vertical stick to make a shadow at different times of day and record your findings.

Make a sundial!

Can you make a simple shadow clock or sundial, calibrated (carefully set up) to show midday, breakfast time and dinner time? I would use a pencil or stick held vertically to produce the shadow. How long will the shadow be at breakfast time? What position will it be in? You will need to make this over a whole day, or several if it is cloudy. Remember, you must keep your sundial facing the same way each time you use it. When you have made your sundial and drawn the position of the shadow at each time, you can then use the length of the shadow to tell what the time is. Your family will not believe you can tell the time only using the sun!

Make a ball thrower!

Research on the internet examples of levers in everyday life – for example, using a screwdriver to open a tin, or using a ball thrower for a dog. In the ball thrower example, you are using the lever to increase the distance that you can throw the ball. This will be today’s challenge. Can you use junk modelling or items you can find in your house to create a ball thrower? I would suggest using screwed up paper as a ball to avoid damaging things (and upsetting your family!). You could make it in an old cereal box and use a pencil as a pivot to secure your launcher. I am thinking of using elastic bands to power it. A plastic spoon would make a lovely ball thrower. Good luck!

Year 6

Animal adaptations!

Choose an interesting animal that you would like to investigate. One with big teeth or soft fur? You decide. Draw a large picture of your animal, or make a model out of junk modelling or clay. Now start thinking about all the different parts of its body. How do they help it to survive? For example, a polar bear has sharp teeth and claws to catch its prey, big paws to balance on ice and snow, thick fur to keep it warm, a sensitive nose to find food etc. Add labels to your drawing or a fact book with your model to show how your animal is adapted to its environment.

Light ray obstacle course!

For this experiment you will need mirrors or shiny reflective things. Maybe you have old CDS or tin foil or similar. You will also need a torch. Firstly, shine the torch at a wall and check you can see it. Now make a target out of paper and blu-tak it to the wall. Shine the torch on the target.

Next step- shine the torch away from the wall and use the mirror to reflect the light back onto the target. Experiment with what angle you need for different positions of the torch.

Now let’s make it tricky. You now need to use 2 or 3 mirrors and some books or similar obstacles. Can you make an obstacle course for the light? You will need to bounce (reflect) it from the mirrors to change the direction it is travelling in. Make a path of straight lines on the floor with sellotape (check with your grown up first!) and challenge a partner to direct the light along it.