Conceptual PlayWorld for infant-toddlers: the unique nature of becoming a science learner in the early years of life

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In recent years, limited research attention has been directed to what happens in science education before the age of 3 years. We present the findings of a study that followed 13 infant-toddlers aged 0.1–2.2 years (mean 1.8 years) and their educators from a childcare centre. Under the conditions of an educational experiment, the results of our study identified how scientific experiences build empirical knowledge in the context of an imaginary play problem, where infant-toddlers are resourced with content about the phenomenon and, in the drama of the play, build a relationship with a science concept. Early forms of scientific investigation processes were identified, problematising the current low expectations of what might be possible in science education for this age group. Our findings add to understandings about the earliest forms of learning in science in group care settings and introduce a model of practice called a Scientific Conceptual PlayWorld for infant-toddlers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-338
Number of pages24
JournalResearch in Science Education
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Cultural-historical
  • Imagination
  • Infants and toddler
  • Play
  • Science education

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