Science concept formation during infancy, toddlerhood, and early childhood: developing a scientific motive over time

Glykeria Fragkiadaki, Marilyn Fleer, Prabhat Rai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


A substantial number of empirical studies in the field of Early Childhood Science Education have explored science concept formation in early childhood educational settings. Most of these studies focus on the process of science concept formation during a teaching intervention or a school year period. However, less is known about how children form science concepts over the first years of their lives. This longitudinal study aimed at studying the process of science concept formation during the first five years of children’s life within educational settings. Following a cultural–historical approach, the study explored how children develop a science motive from infancy, toddlerhood, and into early childhood and how teachers create the conditions for the development of a motive orientation towards science over time. A cohort of 50 children in Australia participated in the study. Indicative case examples are presented. The research design drew on the Conceptual PlayWorld model, a collective form of practice for learning and development through imagination and play. Digital visual methods were used for data collection and analysis. The findings illustrated that a science motive is developed when the motive of play and the motive of learning in science are dialectically interrelated over time. It was also shown that teachers create a motive orientation towards science by introducing, maintaining, and transforming an ideal form of science in the children’s environment and by stimulating children to interact with mature forms of science. The study concludes with insights into early childhood science education research methodology, and implications that inform practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-294
Number of pages20
JournalResearch in Science Education
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • concept formation
  • early childhood
  • infants
  • motives
  • preschoolers
  • science
  • toddlers

Cite this