Component 2: Physical Science

Standard 2.a: Children gain increasing knowledge of basic concepts related to the properties of objects and materials, forces and motion, and energy (light and sound).

By the following age ranges, children typically, for example:

  • Explore the properties of objects and materials placed in their hands (e.g., handle a small toy and bring it to their mouth)
  • Notice, observe, and explore movement of objects (e.g., drop food from highchair; kick mobiles; open and close things)
  • Respond to sounds in their immediate environment (e.g., startle to loud noises; quietly attend to familiar voices; turn toward new sounds; make and repeat some sounds; shake arms to music)
  • Notice and attend to lights and objects that move and/or have light/dark contrasts (e.g., young infants may stare at ceiling fans; older infants may express fear of the dark)
  • Explore the properties of liquids and solids (e.g., squeeze, pat, and push on playdough; dump containers of water and sand)
  • Act on objects in different ways to make them move (e.g., experiment with push and pull toys; stack, knock down, and restack two or three blocks)
  • Choose items for play and routines based on their physical properties (e.g., choose a soft blanket or toy for rest-time)
  • Attend to music and move their whole bodies or sway to musical sounds
  • Express interest in how properties of objects and materials change and can be changed (e.g., notice ice melting, puddles forming and disappearing, bread changing to toast)
  • Describe properties of objects and materials using one or two words (e.g., wet, cold, soft, big)
  • Explore motion and how objects with different properties move (e.g., fill a wagon and try to pull it; roll balls; pull toy trains)
  • Experiment with making different sounds using their voices (e.g., louder and softer sounds; higher and lower sounds)
  • Attend to environmental sounds and identify the sources of familiar sounds (e.g., a dog barking, rain falling)
  • Notice and begin to explore their own shadows (e.g., move their bodies in different ways to see what their shadow does; may express fear of their shadows)
  • Demonstrate beginning understanding that different objects have properties that make them useful for different purposes (e.g., choose markers vs. pencils for different scribbling and drawing activities; choose hard vs. soft blocks for different building activities)
  • Imitate using familiar objects and tools for specific functions (e.g., use toy telephones for talking, play food for cooking play, blocks for building and hammering)
  • Demonstrate beginning understanding of ways in which the motion of objects can be changed (e.g., push a rolling toy with different degrees of force; pedal a tricycle harder to make it go faster)
  • Play with objects in different ways to explore the characteristics of the sounds that can be made with them (e.g., bang on containers and drums; shake sound canisters harder or softer; yell or whisper into cardboard tubes)
  • Explore shadows and reflections with increasing intentionality (e.g., move a flashlight in different ways to make a shadow dance or to change its size and shape; move a small mirror around to observe how their reflection changes)
  • Make and describe observations of properties using words to describe color, size, shape, color, weight, texture.
  • Sort a variety of objects into groups according to their physical properties or functions (e.g., sort by color, shape, size, use, or whether a material is natural or human-designed)
  • Choose objects for play based on one salient property (e.g., choose the tallest block to represent a tower; choose the fastest ball based on color)
  • Explore motion of objects with increasing planning and intentionality (e.g., put objects on different inclines to observe how they roll, slide, or stay put; test different objects in water to find out if they sink or float)
  • Demonstrate increasing understanding of how shadows change, and when and where they appear (e.g., represent differences between themselves and their shadows; observe how their shadows change size, shape, and position at different times of day)
  • With support, gain awareness of the characteristics of sound (e.g., demonstrate differences between loud and soft sounds and high and low sounds using musical instruments or their voices)
  • Make, describe, and compare increasingly detailed observations of objects’ properties (e.g., color, size, shape, texture, odor, material, features, use, sound, natural, or human-designed)
  • Consider multiple object properties when making predictions and doing investigations (e.g., explain that a wiffle ball will sink because it has holes that will let in the water; predict that the smallest, lightest ball will win the race)
  • Demonstrate increased understanding of structure and function in the natural and designed world (e.g., describe why spoons and forks are made differently based on their uses; design their block buildings differently depending on how people use the building)
  • Demonstrate understanding that properties of objects and materials may change when they are heated, cooled, or mixed (e.g., explain how a new color is made by mixing two other colors; predict that water will freeze at a colder temperature)
  • Demonstrate understanding that applied and natural forces cause things to move or change speed or direction (e.g., place walls along their ramps so toy cars won’t roll off; explain that the wind causes leaves to shake)
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