The UK national science curriculum for early years education focuses on helping children become familiar with scientific concepts and ways of working, with biology, chemistry and physics emerging as defined core subjects in KS3.
Although chemistry isn’t taught as an individual subject, getting children familiar with topics that chemistry deals with like the changing states of matter and cause and effect is important. This will inevitably give them the foundational understanding to take on more complex ideas when they need to.
In this article, we’ll provide some resources on helping primary school children become familiar with chemistry through activities and experiments.
In Key Stage 1, children are in the exploratory stages of science and should be encouraged to experience and observe things happening in the natural world around them. Students are invited to question their environment in a way that leads to scientific enquiry and to answer their own questions by observing patterns and changes over time. Classifying, grouping and comparing activities at this stage help children to find solutions using secondary sources of information.
Learning should be practical and visual with the support of books and videos to stimulate first-hand experiences and understanding.
In Key Stage 2 children are ready to begin more complex and independent learning in preparation for secondary school where chemistry teaching will formally begin. Scientific thought should be approached through testing out and developing simple theories and ideas, questioning what they observe.
Students should be encouraged to carry out their own experiments and hypothesise about likely and unlikely outcomes and why, drawing conclusions to be able to explain what has happened verbally and in writing. A fun role-play activity like looking at Prepared Microscope Slides can get KS2 students interested in using tools to observe things in different ways.
Chemistry teaching resources
Whether you need to plan a whole term of lessons, or just need a last-minute activity to fill up a ten-minute gap in your plan, you can find an extensive supply of chemistry activities, games, tests, lessons, presentations and demonstrations here.
If you’re looking for new chemistry teaching resources the Royal Society of Chemistry is the best place to start. It is the largest non-government UK resource for chemistry education, supporting early years science all the way up to higher education. Although not a government institution it works closely with the UK government as well as professional bodies in the Chemistry sector to provide a cohesive approach that fit in alongside the UK curriculum.
Primary school resources cater to years four to seven years old by supporting teaching with ideas for activities, experiments, and demonstrations. Resources deal with chemistry topics such as grouping and classifying materials, properties of materials in everyday use, and chemistry in sport.
Divided by academic year and topic, the STEM website offers activities, videos and worksheets, including those which are suitable for home teaching. These are a great source of inspiration and starting point for lessons and demonstrations. Chemistry topics include states of matter, materials and their properties.
STEM is also home to a number of resources to support teachers in their professional development, helping them to build on their own understanding of the subject matter and teaching techniques through CPD courses, STEM clubs and communities.
Twinkl is a vast content library of over 525,000 helpful downloads for lessons in virtually any subject, including chemistry. Resources are split up by age group and subject, with KS1 chemistry topics like everyday materials and general investigation. KS2 chemistry resources cover materials and their properties in more depth.
Resources on the website can support teachers in almost any situation, from providing access to full lesson plans to individual activities to assessments and games. Carefully planned out science experiments mean you have access to hundreds of safe classroom demonstrations.
Chemistry Experiments for Primary School
Learning through interaction is important in early years settings as this is when children begin discovering and exploring the world around them. Find an almost endless supply of chemistry experiment ideas and plans for KS1 and KS2 on these websites:
The University of Warwick hub for chemistry in schools caters to all school ages, including primary school years. Teachers can find a list of simple chemistry experiments here, each complete with a video demonstration and PDF download with instructions and challenges to help students think independently about each task.
Each experiment demonstrates the fundamental principles in science and encourages children to apply their learning to chemistry in their science syllabus. Immersing students in the environment of practical learning is important when carrying out experiments. Setting up a ‘lab’ with special science equipment like a Liquid Volume Measuring Set and Jumbo Test Tubes help accustom them to these types of lessons.
Springboard Supplies Liquid Volume Measuring Set
Science Sparks’ list of ‘brilliant science experiments’ uses everyday items like balloons, lemons, and sweets to create experiments that children can relate to and can demonstrate to others under supervision. The goal of Science Sparks is to introduce students to experiments at a younger age to stimulate their curiosity and help them become accustomed to the structure of experiments including hypothesising, testing and observing.
Providing students with Safety Goggles during practical learning at an early age helps to solidify the importance of their own safety and those around them.
Originally created by the PSTT to support remote learning, Science Fun at Home is a website full of experiments that can be easily carried out at home or in school using household materials safely with an adult present. Immersive topics for different age groups are split up into ‘Earth Explorers’ for KS1 and ‘Challenge Chasers’ for KS2.
The experiments are kept extra simple, each on a two-page sheet with clear instructions and follow up activities. These are ideal activities to give out as supervised homework, conduct in class or plan for teaching assistant support.
For a straightforward way to introduce children to chemistry take a look at our Springboard Supplies Chem C500 set. This set will introduce your students to chemistry through 28 classic experiments including reactions of different states of matter, acids and bases, and fizzing reactions.