What happens when materials vibrate? What can we see in the dark? How do the different characteristics of plants and animals help them survive and grow? These are some of the questions that first graders learn to ask and answer in science class. First grade science is all about observing patterns and understanding cause and effect in everyday life.

First graders will explore the concepts of sound and sight through observation and experiments. For instance, when you bang a spoon on a pan, it vibrates and makes a ringing sound. When you bang a bigger or smaller pan, what happens to the sound? When the room is dark, what can you see? What happens to the colors? When you switch on the light, what changes?

Students will also dive into the idea of structure and function in simple biological terms. In other words, how does the structure of the way something is arranged enable it to fulfill its function? They will begin to understand how plants and animals use their external parts (like beaks, tails, and thumbs) to help them survive. For instance, why are the wings of most birds lightweight and water resistant? So they can fly, even in the rain.

Kids will also discuss how plant, animal, and human parents help their offspring survive. In what way are young plants and animals like their parents? In what ways are they different?

How parents can help first graders learn science

Use some of your free time with your child to explore these ideas. Make sure it’s fun, playful, and open-ended. The idea is to explore ideas, much more than getting a “right” answer.

These three games will help your child understand the science concepts their teacher is covering this year. Even better, they are playful ways for you and your child to explore together.

Freaky Friday

Pretend your child is the mom or dad and you are the child or baby. (You can also pretend to be the mama or papa dog and puppy or some other animal family.) Challenge your child to come up with five things that the parent can do for the baby that the baby cannot do for themselves. While this may seem like a standard game for very young children, it helps your child think about how young animals are different from their parents in important ways.

Related 1st grade science worksheet: Animal homes

Bodypart charades

This is a fun game the whole family can play together. Everyone writes down five to 10 body parts of all different animals (including humans) on little scraps of paper and puts them in a bowl. One person picks out a piece of paper and acts out and describes the body part by answering “What do I do?” If the body part was a “cat tongue,” the player could say “I lick fur clean and taste meat” and then do their best to act it out. If it was “monkey tail,” the person could say “I swing from trees without hands or feet!”

Related 1st grade science worksheet: Body parts

Blind journey

Explore the landscape of sound by taking turns blindfolding the other and leading them around the house or the neighborhood. After the walks, talk about what sounds you each heard. What were the lowest sounds? What were the highest? Talk about how you think the sounds you heard were made. For instance, the whirl of the heater was made by hot air rushing through the vents. The plop plop of water dripping from a faucet was made by droplets of water striking the solid surface of the sink. Talk about which sounds were easy to identify and which ones were more mysterious, and why.

Related 1st grade science worksheet: Sounds from near and far