Approaches to learning about forces 

Scientists describe force as a push or a pull. Pushes and pulls can get things to move. They can also speed up or stop a moving object and change its shape and the direction in which it is moving. Forces cannot be seen and sometimes cannot be felt. Consequently, it is not surprising that many children and adults do not think about forces.

Practical experiences that help children to become familiar with the terms ‘pushing’, ‘pulling’, ‘floating’ and ’sinking’ would be a useful starting point for work on forces. These experiences will provide the basis for the work in the middle and senior classes, when children will develop an understanding of forces and their effects. At all stages it will be important that children can relate their science investigations to everyday experiences; they will be aware that force is applied when they pull the top from a pen, open and close doors, roll a marble or push a supermarket trolley.


Care should be taken during work on forces, because of the risk of injury resulting from moving objects.

Exemplar 30 illustrates an approach to the teaching of the topic of floating and sinking in infant and junior classes. Suggestions are offered for the organisation of the lesson and for the employment of strategies for the development of scientific skills.
Exemplar 31 describes how a unit of work on pushes and pulls can be structured for infant classes.