Types of Materials (KS2) Explained

Two boys in blue shirts looking though a microscope and smiling.
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Materials are used to build everything in the world around us, from the glass in our windows to the clothes that we wear.

You can support your child as they learn more about the world around them by engaging with the wide range of materials that can be found in any home. There are lots of resources available to help you build your child's understanding of the properties of materials and their relevance to the primary school curriculum.

What Are Materials?

Materials are an important part of the Key Stage 2 (KS2) science curriculum taught in primary schools across the country. Materials are the substances that are used to make objects, including everything we use in the world. They can be grouped into five different categories. Each category is defined by its properties, which make materials useful for some purposes and less useful for others.

Top 10 Facts About Materials For Kids In KS2:

1.Materials can be divided into five categories; metals, glass, plastics, wood, and fabrics.

2.Metals are strong, hard and are often used for building durable items such as pots and pans. They can conduct heat and electricity very well, and some are magnetic.

3.Glass is a transparent material that can be found in windows and other items that need to be seen through.

4.Plastics are useful for many purposes. They are strong and do not conduct heat or electricity, so are often used in packaging, household objects, and other common items.

5.Wood is a material that we can commonly find in nature, as it is what trees are made out of. It is strong and can insulate heat and electricity, making it a top choice for houses and furniture.

6.Fabrics are used to make clothes and can have many different properties. They are made by weaving together small fibres to create the larger fabric.

Green/blue coloured fabric draped in a messy pile.

7.Plastics are an example of synthetic material, as you cannot find them in nature. Instead, they are created by using chemicals for a specific purpose. Plastic was  only developed in the 20th century, but are used often nowadays.

8.All building materials are solids, which means their particles are closely packed together and are difficult to break apart. The two other states of matter are liquids and gases, both of which have particles with different behaviours to solids.

9.Some materials are more environmentally-friendly than others. For example, most plastics are not biodegradable and will not be able to be recycled. Others such as metal, can be reused by heating and melting them into other objects.

10.On average, it takes around 500 years for plastic to decompose, so it’s important to change practices and use sustainable alternatives where we can.

What Are Some Examples Of Materials?

All of the five categories can be used to make a variety of objects. For instance, wood is used to make paper products. Metals are found in underground deposits and can vary in their properties. Iron and steel are very strong and can be used to construct buildings and other large structures.  Plastics were almost unheard of a century ago, but have been developed to be used in almost every area today. Laptops, bottles, chairs, and even clothes are all likely to have some plastic used to build them.

Two girls using screwdrivers to fix a metal contraption.

How Can You Bring The Classroom To Life?

In primary school, many kids will be excited to learn more about the ways science has an effect on their daily lives. Learning about materials is a great way to feed this curiosity! As part of the KS2 primary curriculum, children in Year 3 will need to learn about magnetic forces and experiment with a range of everyday items to test whether or not they are magnets. Testing materials for their magnetic properties can be a fun and easy way of linking the lessons of the Year 3 classroom to everyday life.

Another simple way to bring your child’s primary science class to life is to identify the different states of matter and how they can change. Year 4 students will be taught how to compare and group materials based on the state they are in. Water is an easy substance to use as an example of the physical changes of matter - freeze, melt, or boil water to demonstrate how temperature can affect the properties of water.

Hand getting a glass of water from the tap of the kitchen sink.

In the later years of primary school, students will begin to work scientifically and learn how to use skills that will help them prepare for secondary education. In Year 5, pupils will be taught to think critically to give reasons for the uses of various materials by relating their function to their properties. Parents can encourage older kids to find household objects, question why they are built using their materials and not others, and give reasons to support their ideas.

Materials are a great way to help your kids grow their understanding of the role science plays in their lives. You can encourage their interest by relating their primary classroom to their home, and simple experiments can be the building blocks for a lifetime of scientific inquiry.

A mother and her two sons doing an experiment on the kitchen table.

Glossary Of Terms:

Materials: The substances that form an object.

Properties Of Materials: The characteristics of different materials that define their purpose and appearance.

Natural Materials: These can be found in nature and can include living resources such as trees and inanimate materials such as metal deposits.

Synthetic Materials: These use natural materials to create a new substance.

Conductor: Conductors allow heat (thermal conductors) or electricity (electrical conductors) to pass through them easily.

Insulator: Insulators do not allow heat or electricity to pass through them easily.

Biodegradable: Biodegradable products can be broken down easily and recycled to make new objects.

Sustainable: Sustainable materials are resources that do not cause major damage to the environment.

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Disclaimer

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