Informal science educators’ (ISEs) work with young children has received limited attention in the literature. We investigated ISEs’ goals for preschool-aged audiences (3- to 5-year-old children), methods they describe for achieving these goals, and how ISEs understand young children as doing science in their venues. We interviewed 35 ISEs working at informal science venues across the USA. Using thematic analysis, we generated codes and categories through iterative analysis of the interview data set. Our findings suggest ISEs most often described affective goals, conceptual learning goals, and a goal of increasing young children’s awareness of nature and their world. ISEs frequently mentioned hands-on or active educational methods, creative experiences, and memorable experiences as ways they achieve their goals. Though science practices were rarely described as a goal for their preschool-aged audiences, ISEs believe young children are capable of participating in the practices of science and frequently described ways they provide opportunities for young children to participate in science practices, such as asking questions and collecting data. Our findings suggest a starting point for the field to understand how ISEs are working with and thinking about preschool-aged audiences, providing leverages for future professional development to support and strengthen ISEs’ professional practice in engaging this audience in doing science.
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