It’s never too early to start a love of learning for your kids – particularly for the studies of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)! If you’re a parent of school-aged children (or possibly even preschool-aged children), you’ve been inundated with STEM in everything from classroom curriculum, to extracurricular clubs, to summer camp options. STEM – which is typically an acronym used to represent the learning disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math – has become a more prominent buzz word in the educational (and parental) arena in recent years as a result, at least in part, of a growing number of technology jobs in the US positioned against a lack of qualified US applicants to fill those jobs. While technology fields continue to grow at light speed, American students are falling behind other industrial, developed countries when it comes to preparedness to enter a technologically-driven workforce. So, naturally, STEM programs have become a focal point in educational programming, and parents now have ample opportunities to introduce their kids to STEM subjects. But how early can, and should, you start making your kids aware of STEM and its impact on their world? Experts argue that it is never too early to start!
According to a recent report published by The Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, children are capable of understanding and learning STEM concepts at a very early age, but cultivation of these skill sets requires intentional input from parents and other caregivers. These can be as simple as encouraging curiosity, thoughtful questioning, and deeper analysis from students even as they engage in free play. The following 8 suggestions were originally published in this article as additional ways parents can encourage their children to develop STEM aptitude as well:
1. Give children toys that have “manipulative elements” like balls and rattles. Ask children to control elements of these toys, like building higher towers or making the rattle softer or louder.
2. Have children explain how simple tools in your house work, like a can opener or a door hinge.
3. Allow infants to practice “repetitive play,” like dropping a spoon over and over, which helps the child learn about concepts like gravity long before they learn what gravity is.
4. Give children time to practice four kinds of play: pretend play that involves a child using their imagination; exploratory play where children create experiments or take things apart; guided play where adults play and interact with children, and free play without an adult involved.
5. Allow exploratory play (within reason and with safety in mind), even if that means a toddler may get dirty.
6. Ask “why,” “what” and “how” questions as much as possible to push children to explain their thinking.
7. Use complex and accurate vocabulary words, even with babies. Introduce them to words like “stable” when building a tower or “fragile” when touching objects.
8. Teach children that they are constantly learning by encouraging them to say, “I can’t do this yet” instead of “I can’t do this.”
As parents of toddlers and young children, there are plenty of opportunities to show our kids how STEM impacts daily living – from the weather, to the roads and bridges on which we drive, to how we make dinner each night. But if you’re looking for more meaningful ways to engage your child’s love for STEM, check out some of the ideas from the Great Kids! site:
The bottom line is that it’s never too early to introduce your kids to STEM topics. For families looking for a more in-depth introduction to STEM for their children, check out Club Z!’s STEM programs. Class sizes are small, to engage in more one-on-one learning opportunities, so call 800-434-2582 today to find out if there are still open spots in your town.