Teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) provides your child with vital skills – which will help them progress in life.
STEM develops a love of learning and exploration in young children. The 21st century world means that technological innovations are more significant than ever – and in this knowledge-based, global environment, it’s never been so important to have higher level STEM capabilities. Here’s why STEM is important in the early years and the benefits it brings.
What Is STEM?
The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. It was created by the National Science Foundation – and refers to a way of teaching that incorporates one or more of these subjects.
STEM involves immersing the child in learning; allowing them to explore theories through real-life experimentation. It also develops their understanding in a variety of contexts; through play, exploration and building curiosity about science, technology, mathematics and engineering. Additionally, it fosters the development of STEM skills and competencies for further education, future careers, and life.
STEM is also interdisciplinary. For example, to solve problems, children often need to use both math and science, or engineering and math. Teaching STEM helps children to understand that they’re not learning four separate subjects – but are mastering a broad range of skills that can be used in a wide variety of situations.
A Real-Life Example
On paper, it may seem like an over-ambitious ideal – attempting to teach a young child about math, engineering, science and technology. However, the fact is that young children naturally engage with STEM all the time – and including STEM education in your everyday routine is easier than you might think.
Here’s an example of STEM in action. Let’s say you take your child outside. There are a variety of activities that they can undertake to develop their STEM education. They can practice counting objects; such as leaves or pebbles. These skills can be developed further through identifying objects, making patterns, building using rocks and twigs, or to making predictions based on observation.
This way of learning not only enables them to grasp key educational concepts – but allows them to learn in a way that is naturally engaging.
Why Is STEM Important?
STEM education offers a lot of benefits for your child, and encourages their natural curiosity to learn more about the world around them. Here are other benefits of STEM learning:
- Building On Natural Curiosity – All young children are, by their very nature, curious beings. They love to explore the world around them – and it’s the most effective way for them to learn. STEM builds on this, allowing them to learn through experimentation and hands-on activities.
- Long-Term Benefits – Studies show that exposing your child early on to STEM education can boost their future academic skills – making them more effective learners.
- Better Problem-Solving Skills – From a very early age, your child is encouraged to learn through testing, predicting, experimenting, measuring and planning. These are all valuable transferable skills and help children to solve problems later on in life.
- More Outdoor Exploration – STEM education lends itself perfectly to exploring the Great Outdoors. Engaging in STEM activities from a young age ensures that children are enjoying the benefits of being outside, and are away from the television or tablet!
- Encouraging Questioning Minds – STEM education actively encourages your child to keep asking questions. They may throw a rock into a pond, then ask you why it sinks. They might build a tower of blocks, then wonder why it falls down so easily. It’s the perfect opportunity to encourage enquiry and to answer their questions for them.
- Develops Initiative – Rather than passively receiving education, children are encouraged to take active control of their own educational development – turning them into active, involved learners.
Teaching STEM In The Early Years
Early learners are ideally suited to STEM concepts – and it’s easy to incorporate STEM teaching into your everyday routine. There are a variety of ways you can achieve this, but one of the easiest is to get them out and about in nature.
Whether it’s a beach, a woodland or even a local park, there are plenty of things outside that will excite your child’s curiosity and develop their enquiring mind. If you haven’t got any natural open spaces nearby, even being outside in the garden is effective – or creating a terrarium at home, growing seedlings in pots.
Remember, you can still use other forms of teaching to reinforce their STEM education. For example, programs like Wild Kratts focus on exploring nature, which can be used as a springboard for discussion – not to mention inspiration for future activities. Likewise, books and craft activities are also ideal for complementing a STEM education.
STEM Activities For Kids
If you’d like to incorporate some STEM activities into your child’s daily routine, here are a few great ideas to get you started.
- Explore Outside – There are limitless activities you can do with your young child outside. Create a list of things they need to find, and get them to count them as they go along. Build a den, or create a tower made from stones. Bring items home and get your child to sort them into categories, or make patterns from them.
- Test Out Physics – Create a ramp inside, and roll various objects down it, assessing which ones are fastest and why. Marble runs are also excellent for understanding the laws of physics. Build towers out of building blocks and ask your child to work out why some towers are less prone to toppling than others.
- Get Cooking – Follow recipes and get your child to measure and pour ingredients. Let them observe the cooking process, and gain understanding about how heat can change the consistency of food, and how some ingredients can be mixed together to create entirely new combinations.
- Science Experiments Using Household Items – Children love to experiment with the world around them, whether they’re pouring water in the bath-tub or building a block tower. Encourage their scientific, enquiring minds by using household items for experiments. For example, mix baking soda, vinegar and glitter to create a sparkling volcano, or mix cornflour with water and see if your children can figure out whether the mixture is a solid or a liquid!
- Grow an Indoor Garden – Grow plants from seed, and let your child count the leaves, and discover how water and heat can affect the development of the plant.
- Make Patterns – Use dried beans or uncooked pasta to create patterns, then glue them on to a piece of paper. Encourage your child to count them first and sort them into different categories. Use paint to create further differentiation.
Developing STEM Learning
There are a variety of toys that you can use to develop your child’s natural desire to experiment and explore. Visit the Kiddit site to discover a wide range of educational toys, designed to support STEM and engage your child even more in the process of learning.