Teaching children about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at an early age helps them to grasp fundamental concepts about the natural world, laying the groundwork and possibility for deeper learning.
Learning at home
STEM learning doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom – parents can support and aid early STEM learning too.
Tips and Ideas
In this blog we’ll give tips and ideas for how parents can seamlessly (and creatively) include these fundamental subjects in children’s early learning development.
‘Cook’ up an investigation
Encouraging hands on activities is always beneficial to a child’s development and has many intellectual benefits. Simple tasks such as baking a cake are a great way to engage children and build various skills such as maths, science and communication.
Exercises such as substituting different flavours and ingredients within the recipe can give them a good idea of what works well and what doesn’t. Obvious differences in tastes and appearance due to the substituted ingredients are a great talking point – conduct a taste test! Allowing them to measure out ingredients on their own is a good maths activity, adding another skill to the mix.
This idea doesn’t have to be limited to cooking or baking, link STEM to your child’s favourite hobby – whether that be painting, ballet, football or piano.
Think outside the box
Demonstrating STEM in everyday situations will make children realise that it isn’t just for the classroom. We use maths at the supermarket, science when contemplating the weather and most of us don’t go a day without encountering technology.
An everyday activity such as travelling in the car can put basic skills to the test. Encourage your child to calculate distance and time and develop an understanding surrounding this. Not only will this keep them busy, but you won’t have to hear the dreaded “are we there yet?” as they’ll be too occupied.
When you’re at the supermarket, put your child’s knowledge to the test by getting them to work out how much change they will get from a £10 note. Making quick calculations or estimates in their head is a great brain exercise. Even having them work out fractions and percentages with products on offer is a simple yet effective activity.
Make learning fun
Problem-solving, trial and error and critical thinking skills don’t have to be dull. Young children get excited about learning and enjoy it even more if it’s disguised as a fun and engaging activity.
If your kid comes home from school one day and says they “hate maths” or they’re “rubbish at science” take the time to change their attitude on this. Making STEM normal and applicable to everyday life will make it seem a lot less overwhelming to children – show them that they can learn about these subjects in all kinds of alternative ways.
Let them lead the way so that you can learn about what appeals to them. Once you have established what they are interested in, focus activities around these so that they can really excel within something that intrigues them.
Set foundations for the future
Kids need STEM skills to grasp essential concepts about the natural world and lay the groundwork for sparking curiosity but, more importantly, to create a solid foundation for them to enhance their skills in the future. This will give them the ability to follow all relevant steps in pursuing a STEM career path, if they wish to do so.
Whether your son or daughter aspires to be an aeronautical engineer, a maths teacher or a pharmacist, teaching them these fundamental skills early on in their education will not only encourage enthusiasm, but will allow them to succeed in further education in relevant subjects.
Most importantly… Curiosity is key
Take your kids on fun, but educational days out like to the aquarium or to a museum. Places like this spark natural curiosity for children and who knows, maybe you’ll learn something new too. Unfamiliar places make it necessary for children to ask questions and make them think in a different way. You can also ask them open-ended questions, to spark the imagination.
Going for an adventure in the great outdoors is also a great way to stimulate creativity. Whether you take your child to the local park or for a walk around the neighbourhood, they are bound to come across something they’ve never seen before. Encourage them to bring home nature items such as leaves, rocks and pine cones and let them study the items and learn about what they are/they do.
Solving problems together is also a great way to help them learn. Fixing things around the house or noticing issues when you’re out and about and discussing how you could solve them. And what’s more, you might get the DIY jobs done that you’ve been meaning to take care of for years!