Children are natural scientists. They are constantly observing the world around them, experimenting with anything they can get their hands on, and asking A LOT of questions. These are attributes that can help with higher education and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) related careers later in life. Because you are your child’s first teacher, it is important to inspire, nurture, and support your child’s learning. Here are 5 ways you can support STEM skills at home.
1. Encourage Observation
Observation is one of the most important steps in the scientific process.
Have your child notice things in his or her environment and share your observations, too.
Example: the way raindrops make waves in a puddle, how the wind makes a tree sway, new flowers blooming, etc
2. Encourage STEM Language
Try to integrate STEM language into everyday life.
When watching a movie, ask your child, “What do you predict will happen next?”
Ask your child to describe what he or she sees, feels, or hears.
When a child sees a rock or leaf outside, ask him to describe the color, shape, size, or texture.
Ask your child to describe what she is doing or what she did.
Example: When your child is building with blocks, ask her to describe what she is building, what materials she is using, and how she is using the materials.
3. Encourage Questions and Model Curiosity
Children are naturally curious. Support their curiosity by asking them “what” questions instead of “why” questions.
“Why” questions suggest there is a right answer, which can make young children hesitant because they don’t know the answer.
“What” questions help build confidence and communication skills as you give them questions they can answer.
Example: If you ask, “Why does the paper clip stick to the magnet?” the child may not know the answer. Instead, ask, “What happens to the paper clip when it is near the magnet?” This is a question a child can answer with confidence.
When a child asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, show him that it is okay to not know all the answers. Model ways to research and find the answers.
4. Encourage Your Child to Build Computational Thinking Skills
Computational thinking skills might sound intimidating, but it’s really just a way to solve problems. These STEM-related skills are essential to the fast-growing field of computer programming.
Computational thinking includes recognizing patterns and sequences, creating and using a series of steps (algorithms), and finding ways to deal with complex problems. Incorporate these skills with familiar activities.
Example: Have your child explain the steps to drawing a picture, telling a story, or making a bowl of cereal.
5. Show Interest in STEM
Studies show that when parents are involved in their children’s education, children feel more confident and engaged in their learning.
Adults’ attitudes about STEM education influence children’s own views and beliefs about STEM.
Connect STEM to other interests and hobbies your child has.
Example: If your child likes cars, explore how toy cars travel down different ramp heights. Find ways to make toy cars go fast or slow down the ramp.
Fostering STEM skills at home will not only help your child succeed in education, but also help him or her face everyday problems with confidence.
About The Author Tiffany Rivera graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in Family and Human Development and is currently studying for her Master’s degree in Elementary Education. She has over 10 years experience as a preschool teacher and has also taught elementary-high school English in South Korea. Tiffany is currently working for Evan-Moor’s editorial team, where she writes fun and engaging books for young children and classrooms.