In today's workforce, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills are in demand more than they have ever been before. The job opportunities in STEM are endless and these types of jobs make important and crucial contributions to society. Getting your child into STEM at a young age is a great way to peak their interest in all things science, technology, engineering and math, and set them up for success in these fields!
You may be thinking, why focus on STEM learning at such a young age? Well - when you look at the bigger picture, the importance of STEM skills and education in society is obvious. We are in the midst of a global shift towards STEM fields - from engineers to scientists to researchers and more. Students who have access to STEM skills at a younger age develop a better grasp of the world around them and are enabled to form interests and passions relating to the digital economy, programming, robotics and more (MCA Learn).
Simply put, setting your child up for success in STEM later in life starts now. Here are 5 practical ways to get your child involved with STEM learning and excited about its opportunities:
4 Practical Ways To Get Your Child Excited About STEM
Apply STEM learning to everyday situations
Science, technology, engineering and math live in everyday parts of our lives - not just in textbooks! Especially in our day and age, technology is used in so many situations, whether it be creating music, drawing, creating a game, and more. Most of us encounter technology every single day. Make it a point to point out the everyday STEM applications you come across to your child to get them curious about the world around them.
For example, when at the grocery store, challenge them to calculate how much change you will receive after paying with a $20 bill. Or, next time you bake a cake, challenge them to understand and apply the basic cup and tablespoon measurements that go into following a recipe. Small tasks like these encourage curiosity and learning which is exactly what we are aiming for!
Emphasize the diversity that exists in STEM careers
STEM is for everyone! Show your child media (television, movies, books, etc) with all types of people in STEM careers. It’s important that your child sees themself and feels represented within STEM industries to gain the curiosity of pursuing STEM in the future.
Another important thing to note is that representation starts at home. Refr
ain from referring to toys as “boy toys” and “girl toys”. Toys are just toys, and all children can play and explore with toolboxes, dolls, cars, or kitchen sets. Limiting your use of gendered terms as a parent can help combat some of those ingrained stereotypes that exist within society - and ultimately avoid unnecessary barriers for your child.
Explore in nature
Nature is full of learning opportunities for kids to explore the world around them. Various research studies have found that outdoor play offers benefits to a child’s emotional state, attention span, physical fitness, imagination and more (Accelerate Learning). Not to mention - ignite their curiosity about STEM learning.
Here are some ideas to kick-start your child’s curiosity and ignite their interest in STEM in nature:
Encourage curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking
A big part of STEM learning is staying curious and thinking outside of the box. The more curious your child is, the more they learn. Fostering and nurturing curiosity can be done in many ways:
Model interest in the world around you - demonstrate curiosity to your child, and they will follow. Stay curious about the trees, stars, books, puzzles, stories, etc, and show your child how to become interested in the world they experience.
Follow your child’s lead - does your child naturally show interest in a certain topic? Follow their lead. If your child loves reading, try introducing books about scientists and engineers. If your child loves playing outdoors, encourage STEM-related activities (like the ones listed above) to combine their love of the outdoors with learning.
Utilize open-ended questions - these are questions that don’t have a right or wrong answer, and don't end in words such as “yes” or “no”. Questions like “how do you feel about…” and “what was that experience like for you…” lead to open conversations that stimulate your child’s thinking and work on their critical thinking skills.
Make learning fun
Critical thinking, problem solving and research skills don’t have to be boring. Making learning fun can be one of the best ways to get your child engaged with STEM and curious to learn more. Doing at-home activities centred around science, technology, engineering and math is a great starting point. Here are some great STEM activities that encourage learning but are also fun:
& there are so many more!