Children have the capability to learn complex subjects at a very early age. In fact, many kids understand science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) when they are around one year old. However, this capability and curiosity of learning and understanding needs to be preserved and prevailed as a child grows.
In order to teach your kids to STEM at an early age, you need to allow them to analyze, question, and develop a sense of curiosity about their surroundings.
Nevertheless, neither the school system nor the parents realize the value of stimulation a child needs in order to develop these critical skills. In India, most schools don’t even have a curriculum for teaching children the basics of STEM. Since they are not introduced to science, technology, engineering, and maths at an early age, children tend to grow weary and afraid of these subjects when they have to finally face them in upper standards. As a result, we see most children avoiding anything related to STEM and choosing a different career altogether.
According to the National Research Council, kids develop ideas about their social, biological, and physical surroundings and their functionality before they are enrolled in school. However, once they enter the school system, their pre-developed ideas are not paid any heed to, and the kids are essentially indoctrinated.
Let’s see why it is essential to build upon the ideas of children rather than starting a new:
Setting the stage
Stem stands for science, technology, engineering, and maths. While the school system covers science and maths, children are not introduced to engineering and technology, as needed for their proper cognitive development. Sometimes, children don’t learn about engineering and technology until they are in middle or high school.
According to many researchers, STEM education is vital for kids to develop an analytical mind and to narrow the gap between children’s cognitive achievements. Moreover, exposing children to such complex subjects helps them solidify their careers.
Since 1990, there has been a 79% rise in employment in STEM fields. Moreover, compared to non-STEM employees, STEM occupants earn up to 26% more on average.
However, unfortunately, adults tend to curb their kids’ enthusiasm about STEM subjects by disapproving of their interests and being absent when the kids seek support to further their interests.
As a caring adult, one needs to be supportive of their children’s dreams and enthusiasm. Good parents allow their kids to be curious and ask questions about their surroundings, thereby giving them positive reinforcement that they are on the right path.
How can one encourage their kids to gain an interest in STEM?
Stimulate your child’s curiosity with science
There are a million science-based projects you can do with your kids that are not only simple but also fun and entertaining. Here are some of the activities:
Explore: As a kid, everything about the world seems exciting and awakens a sense of curiosity. Taking your kids out on a walk or on a trek would not only help you establish a stronger connection with them but also teach them about nature. From soil, rocks, mountains, and trees, there are a lot of things to learn about in the outside world.
Let your kids interact with animals: If you have a pet dog or a cat, chances are your kids are already very friendly with them. You can try teaching them more about the animals that they encounter in their daily lives. It will help your kids develop compassion and empathy as well and make them friendly in their approach. Moreover, learning about how different animals fare in their environment is always a plus point from a biological perspective.
Encourage your child to ask questions: This point can’t be stressed enough. One of the atrocities that parents do with their children is to give them specific information as irrefutable facts. In order for kids to learn new things and build a sense of skepticism, they need to put a question mark at everything. As parents, you are supposed to do your best to answer every query they throw at you in a comprehensible manner.
Give your child four ways to play: There are four different types of play to help your kids develop a scientific mind. These pretend play, exploratory play, guided play, and free play. Pretend play is when the kid uses their own imagination and exploratory play is when kids learn by experimenting with objects. Guided play is when there is an adult involved, and free play is when kids play on their own.
Conduct fun experiments: There is a lot of fun and simple experiments you can perform with your child, including lava lamp, creating a leak-proof bag, and walking water.
Teaching Tech with Technology Activities
With technology activities, kids learn to employ technology to solve problems. Here are the following ways you can help your kids learn more about technology and its applications:
Cut shapes out with scissors: Draw several shapes on a piece of paper, and under attentive guidance, ask your kids to cut out those shapes with a scissor. This will help them develop an artistic mind and apply their cognitive abilities in a precise manner.
Build a house of cards: Building a house of cards with your kids allows them to learn about architectural design and how to go around building objects that are dependent on each other. Once your kids have mastered the ability to build a house of cards, make it more challenging by adding coins and other weights.
Play logic games: Indulge in some brain teasers, puzzles, and logic games with your kids to develop their problem-solving skills. Such games help them learn new ways to interpret a problem and find different solutions to it.
Have them play with blocks and shapes: This is more of a visual exercise. Give your kids differently shaped blocks (triangles, squares, etc.) and ask them to put them in similar-looking gaps. It will teach your kids the value of symmetry and functionality, which plays a vital role in technological development.
Create treasure hunt maps for your kids to play: You can do this indoors as well as outdoors. Place some rewards at certain points in your house and create a map with clues around. Ask your kid to hunt for the rewards using the map as their guide. This game not only teaches your kids to be cognitive, but it also teaches them to be independent.
Entertaining with Engineering
Using technology to solve problems helps kids a lot in their growth, but it also raises a question in their minds: Why and how can certain technology help them in their endeavors? This is where the engineering part of STEM kicks in. Since the school system does not introduce any subject close to engineering, at least until the kid is in middle school, as a parent, you need to take it upon yourself to make your kids aware of engineering. Here are a few ways you can introduce engineering to your kids in a fun and interesting way:
Teach them about levers and pulleys: Levers and pulleys are some of the most basic machines in engineering. When kids learn about these objects, they understand engineering is basically using machines to make day to day tasks easier. Moreover, levers and pulleys can be easily developed and used in real-world scenarios, which encourages kids to build their own mechanical objects.
Plan and design a structure: Provide your kids with Lego blocks and let their creativity soar. Teach them to create basic structures such as a table and a chair and then let them develop on that concept to build something of their own.
Build a ramp: Like building a structure, building a ramp will help your kid understand the importance of angles, height, and weight in building objects. They can use their remote-controlled cars to drive on the ramp.
Make Maths Amusing
Many children are afraid of mathematics, especially when they are in higher standards. The reason for this fear is deep-rooted in their inability to understand the subject because they were never introduced to maths at an early age. You can have your kids participate in certain activities to curb this fear of maths and make them interested in the subject. Some of the math-centric activities for kids are as follow:
Baking: While baking, kids learn the importance of counting and using the right amount of ingredients for the cake to come out perfect. This way, they learn that numbers and measurements are essential not only in maths but in everyday life.
Pretend-play with monetary value: You can either pretend to be a customer or a cashier as long as it includes monetary value. Use the game to teach the kids about addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication.
Play math games while waiting: Kids are too easily bored and are always looking for something interesting to do. When you are waiting with your kids or driving with them to someplace, you can play addition and subtraction games using real-life examples. For instance, ask them how many ice creams they want and how many would they have left if you took two out of all their ice creams. Take turns at answering questions, so your kids feel at equal grounds and not like they are being interrogated.
STEM can not only be taught to kids at an early age, but it can be a part of their life throughout their academic career and beyond. The earlier you start introducing your kids to these concepts, the better they would develop their cognitive and analytical skills. Nevertheless, make sure you are teaching science, technology, engineering, and maths in a fun way and not in a daunting manner, lest you want your kids to repel STEM concepts.
Whether or not your kid chooses to pursue a career in the STEM field is their own decision. However, at least they would grow smarter and have the proper problem-solving skills at their disposal in every aspect of their lives.