For young children, learning how to read, write, and observe the world starts in the home. Time spent out of school plays an important role in promoting STEM learning. In fact, at-home exploration experiences can strengthen these skills by reinforcing what students learn in school, according to Lynda Colgan, elementary mathematics professor at Queen’s University, Ontario. At-home exploration helps create experiences for your child that can encourage interest in pursuing STEM in school and in daily life. Check out these five ways parents can encourage at-home exploration:
1. Hands on Chores
A great way to get your child curious about how the STEM world works is by engaging them in the science all around them—and yes, this even means chores. Whether it’s fixing up a bicycle, gardening, or building a fish tank, all use skills that can be found in STEM practices. For example, fixing a bicycle involves engineering skills, and learning how to make plants grow involves science. By explaining how these processes work all the way, you’re giving your child knowledge that can translate into an interest in STEM down the line.
2. Ask "what" questions
Children love to ask questions. Often, they want to know the “why”—why the sky is blue, why do pop rocks pop, etc. However, by answering this question, parents are only providing a surface level answer that Google could provide them anyway. Instead of encouraging your child to ask “why”, get them to ask “what”—like what makes pop rocks pop, or what causes the sky to be blue. This helps give your child deductive reasoning skills that comes in handy in a variety of STEM fields.
3. Plan Family Trips to Museums, Arboretums, or the Zoo
While learning at home can be nice, giving your children that extra tangible, physical sense of place for learning about what interests them is a great way to pique their interest in years to come. Whether you bring them to a museum or show off your local zoo, you’re helping to encourage STEM learning while also making it fun.
4. Watch a STEM program together
STEM doesn’t have to be serious all the time—there are plenty of fun TV programs that capture the same STEM skills that can inspire kids to pursue STEM in school and even as a career. Whether it’s shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy or even whimsical time-travelling shows like Doctor Who, introducing kids to science (even if it’s science fiction!) through TV programs helps keep them curious and hungry for more.</p>
STEM in the real world is often research focused, but it can also be hands-on, too. Encourage at-home STEM exploration by having them create STEM crafts. These crafts can be as basic as coloring a coloring book with facts about sea mammals to building a birdhouse out of Popsicle sticks. Nowadays hobby stores even sell fun kits that can encourage your child to pursue STEM by building their own volcano, or playing with sand that never gets wet. All crafts help build problem-solving skills that STEM occupations need, but they also work to encourage curiosity in kids at an early age.
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