Did you know that there are easy ways to start introducing your little one to STEM even from an early age?
The first few years of your baby’s life are a whirlwind of feedings, a lack of sleep and a steep learning curve. I remember when I was expecting my little boy a long time friend of the family told me that each day might feel like an eternity, but the years will pass by in the blink of an eye. I can attest to these feelings. There are some days where it feels as if the day will NEVER END, and then next thing I know my little guy is a whopping two years old!! As they reach their toddler years, you’re most likely just relieved that they are sleeping through the night, and at least able to eat on their own (even if they are picky about it!).
What many parents don’t realize is that even at this young age, you can start to introduce STEAM (science, technology, engineering, Arts, and math) learning to your toddler. As a children’s STEM/STEAM author, I am always looking for ways to include these fundamentals of everyday play.
STEM skills are invaluable having quickly become the fastest-growing job sector and likely to stay that way for decades to come.
Have you considered how often we experience STEM and STEAM in our lives? Science is our natural world sun, the moon, and stars, the oceans, weather, natural disasters, the diversity of nature, animals (large, small, microbial). Think about the fuel that heats our homes and powers transportation; the list is endless. Technology means laptops and smartphones, but it goes back to television, radio, microscopes, telegraph, telescopes, the compass, and even the first wheel. Yes, engineering designs buildings, roads, and bridges, but it also tackles today’s challenges of transportation, global warming and environment-friendly machines, appliances, and systems. We only have to look around to see what improvements to our lives and our homes have been engineered in the last decade alone. We are graced by the beauty of Art in everyday life. The buildings we live in have to be designed by an artist. We encounter mathematics at the grocery store, the bank, on tax forms, in dealing with investments and the family budget. Every other STEAM field depends on mathematics. STEAM is important because it permeates every aspect of our lives.
The question becomes, how can you incorporate STEM and STEAM learning into everyday life naturally? Chances are you are already doing this! In case you are looking for examples of what I mean check out the list below. I have spent countless hours researching ways to incorporate STEM activities into the classrooms I visit, and for everyday life at home and here is what I have found.
Follow these early STEM learning tips and help develop these crucial skills
Practice identifying shapes in everyday things:
Shape sorting toys are fantastic and can provide hours of play (hours in a row are not guaranteed haha). After you’ve taught your child to identify the various shapes, ask them to find them around the house. My little guy loves to find circles; sometimes this includes dumping the cat’s food dishes and bringing them to me. Teach them comparatives and superlatives like big, bigger and biggest.
Don’t show your fear of math:
A widespread joke that you’ll hear adults make (myself included) is that they have terrible math skills. It seems we’re always reaching for our phones to use as a quick calculator rather than doing it in our heads. I’ve heard people say that children will pick up on this and become intimidated by it themselves. Instead, talk through simple arithmetic in front of them so that they already feel confident about this skill when they approach it at school. I happen to be married to a man who is very gifted at math. He’s my very own Rainman. When he works on a math problem, he always verbalizes what he is doing and will work it out by hand on paper or out loud as he gestures in the air. Here’s hoping our little tot is observing this trait of daddy and picks up the same skills as him.
Teach cause and effect:
Show your child simple cause and effect relationships. Turn the lights on and off and explain to them how when the switch is up, the lights are on, but when flipped down, the lights are off. One of my favorite activites that I also use in classrooms is the apple stacking game. Not only will this teach cause and effect when you drop apples, but how high can you stack an apple? What are the various ways you can build with apples? Just be prepared for them to get bruised up. This game works well after reading Dr. Suess’ book Ten Apples Up on Top.
Count, rhyme, and sing:
By counting, rhyming, and singing, you can help your baby to recognize patterns which play an essential role in learning STEM basics. Recognising patterns is the first step in predicting outcomes which is one of the key parts of STEM. Songs like “Old MacDonald” are helpful for teaching patterns because of the repeated phrase (and the animal noises make it lots of fun!).
It’s the process, not the product. We’ve all heard that, right? Especially as it relates to children’s art. For young children, art is about the process of creating, not about how the finished artwork looks. And the younger the child, the more this is true. A toddler’s mind is creative without trying, so let them explore and see what they come up with!
What fun STEM and STEAM activites do you like to incorporate into daily life? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions so I can use them with my little guy.
Get your kids started early with basic STEM skills with these easy to implement learning tips!