Does your child have an interest in figuring out how things work? Do they enjoy experimenting with their surroundings? Even a child who is not naturally drawn to all things math and science enjoy exploring their environment. STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, are activities that engage kids of all ages in these specific areas.
While a career in the STEM field may seem like a long time off for your preschooler, STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables innovation of new products in the future. Most people would agree that jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math, science, and technology and it is never too early to start developing your children’s interest in these areas.
STEM in the kitchen - Your teachers were right: you do use math and science in everyday life. You may already love cooking with your kid, but consider incorporating science and math lessons in at the same time. While baking cookies, have your child help measure the ingredients, count the scoops of flour needed, talk about what happens if you do not use the correct measurements, and discuss what the purpose of baking powder and baking soda is (they leaven the batter to rise while baking). Make the experience fun and educational. Your child may not even notice they are learning about math and science while baking and sampling tasty treats.
DIY science lab - Create your own science lab mixing station at home. All you need is several plastic or glass containers (see-through ones are best) of any shape and size. Fill containers with dry ingredients such as baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cornstarch. Fill additional containers with wet ingredients such as water, white vinegar, lemon juice, and ice. (It may be wise to lay towels underneath your mixing station or set the ingredients up in the basement or the garage so you can have fun without worrying about the difficulty of cleanup.) Once your science lab is set up, it’s time to get creative. Let your kid experiment with what happens when different ingredients are mixed. This activity is great for preschoolers, but can also be adapted for older children by providing them with a journal to record the results of each combination of ingredients when they are mixed.
Use what you have - Set up a sensory bin using dried beans, water beads, or rice as a filler and then hide items inside. Ask your child, for example, to find the red dinosaur, count the green items, or close their eyes and guess what items they feel. Encourage your little engineer or architect to build a tower using toothpicks and marshmallows, or fill a tray with shaving cream and blocks and ask if they think the shaving cream will help their blocks stick together. Sharpen their math skills with colored cereal like Fruit Loops. Ask your child to sort the pieces by color and count them. Then have them string the cereal on yarn to make a necklace. Make it fun and see what potential STEM activities you have lying around the house.
Preschoolers love to explore with their hands and all of their senses, which makes the possibilities endless. Plant a garden, fill water glasses with food coloring and mix to learn about colors, count and sort items throughout the day, talk about and chart the weather, or play with magnets and a cookie sheet. STEM is all around us just waiting to be explored.
Sarah is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to six kids, including three-year-old triplets.
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