STEM—or as it’s more formally known Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—is everywhere. It’s hard for parents to turn around without being marketed to by a STEM-focused school, daycare, or summer camp. There are STEM after-school activities and STEM clubs. Even if your child isn’t headed for MIT, you can rest assured they’re still absorbing valuable life skills from STEM that will serve them regardless of their career path. Here’s how.
Never Giving Up
In a nutshell, the scientific method involves developing a hypothesis and then testing to see if the prediction is correct. In the real world, a scientist may repeat an experiment dozens (even hundreds!) of times before getting the desired results. While this may sound high-level for a preschooler, it’s exactly what your tot is doing when they keep stacking pillows and books on a chair until they can reach the good snacks in the cupboard. STEM activities teach children creative problem solving, even when you may not want them to figure it out. Your kiddo couldn’t reach with just a chair, so they made some adjustments and tested a new hypothesis. Maybe I can reach the gummy bears with TWO cushions from the couch. Just like a professional scientist, your child will learn to make adjustments and adaptations until they achieve the results they are looking for. Diving into STEM with young kids will teach them to keep trying in the face of adversity.
“Mooooooom! My Lego building keeps falling over!” Sound familiar? This is where another valuable STEM lesson comes into play. Sure, we can swoop in to fix a wobbly tower, or we can teach our children to think critically. In kid terms, it’s time to get curious. Through STEM we teach kids to observe, analyze, make inferences, communicate ideas, and brainstorm solutions. Becoming critical thinkers is an invaluable life skill that will carry over into all facets of life. The next time your child complains that their project isn’t turning out how they want it to, guide them through a critical thinking exercise. Or, if they aren’t ready to do the work themselves, model your own critical thinking process and narrate as you go. “Hmm, I wonder why this platform keeps falling. I notice there’s a good support column under this side, but nothing over here. I wonder if another stack of Lego bricks will do the trick. What do you think? Should we try that?” Encouraging your child to get curious about the problem they are experiencing builds resilience and independence. By exposing your children to STEM activities at home, you’ll give them a safe space to develop those crucial critical thinking skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
Asking for Help
With the exception of test-taking time at school, we rarely have to take on a challenging endeavor all by ourselves. When we’re small, we have parents to guide us. As we grow, we have help from teachers and classmates, roommates and friends, and eventually colleagues and teammates. Even turning to Google for an answer is another way of asking for help. Just like real-life scientists, we don’t have to tackle most problems alone. STEM encourages collaboration. STEM teaches us to reach out for help, communicate when we are struggling, and work together with teammates to solve a problem.Whether it’s a research lab or a design team, STEM professionals collaborate all the time. A fresh perspective from a peer can help us see the finish line. Working with our children on STEM projects models for them how teamwork and collaboration are key to successful endeavors.
Getting Started at Home
Despite what all those toy ads want you to believe, you don’t need to buy anything special to incorporate STEM in your day-to-day life. Cooking and baking are filled with STEM practices. There’s measuring and counting. And adding a pinch of salt is the perfect opportunity to make a hypothesis and test it out (“Is one pinch of salt enough? Let’s mix it in and taste it to see.”) The garden is a great place to practice critical thinking. Plants give many visual clues about their health and provide chances to observe and reflect on what they may need to continue growing. Plus, getting curious in the garden can unearth new discoveries. Or try out your STEM skills at the grocery store. Are they out of an ingredient on your list? Maybe you’ll ask for help from a store employee or try critical thinking skills to brainstorm other options. The world is full of chances to practice these valuable life skills with your children. Once you start, you’ll see STEM everywhere.
In our modern, technology-driven world, it’s easy to see why STEM is so important. Centering STEM prepares our children for academic pursuits and higher paying jobs, and for girls, it works towards equalizing science-based fields that are dominated by men. But STEM isn’t just about preparing our kids for college degrees and future careers. There are life lessons to be found in STEM activities. Infuse more STEM activities in your child’s life by booking a STEM Adventure on Sittercity today!