Encouraging your natural scientist

1 - 4 years
Magnifying glass

Babies and little children have a natural curiosity about the four areas of STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. To foster their interest, just encourage them to be curious, investigate the world around them, and ask questions.

Take it outside!

Even little babies enjoy exploring the world around them simply by touching leaves, watching insects, listening to birds and playing with grass and sticks. Toddlers and preschoolers will love collecting things like rocks, flowers, leaves, and bugs.  Bring along binoculars or a magnifying glass, and let your child investigate their world on another level.

Talk and describe

You can help your child learn STEM concepts by describing what’s around you and talking about what’s happening.

Look at the water bubbling in the pot. The water is boiling. That means it is very, very hot.

Expose your child to the language of maths every day, for example by counting objects, describing sizes and talking about quantities.

Let’s put these shoes away. One, two.

As your child gets older, ask questions that encourage them to think about how things work, and to make predictions.

What do you think will happen when we drop the cloth in the water?

Questions and answers

Young children naturally want to learn about the world – it’s the reason toddlers ask ‘why?’ all the time – so be patient and answer them with information they will understand.  If you don’t know the answer to a question, role model what scientists do: admit their ignorance, and look up the answer.

That’s a great question, and I’m not sure what the answer is. Let's look it up on the internet.’ (Hint: to get answers written for children, search for your question plus ‘for kids’).

Play, play, play!

Engaging in the natural trial and error of play develops your child’s early critical thinking and reasoning skills, and helps them understand how things work. Many traditional toys also expose your child to STEM concepts, including these.

  • puzzles – shapes and problem solving
  • blocks – geometry, physics and gravity
  • stacking cups – size relationships
  • measuring containers – measurement/volume
  • sorting toys – classifying, attributes and relationships
  • building blocks and construction toys – spatial skills, creative thinking
  • balls – motion, momentum, and velocity.

More about STEM

The four fields of STEM are important in every part of our lives. Science is about our natural world—like the moon and stars, land and ocean, weather, plants and animals. Technology is about things like computers and smartphones, television, radio, and microscopes. Engineering is about the way things work – like buildings, roads and bridges, machines, and appliances. Mathematics is about numbers, shapes, and quantity. Maths is all around us, and every other STEM field depends on mathematics.

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Last modified
19 April 2020