Babies and little children are natural explorers. You can help your little one to develop a life-long love of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) simply by encouraging their curiosity and having fun together investigating the world around you. Find out more.
What is STEM?
STEM stands for ‘Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics’ – four fields that 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.
STEM for littlies – huh?
It may seem like STEM is a bit too complicated for your little one, but there are a lot of simple things you can do to encourage STEM in the early years. By simply allowing your child to investigate the world around them, and encouraging them to ask questions, you are engaging your little one in STEM. It is never too early to start exploring STEM concepts with your child. Here’s how:
Take it outside!
A great way to encourage a life-long love of STEM in your little one is to go out into nature with them. 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, or whatever they find interesting. Bring along binoculars or a magnifying glass, and let your little one 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, for example ‘Look at the water bubbling in the pot. The water is boiling. That means it is very, very hot. ’ Try using mathematical language with your little one too – count out loud together or talk about quantities – ‘Let’s put these shoes away. One, two.’ As your little one gets older, you can encourage them to talk about the things around them and ask them questions, such as ‘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. Try to be patient when your little one asks you questions and answer them with relevant information they will understand. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them: ‘That’s a great question! I’m not sure what the answer is – let’s look it up together.’ (Hint: you can find answers to most questions online. To get answers written for children just type in the question followed by ‘for kids’).
Play, play, play!
Little ones learn about the world around them (and STEM concepts) simply by playing. Just engaging in the natural trial and error of play develops your little one’s early critical thinking and reasoning skills, and helps them understand how things work. Here are some great toys that encourage STEM learning:
- 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/construction toys (Lego/Duplo, Mobilo, etc.) – spatial skills, creative thinking
- Balls – motion, momentum, and velocity