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We are all told by articles, news reports and teachers that STEM is essential these days if our children are to have a successful future in school, college, and life. STEM can seem scary and we know that kids who develop a fear of it tend to do poorly in STEM-focused classes. But we don’t have to label our playful lessons "Science/Technology/Engineering/Math" or even "STEM." We can simply enjoy playing with our kids in this wonderful world, and allow them a natural affinity and love for these topics.
By allowing the kids to explore and by fostering their natural curiosity, STEM concepts will easily become more approachable. Children love to find answers, measure things, and accomplish interesting feats while playing. By the time they are in school they are full of excitement to learn new ways to explore the world and later they realize that they have already fostered early STEM skills. Here are some examples of things I used to do with my kids to encourage their excitement for STEM!
ScienceScience might be a frightening word for kids --
Hours, days, and even years of fun can be found in the yard, a nearby park, a forest, a beach, a pond, or river. Kids will discover an animal, mineral, or plant, and then you can discuss, read, watch videos, and learn about it to turn discovery into a science project.
Oh boy. Just the word “technology” introduces a challenge. But why? We are a highly advanced society and we are surrounded by all kinds of technologies. Together you can simplify the way you look at advanced technology. You and your kids can play with and learn about it to enjoy and understand technology. One of the easiest ways to get kids engaged is to allow them to ask their favorite questions, starting with the most popular question: "Why?" Later
It takes a bit of work to enjoy these journeys of discovery, but I promise you that once you get into it, you will enjoy it just as much as the kids.
Start by looking around the house. My son was fascinated by light and he made the connection between turning on the light switch and having the lights go on by the time he was just six months old. Most kids are naturally curious. I remember when my daughter asked me why the sky is blue when the sun is shining. It takes a bit of work to enjoy these journeys of discovery, but I promise you that once you get into it, you will enjoy it just as much as the kids. It is such a fascinating journey.
When a child asks a question, don’t close the conversation with the convenient, “I don’t know," or, "I have no idea.” Instead tell the child, "I don’t know, but let’s find out together!" Then hit the Internet, or, like I did when my kids were very young, the local library or bookstore. All three are a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with kids.
When a child asks a question, don’t close the conversation with the convenient, “I don’t know," or, "I have no idea.” Instead tell the child, "I don’t know, but let’s find out together!" Then hit the Internet, or, like I did when my kids were very young, the local library or bookstore. All three are a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time with kids. I'll bet that I already whetted your appetite for learning. You and your child will learn that the light switch works because it is connected to a copper wire that is linked to
There are many different types of engineers. Civil Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Electronic Engineers, Locomotive Engineers, Software Engineers, Nuclear Engineers, Data Engineer, Big Data Engineer -- the list is endless! Many engineers are well-paid and
The key is that everyday life provides many opportunities to use math naturally without even thinking about it as math.
The most fun way to learn how to do math is with games that teach basic fairness. You can teach simple math using a bar of chocolate that is shared by a group of kids. The child who is breaking the pieces into equal parts gets to keep the last piece. It is amazing how precisely children will naturally learn about the number of pieces needed, how the pieces might best be equal fractions. You don’t need to use the word math, you simply allow kids to be in charge of sharing. Sharing candy pieces merely requires counting and dividing. A large block of chocolate clarifies one of the basic concepts of math: division.
Later you can teach math with household tasks like setting the table for guests (planning how many
The key is that everyday life provides many opportunities to use math naturally without even thinking about it as math. When the kids realize that they already know most of the things that they learn in the first few years of math, they will experience a great boost for their self-esteem and they will not be afraid when learning more difficult concepts in class. Foster curiosity, have
About the All-Star Blogger
Edie Okamoto is a Bay Area resident who raised her children while running an international business consultancy from her home. Now that the children are grown she enjoys sharing her many wonderful parenting and business experiences, as well as observations about current events and culture.