While STEM-based learning may seem too advanced for a toddler or preschooler to comprehend, there are many age-appropriate ways to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics to a young child. In fact, you might be doing it already without realizing it.
The Primrose Balanced Learning® approach integrates STEM activities throughout the day to make learning simple and fun. Parents can keep this learning going at home with simple activities and habits that encourage STEM thinking in children. Use these ideas from Dr. Sandra Linder, a professor of early childhood mathematics education and a co-author of the Balanced Learning approach, for at-home STEM education.
Make the most of mealtime. Gathering to eat as a family is a great time to incorporate STEM concepts. Ask your child to set the table for the total number of people in your family. Encourage them to count and bring all plates to the table (make sure the plates aren’t breakable first). Then ask them to bring the same number of cups, forks, etc., so they are building sets of objects. During dinner, you can use comparisons to discuss the food you’re eating. (“I have 10 beans on my plate. How many do you have?”) These simple tasks help your child understand mathematics and number sense, no multiplication tables required. You can also build STEM skills in the kitchen with easy Snacktivity recipes.
Turn story time into learning time. The critical-thinking skills gained through literacy help children better understand complex subjects such as science and math. As you read with your child, encourage them to predict what might come next in a story. Follow up by asking, “How do you know?” or “Why do you think that?” Help your child make connections between the story and their own experiences. For example, when reading a story about the beach, have your child tell you about the last time they went to the beach. Making predictions, communicating, understanding and drawing connections are all essential parts of STEM learning.
Play and explore with water. Odds are that your child loves playing with toys during bath time, and this is a perfect opportunity to help them explore concepts such as sinking, floating, capacity and weight. Give your child measuring cups, plastic containers and funnels, then ask them how much water will fill a container or which container is the largest and why.
Establish a creation station. Gather leftover cardboard tubes and boxes, construction paper, string, tape, glue and crayons and designate a place in your home as a creation station. Encourage your child to create art and build skyscrapers, roller coasters and other structures to help them engage in engineering design and make connections with technology and mathematics.
Exploring STEM skills and concepts through play will help children build a strong foundation for future learning. Your home is the perfect place to engage your little ones in these important learning opportunities for science, technology, engineering and math. Happy exploring!
For more on STEM learning at Primrose and at home activities, check out:
- How We Teach Math at Primrose
- 5 Remarkable Women in STEM to Celebrate with Your Children
- Science Fun: Magic Ice
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