- A common misconception on STEM education is to start during elementary school or even later. However, statistically speaking the later you start the more likely your child will not understand STEM concepts or develop an interest in the math and sciences. Introducing babies and toddlers to STEM-based toys and activities will properly entertain your child and encourage a love for learning.
- Teaching STEM to early learners is not difficult and it’s perfect timing. The secret is to tap into their natural and innate curiosity about the living world. Without STEM education, research has shown that high-quality pre-K cuts the rate of children being held back a grade in half; decreases juvenile arrests by a third; and increases high school attendance by a third, college attendance by a whopping 80 percent, and employment by 23 percent.
- The acronym “DRE”, This may be a tribute to Dr. Dre and his beats. Okay, it actually stands for Decrease screen time, Replace with fun STEM activities, Encourage and support. This has helped so many Moms and Dads get the headstart their child needed.
Start STEM Education Now
One of the best Chinese proverbs I’ve ever heard was “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now.” While we never have the “perfect time” to start something new or practice better habits, the earlier we start, the better off we will be no matter when that is.
When I first heard about STEM education, I pictured high schoolers creating robots and building bridges on the computer through various programs. However, there’s so much more to STEM and the best thing about it is that anyone can participate at any age, even infants.
STEM fosters the innate part of our being. We are born with a natural hunger to learn, we are curious and work through problems using trial and error naturally.
For example, as toddlers play with different shapes and learn how numbers look, they try to place them in the correct spot on a puzzle. Once they learn what goes where their reward center of the brain lights up like Christmas day. They go back to that toy every time because they were challenged and felt rewarded for completing it.
Hey, they might even teach you what they’ve learned, keeping them more motivated as they show off their new set of skills.
To add to that, they’re now counting and can recognize numbers. You might regret it once they start reading the clock and know they still have extra time before bed! Either way, those proud moments are because you’ve made the conscious effort to start today.
Join me and show your toddler how to proactively feed this natural need by giving them STEM-related toys and experiences.
If your little one is 5 or above and you hate stepping on puzzle pieces or losing them, this is just the perfect challenge for them.
I was reading an article recently and found that Dr. Lillian Katz shared some great insight during an interview on STEM in preschool. She explains the difference between general learning at school and STEM learning.
She says, Academic learning “by definition is the stuff that is clear like the alphabet, it’s no logic, it just has to be memorized… and it does have to be learned eventually.”
Intellectual Learning “has to do with reasoning, hypothesizing, and predicting, theorizing, and so forth and that’s natural.”
“You want children to learn their academic skills in the service of their intellect so when they come and say, show me how to measure this or show me how to write that because they are doing an investigation – which is an intellectually based activity and it comes so naturally to all children.”
What Can Happen without STEM Education?
Now, let’s get to the shocking facts of what is more likely to happen when our children don’t have exposure to early STEM education.
Change the Equation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporate initiative to further math and science learning created a survey and found that nearly one-third of Americans would rather clean their bathrooms than do a math problem. I may be apart of that statistic and that’s why I want better for my kids.
Research has shown that high-quality pre-K cuts the rate of children being held back a grade in half; decreases juvenile arrests by a third; and increases high school attendance by a third, college attendance by a whopping 80 percent, and employment by 23 percent.
High-quality early-learning environments provide children with a structure in which to build upon their natural inclination to explore, to build, and to question.
There is an exciting and powerful link between STEM education and early childhood.
Research confirms that the brain is particularly receptive to learning math and logic between the ages of 1 and 4 and that early math skills are the most powerful predictors of later learning.
During the Obama administration, there was a nation-wide push for STEM-based education in public schools. Even so, we are a bit behind in many states and teachers are still getting the hang of things.
Making this the perfect opportunity for you to invest in your child’s education while they’re at home. Playtime can be learning time all in one and that’s exactly what STEM is.
If you aren’t well-versed in the history of STEM, this is a very helpful article.
3 Secrets to a Successful STEM Introduction
First and foremost, you don’t need to be a scientist to have STEM activities at home. Having STEM education start at home is the most important thing you can do for your child to get ahead. Most children don’t learn STEM in school and I guarantee they’re not doing it at home either. When your child “plays” aka learns at home through these hands-on activities, they will be more prepared for school and more likely to be a well-rounded adult as they grow. If you’re worried about them being mentally exhausted after a long day at school or pre-K, they won’t be because it’s just as much fun, if not more.
Here’s my infamous DRE acronym to help you get started.
- Decrease Screen Time
- Replace with Fun Activities
- Encourage and Support
1. Decrease Screen Time
The only way to fit more STEM education in your child’s life is to remove something that is of no value to them first. Once we remove what I like to call “time suckers” it may be a shock to them, but it’s all about how we present this new idea.
Children are destined to say no and challenge us. It’s totally normal and it’s hard not to feel guilty to take something that is harmless and that they enjoy away.
However, I’ve changed my perspective on this because it is SO harmful to them in the long run if you haven’t read my other blog where I talk more about it decreasing screen time and why read here.
Screen time is a treat and it is a privilege for my daughters now. There were few fights in the beginning, but the fun they had with STEM education that is hands-on made time pass by faster AND they were much less moody.
Here’s what you can do:
A. Explain the importance of limits and how it relates to screen time. If they used to watch TV and play on your phone or iPad for up to 3 hours a day. Slowly decrease to 1.5 hours a day total and 2 hours on the weekend as a special treat for them.
B. Clean up the apps they use and ensure they have limited options, enough to let them feel in control, but knowing every choice benefits skill development. STEM-based learning games should a majority of available options. This is important because you’re showing them STEM-based activities through a method that they already enjoy. This can promote an easier transition as they take on a new activity that is a hand’s on at home.
2. Replace with Fun Activities
Going outside is THE BEST! Whether it’s a snow day, rainy day, or a sunny day, there is something you can do for 15 minutes to get them going. Exercise stimulates the brain and so does change in routine. This is a fine balance with children. Children do best with routine, but it’s okay to switch it up as you start to implement new activities within the same timeframe of let’s say free play.
Children can run around little trees, big trees, count the same colored flowers, and see what shapes are surrounding them. Let them smell, touch, and use their imagination. This is the beginning of a STEM activity and it’s free! All you have to do is work with them and help them recognize similarities and differences. One of my favorite bonding moments together is these.
Once they’ve gotten all their bursts of energy out. They’ve practiced STEM at the same time and now are relaxed enough to sit and play peacefully (hopefully).
Here are some examples of how to find the right STEM education activities at home:
- Don’t choose a science project that uses a lot of step by step directions mostly led by an adult.
- Don’t pick an activity where your child is only watching you do the activity.
- Pick a science activity that is very hands-on for your kids to get involved with too.
- Pick a science activity with plenty of room to explore without danger.
- Make sure to allow enough time for really enjoying your home science activities!
- Alternatively, make sure you don’t pick a science experiment that takes way too long for your child to stay interested in
- Open-ended science activities work really well for short attention spans
Here are some examples of independent STEM activities:
Ages 2+: Lock & Learn
- Encourage hand-eye coordination development and color and shape recognition due to it’s STEM certification
- Encourages the development of age-appropriate skills while being fun
- Strengthen small muscles in the hand and fingers as the puzzle pieces snap in place
- Imaginative play using the baseboard and compatible Lego® or Mega Blocks® Bricks
Ages 5+: Stack By Numbers
- STEM development as your child counts and has to use color matching strategy to make a 3-D picture
- Art can be hung as a picture on the wall or stand on a shelf
- Encourages the development of age-appropriate skills while making fun pictures
- Strengthen small muscles in the hand and fingers as the puzzle pieces snap in place
- The baseboard is compatible with Lego® or Mega Blocks® Bricks
- Strengthen and develop more advanced STEM-like habits critical thinking, patience to solve problems, and solving problems while working together
- Pry tool included making it easy when removing puzzle pieces
- Seeing your child problem solve on their own and the excitement they have when they’ve accomplished a difficult task is priceless!
3. Encourage and Support
I don’t know about you but, having my mother and father’s support was really important to me growing up. It helped me build confidence to solve my own problems and to know that when I fail, they’ll be there to teach me and walk with me.
Your support is important to them. Even if you have an independent child, they still need support, it may be shown differently. One example is giving a helping hand by providing suggestions and narrowing down options when choosing the right or wrong way to complete a puzzle or science project at home as compared to showing them.
Children look up to us and at this age, their emotional and cognitive “wires” are forming.
This is a crucial time to support them and teach them good coping habits. STEM education is one of the most important factors that help with EQ and IQ development because they learn how to work through problems, learn how to communicate effectively (with our help), and learn how to help and teach others.
A. Encourage curiosity, ask questions that they can’t answer right away. Challenge them.
B. Set up an area at home for STEM educational activities. Use what is in front of you to create a learning environment and explore so you can test and try too.
C. Be curious about things when you’re out with them. Inspire them to want to ask questions and solve them. STEM is about solving real-world problems, while you’re out there, work on some of those out loud.
Nieer.org explains well why it’s important to support STEM learning and how.
You are an amazing parent as you take the little free time you have to research what else can be done to set your child up for success. #parentwinoftheday
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