One of the newer educational terms that we see frequently in the news is STEM education. But what exactly is STEM education and is it appropriate for preschoolers?
STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEM Education, a term initiated by the National Science Foundation, refers to an educational approach which integrates more than one of these disciplines. Science, technology, engineering, and math may seem like lofty subject matter for preschool children. In reality, preschoolers spontaneously engage in STEM activities indoors and out on a regular basis. With a little guidance from us, we can enhance children's opportunities to engage in STEM learning and develop their critical thinking skills.
While building with blocks, children can build bridges and ramps, incorporating engineering and math. They can add a technology component by researching these on the computer. Outdoors, children could help solve the problem of getting water to a garden they helped to plant, drawing on their science and engineering knowledge. Incorporating the use of children’s garden tools like rakes, shovels, and a wheelbarrow build on this activity to provide an even broader STEM experience.
STEM Activities for Kids
- Go on a nature walk. A nature walk can be a great outdoor STEM activity for children.Take a reusable bag and encourage your child to collect interesting objects she sees like small round stones, leaves, seed pods, or flowers. When you get home, help her sort her treasures into categories, such as color, texture, size, and shape. Skills used: math and science
- Do a cooking activity together. Cooking with children is another way to engage kids in learning at home.Look up an interesting recipe together online. Follow the recipe letting your child help measure and mix. Skills used: science, technology, and math
- Build ramps to test which cars, balls, or marbles go the fastest. Use a board, sheet of cardboard, or small table with one side elevated to make a ramp. Try rolling a variety of objects, two at a time down the ramp to see which is fastest. Record your findings on a chart. Skills used: engineering and math
- Set-up building activities with paper or plastic cups. Give a challenge such as, "How high can you make a tower of cups?" Measure each tower and record their height. Skills used: engineering and math
- Explore the grocery store. With your child, purchase some fruits and vegetables that you have never tried before. Before cutting up the fruits and vegetables, have your child predict what will be inside. Then, with careful supervision, have your child help you cut up small pieces to try. Invite your family members to a tasting party. Make a graph that shows everyone's favorites. Skills used: science and math
- Play with water. Water is a rich STEM material and water play activities is a great way to engage kids. Provide a basin of water outside so you don't have to worry about spills. Provide tools to experiment with like a turkey baster, empty dish detergent bottles, plastic measuring cups, etc. to fill and compare. Skills used: math and science
The possibilities for STEM education are endless. Children love to experiment, combine new substances, build, knock down, collect, sort, and have fun while learning. You were probably having your child do STEM activities at home and didn't know it. Look for additional opportunities to build STEM activities in your daily routine.
- Watch as Sarah, a Bright Horizons Director, explains how to conduct the "Magical Magnets" learning activity in less than 2 minutes. This STEM activity will teach your child about cause and effect and the visually exciting property of magnetism.
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- Our Growing Scientists website gives parents ideas for engaging kids of all ages in science at home.
- Staying connected to kids when they are in daycare or preschool can be tough for a working parent. One mom shares what she loves about her child's preschool.
- From discipline to favorite books, find preschool resources from our Family Room blog team.
- Find 10 water play activities ideas for kids.