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How to Get Your Kid Excited About STEM

By fostering curiosity and investigation in all facets of home life, parents can help their kids develop the faculties that will enable them to be successful in life.

What is STEM?

STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — is not one subject or program. STEM is more like a set of concepts and methods that are integral to our everyday lives and should be represented across all public school disciplines.

How might STEM exposure benefit my child?

There are endless reasons to cultivate STEM enthusiasm in your children. Fostering enjoyment in shared curiosity and discovery can strengthen your bond with your child. By encouraging your children to wonder, ask questions, record their observations, ask for evidence, and qualify their statements, you can promote their critical thinking development.

Many of today’s social, political, and environmental problems rely on the inquiry and investigation skills of scientists and STEM-related fields. There is a strong likelihood that many of your children’s future potential employers will be searching for job candidates with STEM qualifications. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that STEM occupations — such as engineers, life scientists, physical scientists, post-secondary educators, math occupations, and computer occupations — will grow twice as fast as all other occupations across the next decade (2019-2021). Even if your child’s future job is not in an obvious STEM-related field, it is almost certain that their responsibilities will involve the critical thinking skills and analysis that scientists use.

How can I provide low stakes STEM exposures to my child?

There are many ways to pique kids’ interest and grant them exposure to STEM-related activities in school, outside of school, and online.

Starting early, parents can use fun objects to help children understand the concept of numbers and counting. Whether clouds in the sky or chocolate chips in a recipe of cookies, pointing out quantities in different contexts can help young children develop computational skills and learn the impermanent nature and/or transformative capacities of certain materials.

When children are younger, they may become enraptured by a particular topic, like space, dinosaurs, the Ninja Turtles, or Greek mythology. Encourage them to pursue their passions, however specific or fleeting. If they are fixated on a particular animal species, consider a visit to a local zoo or aquarium. Some of the best zoos and aquariums in the U.S. include:

If they show an affinity for constructing bridges, point out the natural and for-purchase tools at their disposal. That being said, STEM experiences need not rely on high-priced gadgets and toys. Focus more on experiences, like cooking and baking in the kitchen, growing a garden in the backyard, or fixing a bicycle in the garage. Alternatively, consider helping your child learn how to play a musical instrument or program a computer. There are many contexts in the home where families can incorporate the scientific method and experiment with different variables.

The great thing about the internet is that it brings experts closer to us. Consider subscribing to a YouTube channel of an expert in the field your child is interested in. Visit professional websites to access games, tutorials, and free STEM resources for children of all ages. Parents can also take advantage of virtual field trips and simulations. According to Common Sense Media, some of the best STEM YouTube channels for kids include:

Depending on where you live, you can take advantage of a variety of STEM settings open to the public. Libraries, museums, and local colleges may offer guest lecture series, live or digital demonstrations, and other STEM exhibits targeted specifically for children. Look into the outdoor hiking and nature facilities in your area and what programs they offer young patrons. The best science museums in the country include:

Your child’s school may offer before- or after-school groups, like a robotics team, environmental club, or STEM summer camp. There are sleepaway camps across the U.S. that offer daily STEM immersions for varying lengths. If staying away from home for an extended period is not an option, families can even create their own STEM challenge calendar featuring seasonal and situational projects.

That science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are so embedded in our daily routines provides myriad organic entry points to develop your child’s interest and STEM. By fostering curiosity and investigation in all facets of home life, parents can help their kids develop the faculties that will enable them to be successful in life.

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