Message in a Backpack ™ Choosing the Best STEM Activities for Your Child
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Young children love to explore the world around them—and STEM activities are a great way to help them do it. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. There are lots of STEM activities available online for families and children to do at home, but some are better than others! With so many STEM ideas to choose from, how do you find what is best for your child?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
1. Will this activity interest my child?
Is your child interested in building? Collecting rocks? Looking at the night sky? Choose activities that will appeal to your child or choose new ones that they haven’t tried yet! When you follow your child’s interests and spark new ones, you support their learning by building on what they already know and can do.
2. What is there for my child to DO?
Look for activities that encourage your child to explore and discover. Make sure your child will be active by building, rolling balls, digging, mixing, making shadows, or even getting messy! When your child is actively involved in play with objects and materials, they are learning a lot about how the things around them work.
3. What is there for my child to FIGURE OUT?
Look for activities that enable your child to solve problems and find their own solutions. Choose activities that your child can do in different ways to get different results. It’s okay if they don’t fully or accurately understand the scientific concepts they’re observing; what’s important is that they explore and discover using the skills needed to think like a scientist. These types of activities enable your child to experiment, test theories, and figure out what solutions work best.
4. What is there for my child to TALK about?
Choose activities that give you and your child interesting things to talk about. When you ask your child to describe and explain what they are doing, observing, and thinking about, you build their STEM skills. Ask your child why questions: Why do you think so? Why did you try it that way? You may be surprised by your child’s ideas!
5. What is there for my child to DRAW or WRITE about so they can share their discoveries?
Choose activities that include opportunities to write, draw, or make models. Your child might build a block structure of your home or use pipe cleaners to create a butterfly they observed outside. You can also document what they are doing by using your smartphone to take photos or videos. Then have your child share their experiences with other family members!
Copyright © 2021 National Association for the Education of Young Children. See permissions and reprints online at NAEYC.org/resources/permissions.
Rosemary Geiken, EdD, retired as an associate professor from East Tennessee State University. She consults with Regents' Center for Early Developmental Education on STEM for young children.
Sandy Chilton, MEd, is a bilingual kindergarten teacher in Austin, Texas. She has spent the past 14 years advocating for young children and leading early childhood educators.