A common misconception about STEM career fields is that they are too difficult, too technical, and provide no room for out-of-the-box thinking. Contrary to this belief, STEM is one of the most mentally invigorating and creative fields of study.
As parents and educators, we want to challenge our kids to solve problems, expand their skills and make connections. But getting them interested in subjects that are often seen as “uncool” can be difficult.
Below are some strategies, tools, and activities that can help you introduce your kids to the engaging world of STEM.
Start with the building blocks
LEGO is among the most popular toys ever made, with an appeal that spans the entire globe. What looks like a simple plastic brick is actually a tool that helps children refine their motor, spatial, and language skills during playtime. These blocks teach children how to think differently, how to create from scratch, and how to exercise their imaginations.
You might wonder, “But how does LEGO help me teach my kids about STEM?” The problem-solving and creative skills that these building blocks instill in children are highly coveted in STEM-related careers. Through what scientists call “structured block play,” children build the habits necessary to tackle the many challenges and constraints in science and engineering and learn how to overcome them.
Play with toys
Move over Hess trucks and baby dolls; we’re in the digital age. The new generation of thinkers and doers has access to toys that help them discover and develop their skills early in life. For example, the Snap Circuits Extreme electronic discovery kit teaches kids about electronic processes and how they power the toy’s experiments, including an AM radio, a lie detector, and a sound activated switch.
From robotics to physics to chemistry, Amazon is leading the pack with their extensive collection of STEM toys for kids (and adults) of all age groups — all of which can be shipped right to your front door. While your kids are performing experiments or tweaking electronic systems, they’re also refining the skills they’ll need for their future STEM careers.
Unlock the code
Coding is one of the primary gateways to STEM success. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, professionals with a computer science degree earn an average entry-level salary of $61,321. If your child shows a natural affinity for logic puzzles and a desire to create, consider teaching them how to program.
Get your hands dirty
One of the best ways to introduce kids to new subjects is to dive right in and make the mundane wonderful. You can start their STEM journey by simply introducing your kids to the science all around them. Cooking dinner can turn into a lesson about temperature and chemistry. A trip to the store could be an exploration of arithmetic and numbers.
You can even download apps onto your smartphone or tablet device to make at-home lessons more interactive. Take GazziliScience as an example. This app, developed by The Dalton School, helps preschoolers learn about basic science concepts through six engaging activities. In one such activity, your child can learn about the four seasons, and in the next they can discover the water cycle.
If your son or daughter is older and already has an interest in these subjects, consider enrolling them in a hands-on extracurricular STEM program. From Game Making to Biomedical Engineering, courses like these enable your child to roll up their sleeves and learn about topics and ideas that would be unavailable to them in traditional curriculums.
Once you’ve discovered the many tools and activities available, making STEM fun is easy. It’s in our computers, our food, and even the air we breathe. Whether you use a game or a mini-lesson, teaching kids about the wonders of the world helps instill a curiosity and interest in them that will serve as an essential foundation for their future success.
Meet the Author
Scott Rhodes, Vice Provost of Enrollment
With an 18-year background in higher education, Scott Rhodes leads enrollment and recruitment strategies for Florida Polytechnic University. His responsibilities encompass undergraduate admissions, graduate enrollment and enrollment marketing, financial aid, student records and registration and enrollment market research.