Make Families Grand – It’s never too early for STEM |

Make Families Grand – It’s never too early for STEM

In April Grand Beginnings celebrated its 14th annual Children’s Fair with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) theme, and the results are in : The STEM Fair was a great success!

Vendors had kids excited about aquatic insects, animal hides, germ lights, robots, seedlings, and volcanoes. While the fair helped recognize all the amazing STEM related people in our community, STEM learning can continue every day at home too.

The Colorado Early Learning and Development guidelines highlights that STEM-related learning is a key part to early cognitive development, stating, “Early ideas about number and size lay the foundation for the development of more advanced mathematical concepts.” This same is true for understanding the natural world, making connections and inferences about living organisms, or developing logic and reasoning skills.

Many families with young children may find it daunting to discuss scientific and mathematical concepts with their young children, especially if it was never something they enjoyed in school. Algebra, physics and geometry feel a long way off when your baby doesn’t even talk yet. However, STEM learning should begin early and it is easy too.

Dr. Yi-Chin Lan suggests some simple steps families can take to support their child’s STEM learning.

• Value children’s questions – All of those “why?” questions are valuable expressions of a child’s growing understanding of physical relationships. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer, instead encourage your child to share their perspectives and observations.

• Do research together – Maybe you do know the answer to the “why” question but instead of answering right away, help your child to seek out the answer. Saying, “I don’t know, but we can find out together,” can stimulate and afternoon of learning and discovery.

Give children time and space to explore – Sometimes it is hard to wait when you see your child struggling to do something young children need the time to experiment and try things out. They learn through trial and error and parents need to be patient and not jump in with the “correct” answer.

Exploring is messy work – Mud, sticks, plants, sand, and water all lead children to a developing understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts but they also come with a lot of mess. Be prepared with old clothes and kitchen utensils that can easily be cleaned!

Encourage curiosity – If you want your child to ask questions, be curious and engage in learning, you need to ask questions too. During everyday situations such as bath times, meal times, and at the grocery store you can ask your child all sorts of questions that help to draw out their own curiosity. Just start with, “I wonder why . . .”

Record Observations – All good scientists and mathematicians keep journals and notebooks with their observations and results from their experiments. Your child can do this too. Maybe it is drawing a picture of what they observed or making a few marks to count their results. Even if a child can’t write they are learning that written words translate into ideas. Not only does this stimulate STEM learning, it also promotes literacy and language development.

STEM learning doesn’t have to be complicated but it should start early. Make sure to use questions, promote curiosity, and explore our natural and physical worlds with your baby, toddler, and preschooler. And don’t ever stop! Promoting a love for science and math early will lead to lifelong results. For more resources and ideas check out these two great websites.

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