STEM for Preschoolers: Activities to Try at Home
Activities to Try at Home
Do your children have an interest in figuring out how things work? Do they enjoy experimenting with their surroundings? You may have a budding engineer, astronaut, mathematician or scientist on your hands. Even kids who are not naturally drawn to all things math and science enjoy exploring their environment and figuring out how things work. STEM activities (science, technology, engineering and math) engage kids of all ages in these specific areas. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing 17 percent per year, and STEM degree holders have a higher income. Although a career in the STEM fields may seem like a long time off for your preschooler, STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables innovation of new products in the future. Most would agree that jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math, science and technology, and it is never too early to start developing your child’s interest in these areas. (EngineeringForKids.com) Many schools are developing STEM curriculums for classrooms, and parents have plenty of things they can do at home to kick-start preschoolers’ love of science.
STEM in the kitchen
Your school teachers were right: You do use math and science in everyday life. You may already love cooking with your kids but consider incorporating science and math lessons at the same time. While baking cookies, have your children help measure the ingredients, count the scoops of flour, talk about what happens if you do not use the correct measurements, and discuss what the purpose of baking powder and baking soda is. (It leavens the batter to rise while baking.) Make the experience fun and educational at the same time. Your child may not even notice she is learning about math and science while baking and sampling tasty treats.
DIY science lab
Create your own science lab mixing station at home. All you need are several plastic or glass containers (see-through are best) of any shape and size. Fill containers with dry ingredients such as baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and cornstarch. Fill additional containers with wet ingredients, such as water, white vinegar, lemon juice and ice. Laying towels underneath your mixing station or setting the ingredients up outside may be wise so you can have fun without worrying about the difficulty of cleanup. Once your science lab is set up, get creative. Let your kids experiment with what happens when different ingredients are mixed. This activity is great for preschoolers but can also be adapted to older children by providing them with a journal to record the results of each combination of ingredients when they are mixed.
Use what you have
Set up a sensory bin using dried beans, water beads or rice as a filler, then hide items inside. Ask your child to find the red dinosaur, count the green items or close his eyes and guess what items he feels. Encourage your little engineer or architect to build a tower using toothpicks and marshmallows, or fill a tray with shaving cream and blocks and ask whether he thinks the shaving cream will help his blocks stick together. Sharpen math skills with colored cereal like Fruit Loops. Ask your child to sort the pieces by color and count them. Then have her string the cereal on yarn to make a necklace. Make it fun and see what potential STEM activities you have lying around the house.
Preschoolers love to explore with their hands and all of their senses, which makes the possibilities endless. Plant a garden, fill water glasses with food coloring and mix to learn about colors, count and sort items throughout the day, talk about and chart the weather or play with magnets and a cookie sheet. STEM is all around us just waiting to be explored.
Sarah Lyons is a part-time freelance writer and a full-time mom of six living in Olathe.