Young children are natural scientists. They love to explore, investigate, experiment, and make discoveries both on their own and with others. From early infancy on, they make comparisons, make predictions, try things out, and show adults what they’ve learned. As they reach preschool age, they explore sizes, shapes, patterns, and quantities with blocks, art, and games and with objects from nature, such as sticks, stones, leaves, water, and sand. This early investigation lays the foundation for knowledge and skills within science, technology, engineering and math, otherwise known as STEM.

 

Parents can facilitate building a strong foundation in STEM or STEAM (which includes the arts) by consciously introducing experiences to their young child that provide opportunities to ask questions, experiment, and make their own discoveries about how the world is organized, how things go together, how various devices work, and what they want to know. Here are a few examples:

 

1. Science

Plant seeds in a garden, watch them grow, experiment with how to water them, compare different stems, leaves and flowers. These activities give children and parents an opportunity to make scientific discoveries about the cycle of plant life, patterns of growth, classifications, and various aspects of the environment.

 

2. Technology

Introduce young children to videos about growing vegetables or look at different flowers and vegetables online.

 

3. Engineering

Create an indoor window garden with glass jars and different materials (dirt and carrot tops), an avocado seed or a potato (supported by toothpicks poked in the seed or potato and balanced across the top of the jar filled with water).

 

4. Art

Draw pictures of what is happening to the roots or tops as the plant grows. Place the pictures in a row to see the sequence of change.

 

5. Math

Play a game such as Share a Berry, where children count, add and subtract their berries, sequence and recognize patterns, and also learn to share.

 

Research has demonstrated that children who have strong foundations in STEM in preschool do better in these same areas in the upper grades. They develop a scientific approach to investigation. By stimulating interest, engagement, and problem solving in the early years, children learn how to learn and are not intimidated by STEM.

 

Dr. Toni Linder is a leader in the field of early childhood development and  early childhood special education. She works with children of diverse  backgrounds and ability levels, including children that are gifted and talented,  who have disabilities or come from backgrounds of poverty, and those from  multicultural backgrounds.