Written by Aimee Ketchum
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: our future, our present, our world! These concepts are not just relevant in terms of the job market or the future of education, but it is what’s important and relevant right now and it is trickling down to babies. Babies need to have STEM skills? They most certainly do, and you will probably be surprised to know they are already wired to cultivate them. Let’s break down each concept and look at how it applies to babies and toddlers.
Science is really just a way of thinking, observing, experimenting, and asking questions. Before babies are mobile, they are nothing if not little scientists, observing and taking their world in all day long. Babies are constantly watching and learning from what they see; toddlers are intuitively questioning everything they see, attempting to make sense of the world.
Technology is a way of being inventive, identifying problems, coming up with solutions and making things work. If you have ever watched a toddler at play, they are using technology the whole time, making shapes fit into a hole, cars drive on a track, blocks stack high.
Take that a step further and they are little engineers, designing and creating and building things that work. Building forts and bug houses and leprechaun traps, using ingenuity and creativity and a boundless imagination.
Math is integral component of so many early skills. Anything that involves counting, sequencing, patterning, or exploring shapes, size, or volume is an early math skill. Without even knowing it, babies and toddlers use these skills constantly during play and exploration.
Part of what makes babies and young children such great scientists is their natural curiosity and willingness to repeat actions that interest them. They have a truly innate need to explore the world and attempt to make sense of it all.
You can foster these important STEM skills on your little scientists by allowing them lots of opportunities to explore their world. Set up situations that require them to think and solve problems. While you are cooking dinner, pull out some plastic containers and encourage your baby to see what fits inside of what, stack them, put them in order from smallest to largest while you say these words to teach the concepts. For older children, add measuring cups, spoons and ladles and something to transfer and measure such as dry beans or pasta. Make it a sensory activity by using cooked pasta, jello, or pudding. It’s ok to get dirty, more brain cells are stimulated! Ask lots of questions to make your child think: ”What color do you think this avocado will be on the inside when I cut it?” “How many pieces of apple will this apple slicer make?” “Let’s count them together.”
Integrate these concepts into activities all day long. Think about how you can ask questions and set up thought-provoking situations during bath time, meal time, outdoor play and while cleaning up toys. Maybe set timers and countdown to the last second, guess how many toys will fit in the bin, then count them as you clean up. There are opportunities everywhere to add STEM skills to your child’s day. Take advantage of all of these great opportunities and help prepare your child for school and the complex world that lies ahead.