Early childhood is the natural starting point for STEM learning, as young children are curious and want to explore their environments.
Children are very capable STEM learners, and their knowledge and skills are often greatly underestimated by educators and parents.
1. Encourage children to notice things
Children are often more observant than adults, especially when we are busy thinking about work and all the other things we need to do. Share your observations with your children and use the language associated with observations, such as noticing and observing.
Observation is the most fundamental scientific process. We form hypotheses and gather data from observations. With practice, children can move from noticing general features to more detailed or scientific features.
2. Encourage children to describe things they see and do
Ask children to describe the attributes or features of things they see and do. When your child sees a ladybug, ask them to describe it - what color, shape and size it is?
Similarly, when your child is building something, ask them to describe what they are doing (or did). You can restate what they describe and extend on their words, increasing their vocabulary and confidence in using STEM language.
3. Ask 'what' rather than 'why' questions
Ask questions that focus on what your child can see or do, rather than why. This will allow your child to confidently answer questions and experience success.
We want to extend conversations and learning, not shut it down with questions that children (and often parents) can't answer. It's fine to later find out why, but in the first instance, ask questions children can answer.
4. Encourage children to count using one-to-one correspondence
Children need to be able to do more than count. Children need to know one-to-one correspondence: that "one" equals one objects, "two" equals two objects, "three" equals three objects, and so on.
5. Encourage children to think about space around them
Encourage children to think about there they are in space. If they are looking at a map of the zoo, ask them where they are in relation to the kangaroos or lions. Ask them to give direction on how to get there.
Research has shown clear links between spatial skills and STEM skills. Children can develop complex understandings about the world around them with the right guidance from adults. Early STEM experiences can set children up for later STEM learning.