Ask a kid what their favorite class is, and they’ll likely tell you it’s either art, music, or social studies. There’ll be no mention of STEM degrees including science, technology, engineering, and math.
Although STEM careers are expected to grow exponentially throughout the 2020s, these disciplines still take the backseat when it comes to kids’ interests. This is because kids don’t know what STEM is all about. They also believe they won’t enjoy STEM jobs — because after all, when having these subjects ever been fun?
Fortunately, there’s still time to encourage your child to get a STEM degree. College is a long way to go, but by encouraging STEM learning early on, you’ll be able to build their interest in these subjects and show them that a STEM job isn’t as intimidating as it seems.
Why Should Kids Be Interested in STEM?
Why should STEM matter to them, anyway? The short answer is that the world needs them for the future. Down the road, STEM professions will be in-demand. The world will need more professionals to find solutions to STEM-related matters such as climate change, medicine, and more. Your child isn’t going to find a cure for cancer at a young age, but they may be able to if you give them the chance.
In other words, the world is counting on your children to build a better future.
How to Promote STEM Learning Among Kids
As a parent or legal guardian, you play an important role in encouraging a child to gain a genuine interest in STEM. We’ve put together a couple of tips on promoting STEM for children:
1. Put a Face to the Profession
Don’t tell your child what STEM is — show them what it is. Whenever you watch a TV show with characters who are doctors, scientists, data engineers, etc., explain to your child what those characters do. Concentrate on what these characters have in common, such as a commitment to help others, a sense of curiosity, and so on, as well as the positive aspects of their professions. That way, they can put a face to the STEM field and picture themselves as those people.
Be sure to point out if you have any family remembers in STEM-related fields. For instance, if you’re watching Peppa Pig and your child sees Doctor Brown Bear, you could say something like, “Did you know your uncle is also a doctor like Doctor Brown Bear?”. This will enable them to consider their family members as role models.
2. Go on a Field Trip
A visit to the observatory, science center, or museum can be a great opportunity for hands-on STEM learning. This will give young children the chance to explore and experiment with STEM concepts up close.
To encourage an interest in science (particularly planetary science), you can get your child to see the sun through the telescope or watch a show on stars. Or, if you want them to be interested in technology, go to a museum with interactive exhibits for a playful experience.
3. Encourage STEM Through Art
Does your kid like to draw? If they’re the kind of kid who’s interested in the arts instead of STEM, you can still promote STEM concepts in a way that appeals to their interests. For example, ask your kid to draw what they think the planets look like, or to build a robot out of boxes.
Even if you want your child to choose STEM, that doesn’t mean you should cut off any chance at creativity. Your child is going to need a bit of creativity to create valuable ideas — you can’t ignore its connection to intelligence.
4. Go to the Great Outdoors
You don’t need to go to a museum every time you want to encourage your child to gain an interest in STEM. You can go to the great outdoors — it’s free.
By going beyond your backyard, you will be able to encourage your kids to be curious. They’ll be curious about the stars, the birds, the bugs, and the list goes on. When they ask you about something, do your best to answer. But if you don’t know the answer, use that as an excuse for further exploration. They’ll be so curious that they won’t forget about it, and they’ll do anything to get to the bottom of things.
5. Always Speak of STEM Positively
Your kids look up to you. If you aren’t interested in STEM, they will lose interest in it, as well. If they want to know why the sky is blue, don’t brush them off because you don’t know the answer. Find the answer together — that way, you can contribute to your child’s curiosity.
In addition, if you ignore them when they want to show something off (e.g. a colorful leaf they found in the yard), they’ll take that as a sign to not do it again. Do not curb their curiosity, but encourage it.
Fun STEM Activities for Kids
We’ve compiled a couple of activities that can ignite an interest in STEM among young children:
- Cloud in a Jar. With nothing but water and hairspray, you can show your children how clouds are formed.
- Oil Spill. This can show children how oil spills impact the environment.
- Sun Catchers. Use cheap crystals to create a suncatcher to show the effect of refraction.
- Bead Counting. By numbering beads (e.g. 1 for small beads, 2 for big beads), you can teach your child how to count better.
- Tower Building. Get a bunch of toothpicks and tape, and ask your kid to design a tower that won’t break.
The Bottom Line: STEM Learning For Children Can Be Fun
Through STEM learning at a young age, you can encourage your child to go for a STEM-related degree in the future. They’ll be so curious about STEM that they’ll never find math or science class boring ever again!