Science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Coding, advanced placement and the arts. It seems parents today are encouraging their children to develop real-world skills earlier in their development than ever before. It can certainly seem overwhelming—like you're falling behind if you aren't keeping up. Take a breath and remember they're just kids. Let's explore a few ways to allow your children to find new ways to play, uncover new skills and learn new things.
Ask and Listen
Sit down at dinner and talk to your kids about their favorite things to do at school. What's something they learned that they really enjoyed? Then, find ways to explore that further. If it's science, for example, look for a science camp and enroll them over the summer. Let them guide you.
Explore With Free Play
Keep a few materials on hand at home that let kids explore the concepts of STEM on their own. Use Pinterest to help you find ideas, or simply collect materials around the house (think paper towel tubes, rogue string and rubber bands, extra buttons, etc.) and create little "kits" that they can play with any time they're bored. Don't give them any rules; just let them figure out what they can do with the materials they have.
Find a Local Chapter
Girls Who Code is a national organization with local chapters around the country, so odds are there's one near you. If you think your child might be interested in how video games and computers work, look for an afterschool coding club or summer program to help them explore that interest.
The Internet is full of awesome resources and examples if you know where to look. Search YouTube for STEM kids and you'll find lots of great ideas, as well as inspiring videos that might open up their minds to possibilities they hadn't dreamed of before!
Take in a Podcast
If you don't have a ton of time at home between work and school and extracurricular activities, a STEM-focused podcast can be a great alternative. Try out Femmes of STEM, Science Friday, Radio Lab, Wow In The World or Star Talk to get you started. Just be sure the podcast you choose is age-appropriate.
Read the Right Books
Books that focus on growth, perseverance, inventive thinking, engineering, real-world applications and the concept that ideas can change the world are ideal for exploring STEM skills in children. A couple examples include What To Do With A Box and Iggy Peck, Architect. Your local library is an excellent resource.
Be Careful With STEM Toys
In the grand scheme, it's the principles behind STEM that kids will benefit from exploring, rather than a toy that lights up or moves differently if they organize it or plug it in a certain way. Those toys are sometimes limiting, wherein one of the principles of STEM is the limitless potential of ideas when it comes to problem solving. That said, if you're choosing between two battery-operated toys and one has a STEM component built right in, why not choose that one?
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