As a child, playing dress up was always one of my favourite pastimes. It was in in dress up mode that I figured out who and what I wanted to be. I played doctor, nurse, teacher, actress, and pop star—I loved being a pop star the best. I never played an engineer, or a computer scientist. Actually, I never played a mathematician either. Come to think of it, none of us did—those weren’t really options that came up, because we often couldn’t think of people who did those things, so we had no one to imitate. Our knowledge of people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) was very limited, and sadly, the same holds true for kids today. Being a kid is awesome in so many ways, and one of those ways is beginning to really truly get a sense of who we are and who we might become. For that reason, it is so important to do what we can to give our kids a chance to see themselves as people who might excel and thrive in STEM!
So Why Is STEM So Important Anyways?
Aside from the fact that STEM is the stuff that high paying jobs are increasingly made of, and the fact that many non-STEM careers involve at least some level of STEM know-how, the most important reason to encourage STEM-savvy among your kids is simply because it’s only fair to give your children a choice. Way too many kids go through life deciding early on that they’re simply ‘not math or science people,’ halting not only any possibility of a STEM related career, but quashing the development of a love for scientific curiosity and inquiry. Problem solving is possibly one, if not the most important skill offered by STEM based activity, a skill that every child should have the chance to develop, hone and turn to regardless of which path they choose to follow. Most importantly, the thought of any child deciding early on that they simply CANNOT do something is unacceptable—and unnecessary. Math and science have always been subjects that elicit an emotional reaction associated with ‘being unable to,’ and that needs to stop. The sheer confidence that can be gained by introducing math and science to children in a non-competitive, non-traditional setting is huge. Let’s face it, while STEM is growing in importance, our schools still have to catch up. It’s up to us to make sure that our kids get a STEMducation, so here are a few ways you can help your child fall in love with STEM—and who knows, you might develop a little crush in the process!
1. Conduct Real Life Experiments
Who doesn’t remember the baking-soda-volcano we all had to make in like, Grade 2? No one. For most of us, there are nothing but positive memories associated with that super ridiculous activity, and if there’s one fact we remember to this day, it’s that white vinegar and baking soda make a GIANT MESS. Science experiments are fun and don’t need to take place in a lab. In fact, you’ve got a lab of your very own: your kitchen! Cooking, measuring, actually researching why cookies get chewy or hard when you cook them—these are all amazing ways to incorporate science into your day-to-day life. If you’re looking for a more structured edible experiment, try Mental Floss’ list of 10 Science Experiments You Can EAT With Your Kid!, or this crazy candy chemistry set! Already created and eaten all of the above? Try LifeHack’s 20 Awesome DIY Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kid —there is some CRAZY stuff in there!
2. Treat STEM Like Soccer
A parent called me a few months ago saying that her 5-year old son wanted to take math as an extra-curricular. I was thrilled, and told her no problem, let’s sign him up! Her response? ‘Wait…isn’t that weird? Should I be weirded out that my son wants to take math for fun? Is there something wrong with him?’ Months later, her son is kicking butt with us—he loves coming in for his sessions dressed as a super hero, ready to tackle math! When we think of extra-curriculars, we often go for the popular ones: swimming, hockey, ballet…but there are a ton of ways to engage your child outside of the classroom when it comes to STEM! Search your area for robotics camps, coding workshops, and science classes. Positioning STEM as an extra-curricular helps your child see science and math as fun instead of simply mandatory and confined to the classroom!
3. Design the Next Big Thing
Let’s face it, apps are taking over our world. Eating, sleeping, dreaming, gaming, coffee-ing—there’s an app for that! Kids love their iphones, ipads, i-everythings, so what better way to engage them in the wonderful world of technology by encouraging them to design an app of their very own? Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you might think! Try Kids App Maker, Kids App Creator, or Infinite Monkeys. They’re all super easy to use, and who knows, your kid might be the one to come up with the next Facebook. (Cha-CHING!)
4. Choose STEM Toys
There are so many cool toys out there that promote STEM to young girls that Lego almost seems like a thing of the past! Check out Goldiblox or Roominate—they are so insanely cool that you’ll want to play with them yourself! Craving more? Amazon has a whole section for STEM toys.
Got a particular strategy that works for you? Please share!