STEM for Preschoolers

Activities to Try at Home

Do your children have an interest in figuring out how things work? Do they enjoy experimenting with their surroundings? You may have a budding engineer, astronaut, mathematician or scientist on your hands. Even kids who are not naturally drawn to all things math and science enjoy exploring their environment and figuring out how they work.

STEM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, are activities that engage kids of all ages in these specific areas. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, STEM occupations are growing 17% per year and STEM degree holders have increasingly higher incomes.
   “An interest in STEM subjects at an early age, studies are showing, can determine interest in pursuing STEM careers later on,” said Caitlyn Carter, Education Project Coordinator at Imagination Station Toledo.

Developing Interests

While a career in the STEM field may seem like a long time off for your preschooler, STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables innovation of new products in the future. Most would agree that jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math, science, and technology and it is never too early to start developing your child’s interest in these areas.

“We believe children learn through exploration, through hands-on experiences,” said Kristin Tansel, Education Director for Children’s Discovery Center.

“If they’re showing an interest at home— maybe they saw something outside and saw a bug on the ground, or saw an airplane go overhead— ask, ‘How do you think it’s flying? What do you think that bug is doing as it crawls over [that] log? Really get them to answer the question,” she added.

While many schools are developing STEM curriculums for classrooms, there are plenty of things you can do at home to kickstart your preschoolers’ love of science.

STEM in the kitchen

You may already love cooking with your kids but consider incorporating science and math lessons at the same time.

While baking cookies have your children help measure the ingredients, count the scoops of flour, talk about what happens if you do not use the correct measurements and discuss the purpose of baking powder and baking soda. (It leavens the batter, allowing it to rise while baking.) Making the experience fun and educational, your child may not even notice they are learning about math and science while baking and sampling tasty treats.

“Science is happening everywhere, all the time— in the kitchen, in their backyard, even in the grocery store. So helping children to learn to use their five senses to make observations and to make and test predictions are two really important ways that parents can help their children build that curiosity,” Carter of Imagination Station said.

DIY science lab

Create your own science lab mixing station at home. All you need is several plastic or glass containers (see through containers are best) of any shape and size.

Fill the containers with dry ingredients such as baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugar and cornstarch. Fill additional containers with wet ingredients such as water, white vinegar, lemon juice and ice. It may be wise to lay towels underneath your mixing station or set the ingredients up outside so you can have fun without worrying about clean up.

Once your science lab is set up, it’s time to get creative. Let your kids experiment with what happens when different ingredients are mixed. This activity is great for preschoolers or adapted for older children by providing them with a journal to record the results of each combination of ingredients when they are mixed.

Use what you have

Set up a sensory bin using dried beans or rice as a filler then hide items inside. Ask your child to find the red dinosaur, count the green items, or close their eyes and guess what items they feel.

Encourage your little engineer or architect to build a tower using toothpicks and marshmallows or fill a tray with shaving cream and blocks and ask if they think the shaving cream will help their blocks stick together. Sharpen their math skills with colored cereal like Fruit Loops. Ask your child to sort the pieces by color and count them. Then have them string the cereal on yarn to make a necklace. See what other potential STEM activities you have laying around the house.

Preschoolers love to explore which makes the possibilities endless. Plant a garden, fill water glasses with food coloring and mix to learn about colors, count and sort items throughout the day, talk about and chart the weather, or play with magnets and a cookie sheet. STEM is all around us just waiting to be explored.