STEM for Preschoolers? 8 Ways to Start

STEM for Preschoolers? 8 Ways to Start

Is it ever too early to introduce STEM to kids?

We previously reported that the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum published “The Roots of STEM Success: Changing early learning experiences to build lifelong thinking skills.” The report explains the value of introducing preschoolers and infants to STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Developmentally-appropriate, rigorous STEM learning remains a missing link in most children’s early educational experiences, even though research shows that brain development is most robust in a child’s first years of life.”

The report authors reviewed more than 150 empirical studies on cognitive and developmental psychology and education, and concluded that “children are capable of remarkable problem solving from the earliest of years. At the same time, adult guidance, support, and awareness are critical to harnessing our intrinsic STEM capacity and transforming it into lifelong STEM intelligence, knowledge, and capability.”

STEM for preschoolers
From “The Roots of STEM Success” by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum

The Hechinger Report has reviewed the study and offers “Eight ways to introduce kids to STEM at an early age.” These include:

  • “Give children toys that have ‘manipulative elements’ like balls and rattles. Ask children to control elements of these toys, like building higher towers or making the rattle softer or louder.”
  • “Have children explain how simple tools in your house work, like a can opener or a door hinge.”
  • “Allow infants to practice ‘repetitive play,’ like dropping a spoon over and over, which helps the child learn about concepts like gravity long before they learn what gravity is.”
  • “Give children time to practice four kinds of play: pretend play that involves a child using their imagination; exploratory play where children create experiments or take things apart; guided play where adults play and interact with children, and free play without an adult involved.”
  • “Allow exploratory play (within reason and with safety in mind), even if that means a toddler may get dirty.”
  • “Ask ‘why,’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions as much as possible to push children to explain their thinking.”
  • “Use complex and accurate vocabulary words, even with babies. Introduce them to words like “stable” when building a tower or “fragile” when touching objects.”
  • “Teach children that they are constantly learning by encouraging them to say, ‘I can’t do this yet’ instead of ‘I can’t do this.’”

As the Center for Childhood Creativity states: “Most of the current work in STEM education has focused on older children, however, generally beginning in late elementary or middle school. Developmentally-appropriate, rigorous STEM learning remains a missing link in most children’s early educational experiences, even though research shows that brain development is most robust in a child’s first years of life.”