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5 Ways to Get Kids Excited About STEM Learning

kids and STEM

By Elanna Yalow and Theresa Maves

Many of the growing problems around the world, from famines and food insecurity to climate change and profound poverty, need the contributions of brilliant scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and technologists to find solutions. Encouraging children to explore skills and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) can help build a better future.

Whether a child pursues a formal career in STEM or just gains a background in related skills, that experience and perspective can be important in stimulating change. Unlock the potential in your child with these tips from the learning experts at KinderCare:

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1. Recognize people who advance STEM.

When reading a book or watching a show featuring characters in STEM careers, such as doctors, mechanics, or computer engineers, talk with your child about what those characters have in common, like a sense of curiosity or a willingness to try an idea that may or may not work. Taking time to point out any family members or friends with similar jobs or hobbies can help your child picture himself or herself in STEM-related roles.

2. Identify outside-the-box places where STEM lives.

Technology, for example, can be used to conduct research, draw, or create music—things that don’t always occur in laboratories, research centers, or tech companies. Using technology can open new possibilities for children to channel their interests into STEM careers. To build on any specific interests, such as robotics, the ocean, or the universe, find activities in your area that you can do with your child. For example, encourage your child to ask the zookeepers about certain animals he or she is interested in, or research the life cycle of a tree before taking a family camping trip.

3. Focus on the process to instill confidence.

Kids should understand that failure is okay, because this helps them be more open to try something new and step outside their comfort zones. Encourage your child to explore his or her passions and interests more in-depth. Try to compliment desired behaviors, such as hard work, perseverance, grit, and learning from mistakes, to teach your child success doesn’t come from always being right.

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4. Emphasize STEM-related skills.

Curiosity, observation, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication are crucial in nearly all STEM-focused careers. By asking questions like “why,” “how,” and “what if,” and by giving children the opportunity to explore and explain the world around them instead of simply providing them with answers, you can help spark curiosity and set the foundation for the development of more advanced skills.

5. Don’t limit your child to gender stereotypes.

Ensure your children know they have the ability to do and try things that capture their attention and align with their passions. Try to refrain from identifying certain toys or games as things that are just for boys or girls. All children should be allowed to play with and explore trucks, dolls, dinosaurs, kitchen sets, and toolboxes. Try to avoid setting boundaries that could unintentionally channel a child in a different direction than the one they want to pursue, and make sure your child understands the vast possibilities his or her future holds.

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