What you can do to encourage STEM skills in your Toddler - STEM education in Trinidad & Tobago
Many parents visit our school and ask me during our tours how do we inspire young children to participate in STEM and what they can do at home to begin to develop those skills.
We created Kids Tinkering Studio ltd a unique STEM school in Trinidad and Tobago as a place to promote early STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills.
For us early childhood is the natural starting point for STEM learning, young children are curious and want to explore their environments so there was no better age group for us to work with to develop early STEM skills. As I said to so many parents who visited us, young children are very capable STEM learners, and their knowledge and skills are often greatly underestimated by teachers and even their parents.
As a parent there are a few thing you can do to encourage your Toddler to develop skills in the areas of STEM
1. Encourage your toddler to describe the things they see and do in their everyday activities. You know when they are outside playing taking a walk with you to the park. When your child sees a butterfly, ask them to describe it – what shape is it, is it big or small, what colours are on the butterfly? Another great opportunity is when your child is building something, keep asking about what they are making and do not be discouraged by the imaginative answers you may get. Simply add more to the conversation by adding more words to the conversation this will also increase their vocabulary and confidence in using STEM language. Feel free to introduce words like balance, stabilize and measure.
2. Keep asking those open ended questions. Ask questions that focus on what your child can see or do, rather than why. Allow for your child to confidently answer questions and experience success. “What is happening to the colours in the jar ?” is much easier for them to respond to than “Why do the colours change?”, and encourages more fun conversations between you and your child. Be mindful that you want to extend conversations and learning, not shut it down with questions that children (and often parents) can’t answer.
3. You really want to encourage your child to notice things in their environment. If it starts to rain or if it becomes hot or windy. Encourage your child to discuss how the rain sounds or how the wind feels and if they notice the difference when the wind is blowing hard and gently. Remember observation is the most fundamental scientific process. We form hypotheses and gather data from the things we observations. Share your own observations with your children and use the language associated with observations, such as noticing and observing.
4. Encourage children to think about where they are in space. I know this may sound challenging but with enough practice your toddler would be able to recognize landmarks that can give them a sense of direction and where they are. You can try this simple experiment, can your child tell you where they are in the house and where their bedroom or the bathroom is? Research has shown clear links between spatial skills and STEM skills.
I know that there are loads of STEM toys out there but you do not need to buy expensive toys or science kits and you do not need to have any degrees in STEM to expose your toddler to STEM.
These simple guidelines are enough to start your child on the path to developing those soft skills needed to receive their STEM education.