In my previous post, I summarized the concepts of STEM & STEAM, including why it is so critical that we instill these skills into our kids. Not just for their financial benefit, but the greater societies' benefit too. Now that you are bought into the what & why of STEAM, let us get active in applying these concepts in our daily lives. Today's post will focus on how we can start applying STEAM & STEM concepts in the first five years of your child's life..
There is a reason why I put this first. It is effortless in today's hyper-competitive world for parents to overschedule and overstress our kids with activities, lessons & experiences. I'm guilty of it myself, and often Rabia has to intervene when I ask my kids for another journal entry or Khan Academy session. I plan to write a focused article on this topic in the future, but for now, take your kid out back and enjoy the backyard or your local park.
For the first thirty minutes, sit back and watch your kid's imagination come to life. It is marvelous to see how much joy a child can get from playing outdoors. While it may not be visible, they are learning here too. They are learning to play with others, share, wait their turn, and make decisions on how much risk they want to take.
While you are outdoors with your child, start to introduce the concepts of STEM while they play. Start by asking your child "WHAT" questions about what they observe in the environment around them. For example:
The first step to solving problems, whether they are diagnosing a health issue, fixing a program bug, testing a hypothesis or engineering a solution is to observe actively. Make this process of observation fun and playful by turning it into a detective game. Ask your child to come up with their questions, and then use their power of observation to create a prediction. They can run their mini-experiments to test out their hypothesis, and then explain their findings to you.
I found a great article at naturalstart.org that I highly recommend reading which can explain these concepts in more detail.
Let's say you don't have a backyard and your local park isn't down the street. In that case, I'd highly recommend a daily walk with your kid as a way to explore, get healthy and spend quality time together as a family. On our walks as a family, our kids:
Executive functioning skills are considered crucial for doing well in school, work and life. These are the skills that require organization, planning, time management, flexibility, and problem-solving. Examples include the ability to finish work on time, make plans and apply learnings in solving problems. All of these are pre-requisites for STEM, and are critical foundational steps.
Practical ways to improve these skill are:
You'll be amazed by the resources available at your local children's museum. By the time my kids were five, we had visited almost a dozen different science museums across the country. In fact, the highlight of every vacation was visiting the local children museum. At these institutions the kids have:
If you are interested in learning more about visiting dozens of museums for free, check out my earlier post about the Girls Scout trip to the Tech Museum.
Every night I read to my kids, and every Saturday, we walk to the library. I tell my kids to pick one book for fun and one for learning. My first blog post was about the importance of reading to kids. I highly recommend you read it and implement its call to action. Rabia has also written a comprehensive post on this topic which will be on the site soon.
Hopefully, I don't have to tell you this, but Sesame Street is a wonderful tv series for both educating and entertaining kids at the same time. Over the last 5 seasons, Sesame Street has been incorporating STEAM into its curriculum. In my next post, I'll link a dozen different videos I recommend you watch with your kids.
With over 16 years of Operations Leadership at Apple, Iftikhar has had pivotal roles in launching the iPod, iPhone, iPad & Apple Watch. In late 2017, he launched k12toSTEMCareer.com with the goal of becoming a better parent to his children, Rizwan and Khadija. Today, over 1214 people follow Iftikhar's writings around STEM & Parenting. Read Iftikhar's personal story about his journey from an Introvert to a Director at Apple.
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