By: Beth Jacobson
For years, schools have been using STEM activities with students. What is STEM?
The letters STEM stand for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. (Sometimes you’ll see STEAM which is the same thing, but adds the “A” for Art.)
Now, don’t get worried…I’m not trying to imply that you need to teach your children these academic subjects at home! Many STEM activities, especially for young children, may not even look like math or science. Instead, the activities focus on the types of thinking needed to work on topics like these. STEM activities allow children to experiment with their “world”, take in information, analyze that information, then use what they’ve learned to draw conclusions or solve problems. All of us do these things all day long! In other words, STEM activities help children develop skills they’ll use the rest of their lives.
Children generally love STEM because the activities tend to be hands-on and fun. In addition, the children are “in charge”. They make the decisions and take ownership of whatever it is they’re working on.
The hard part for you as the parent is…not helping. The goal here is for your child to try lots of different ways to accomplish a task and figure out the best way to achieve their end goal. Are they going to make mistakes? YES. But, resist the urge to “fix” those mistakes for them. You can encourage them. You can ask questions. You can help them organize their thinking, but resist the temptation of getting too involved.
How can you provide STEM opportunities? One way is to put together a STEM kit. Again, DON’T PANIC. This is easier than you may think, and these activities are so much fun your child will never know they are learning!!
While there are many STEM kits available for purchase, you can easily make one using materials you will likely find around your house. Kits can be as simple or complex as you like. You can create a kit for almost any age level, and you can tailor it to the interests of your child(ren). Do you have paper and crayons? Legos? Toilet paper tubes and paper clips? If so, you can make a STEM kit!
You will find several links below. These links will provide you with some online resources to help you create your own STEM activities. HAVE FUN!!
How to Make a STEM Kit by Tactile Hobby If you want, scroll past the basic introductory information until you get to the supply lists. Continue scrolling to find specific kit ideas. (Be aware that this material may be copyrighted)
YouTube Video Ultimate Stem Kit Guide A 10 mins. video explaining STEM kits and providing specific kit ideas.
Stem Geek Website Good activities for upper elementary age children.
DIY STEAM Kits for Kids A basic website, but easy to put together ideas.
Kidpillar STEM Archives This site provides STEM ideas as well as other fun activities.