The first few years of your baby’s life are a whirlwind of feedings, a lack of sleep and a steep learning curve. As they reach their toddler years, you’re most likely just relieved that they are generally sleeping through the night, using the toilet on their own and at least able to eat on their own (even if they are picky about it!).
What many parents don’t realise is that even at this young age, you can start to introduce STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning to your toddler.
STEM skills are invaluable having quickly become the fastest-growing job sector and likely to stay that way for decades to come.
Follow these early STEM learning tips and help develop these crucial skills
Divide the household work equally between mum and dad
One of the biggest factors working against STEM is the perception that these fields lead to jobs for men. If dad is always fixing things around the house and mum is always cooking and cleaning, it reinforces gender roles. Instead, show your little one that mum can just as easily hang a picture frame while dad cleans the kitchen.
Practice identifying shapes in everyday things
After you’ve taught your child to identify the various shapes, ask them to find them around the house. After they’ve identified a few different shapes they found in the home, also ask them to compare them based on size. Teach them comparatives and superlatives like big, bigger and biggest.
Encourage them to ask “what” instead of “why”
Children are naturally curious and love to ask “why” questions but these types of questions are asked with the perception that there is a right and wrong answer.
By comparison, thinking in “what” questions force kids to think about what they are seeing and lead them to communicate their observations. To encourage this line of questioning, start asking your kids “what” questions and get them to explain things to you.
Don’t show your fear of math
A very common joke that you’ll hear adults make is that they have terrible math skills. It seems we’re constantly reaching for our phones to use as a quick calculator rather than doing it in our heads. Children will pick up on this and become intimidated by it themselves. Instead, talk through simple arithmetic in front of them so that they already feel confident about this skill when they approach it at school.
Teach cause and effect
Show your child simple cause and effect relationships. Turn the lights on and off and explain to them how when the switch is up, the lights are on but when flipped down, the lights are off. Then have them explain the concept to you using another switch in your house. For a slightly more complex example, try the same thing with the television or a flashlight where there is no indicator of on versus off.
Count, rhyme and sing
By counting, rhyming and singing, you can help your baby to recognise patterns which play an important role in learning STEM basics. Recognising patterns is the first step in predicting outcomes which is one of the key parts of STEM. Songs like “Old MacDonald” are helpful for teaching patterns because of the repeated phrase (and the animal noises make it lots of fun!).
Get your kids started early with basic STEM skills with these easy to impletment learning tips!
Sources: The Bump, Resources for Early Learning, Natural Start