Exploring and experimenting are two natural ways that toddlers and preschoolers learn. What adults think of as play is really a child’s way of forming and testing theories, then trying out different variables to observe the results.
According to the Center for Early Education in STEM, simple childhood games can promote significant STEM skills. For example:
- Building structures – knocking them down, testing them with weight, etc. – engages kids in reasoning about physics.
- Cooking engages children in science, math, and literacy through measuring ingredients, seeing how foods combine and change, and reading recipes.
- Singing and dancing convey counting concepts, and making musical instruments with everyday objects helps kids learn how to control aspects of sound like pitch, loudness, timbre and duration.
- Through water activities, kids experiment with movement and volume, filling cups or pails, then watching how holes in objects affect water flow.
- In playing card and board games, children use math, oral language, reading and writing; reason about strategies; and, learn to take turns, take another person's perspective and negotiate.
- What do you think will happen?
- Why do you think it ended that way?
- How do you think things will be different if we change something?
By encouraging kids to experiment with their environment in the early years, we help them develop abilities – like STEM skills – that will help them be successful in school and in life.
Author: Sam Leyvas is Chief Executive Officer of First Things First. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.