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There’s nothing like being schooled on all things technology by our kids to make us feel over the hill. Even parents who consider themselves to be somewhat tech-savvy have to admit that life often moves at a pace that’s hard to keep up with.
But even though today’s 6-year-olds pick up new technology at lightning speed, it won’t necessarily translate to an enduring interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Studies in recent years are showing that university students are dropping out of STEM subjects at high rates—in part, it seems, because they are insufficiently prepared beginning in elementary and middle school.
It’s clear that early intervention matters in STEM. One study even showed that at kindergarten age, math matters more than reading as a predictor of later academic success.
But despite all the real-world applications of STEM and the benefits they’ll reap now and in the years to come, it’s rarely our kids’ favourite lesson at school. So how do we get our kids engaged? Here are a few tips to foster a love of engineering and STEM:
Build on what they love already
Outlining all the jobs engineering might lead to is a surefire way to dampen kids’ enthusiasm. Look at it from their point of view: did you want your parents telling you what to be when you grow up?
Bring back the fun by showing them how STEM and engineering can touch on the aspects of their lives which already enthrall them. Got a kid who love to play with cars? As it turns out, playing with Hot Wheels isn’t just awesome—it also promotes their physical and cognitive development.
Alternatively, if you have a son or daughter who’s into Lego, a simple game with the colourful bricks could lead to a discussion about architectural principles and structural engineering. If you’ve ever watched a kid play Lego, you’ll know that your kid’s concentration levels are never higher than mid building session. Take the opportunity to show them how it can be tied to engineering by gently nudging them on the more science-y or techie aspects during playtime.
Find the STEM in everyday activities
It can be tricky for kids to fully comprehend the true scale of engineering. So instead of giving them a grandiose, pie-in-the-sky overviews and why it’s so important for them to learn about it, casually mention examples you see day to day.
This can be anything from fixing things around the home to pointing at the CN Tower the next time you’re walking in downtown Toronto. Many kids will find these feats of engineering seriously cool, but few will have made the connection and realized that it all began with an idea and a human being—just like her or him.
Likewise, most kids go crazy for roller coasters and theme park rides. But how many of them realize that somebody not only devised the Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderful, but also drew up the plans and engineered things to make it a physical possibility? Before long, your kid will come to realize that engineering affects almost everything we do.
Have fun and get hands-on
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you phrase it. For most kids—and especially young kids—the proof is in the pudding when it comes to showing them how “fun” something can be. So put your money where your mouth is and illustrate how enjoyable STEM can be.
Take your kids to the museum anytime there’s a fun exhibit in town and teach them how things were made and about the history of technology. Ask kids questions so they can explore exactly what they’re seeing and expand upon the areas that fascinate them when they seem curious.
Play games with your child. Let loose and make a few messes, then explain what’s happening when you make soap or watch a baking soda volcano erupt all over the kitchen floor. Give them an opportunity to flex their curious and creative muscles. Sure, one fun Lego session or experiment isn’t a guarantee they’ll grow up to be an architect or scientist. But little by little, you’re opening up their minds and making STEM fun—which, after all, it is!
If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your kids STEM learning, e2 Young Engineers North Vaughan have a number of summer camps which you can enroll your kids in. The program revolve round the world of science and engineering with specially trained instructors onhand to challenge through fun and games based on STEM. From Candy to Adventure, all camps encourage girls and boys to learn about STEM and engineering through building and playing in a fun, friendly space where everyone can get involved.
In addition to camps, e2 Young Engineers North Vaughan also offers programs for kids with special needs, Lego birthday parties, and school programs and workshops.