STEM fields and degrees are more important than ever in the United States. There are 1.2 million job openings projected in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields by the year 2022. As technology continues to grow by leaps and bounds, more and more jobs will open up in the field.
One of the best ways to make sure we have enough people to fill these new jobs is by getting a kids interested in STEM early, and keeping that interest going. Luckily for new parents like me, there are plenty of ways to do that. Even better, many easy activities can help introduce a love of science, technology, engineering, and math to your child. Here are a few suggestions.
1. Visit a farm
There are some surprising career choices in the STEM field. Some of these choices? Dairy science, poultry science, sustainable agriculture, and animal management. All kids love animals, so introduce them to the fields of animal science and food science by visiting a farm. Get to know animals, see where and how your food is grown, and talk to the people who make sure America is fed. There are plenty of hands-on activities to try, so find a farm with a petting zoo or a pick-your-own produce area.
2. Get digging
Geology and paleontology are STEM fields. If you’re kid loves rocks and dinosaurs, this could be the field for them. Start a rock collection and research the rocks you’re finding, or visit a dinosaur exhibit at a local museum. Supplement this with lots of books about when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and you’re good to go!
3. Look at the stars
Yep, astronomy and aerospace engineering fall under the STEM umbrella, too. Visit a planetarium in your area, or get outside and look at the stars. For best results, try to get away from sources of artificial lights and pick a clear night for your star-gazing. If you’re lucky, you can watch a shooting star, then explain how it’s not actually a star at all. Keep the learning going by identifying constellations, planets, and phases of the moon.
4. Make a chemical reaction
Inspire your budding chemist with easy science experiments you can do at home. Since chemistry is a science, it’s an in demand career. Start off with the classic baking soda and vinegar volcano to explain chemical reactions. If that interests your child, you can find plenty more easy chemical reaction experiments across the Internet. Pick a few and get started learning!
5. Start coding
Introduce your children to coding at an early age with Fisher-Price’s new Code-a-Pillar. From their new line of Think and Learn toys, which are designed to foster problem-solving and creativity in children. The Code-a-Pillar is a fun way to introduce your kids to the basics of coding. The toy comes with a caterpillar head, 8 caterpillar segments, and 2 directional targets. Each of the segments is a basic “command” for the Code-a-Pillar, such as “go straight,” “turn left,” or “make a sound.” The directional targets can be set up around the room for your children to aim the Code-a-Pillar at. Although the basic Code-a-Pillar offers plenty of coding fun, you can also buy expansion packs for your Code-a-Pillar for even more ways to play. The Code-a-Pillar is aimed at preschool age children (3-6 years), and requires 4 AA batteries. It retails for $50. Expansion packs retail for $15 each.
Introducing children to problem solving, coding, and cause-and-effect, the Fisher Price Code-a-Pillar is a great way to make learning fun. Although my baby is currently too small to use it, I borrowed two tech-obsessed boys from a friend to try it out. They both enjoyed making the Code-a-Pillar go in different directions, as did my husband. Although it is aimed at preschoolers, it can clearly be enjoyed by older children as well. We made a video here.
Remember, the off switch for the Code-a-Pillar is on the bottom of the toy, and it will continue to make noise until the switch is turned off.
How do you get your children interested in learning?