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Why Preschoolers Need STEM (And How To Start)

Why preschoolers need STEM.

I’m into doing science with kids.  That’s pretty clear.  

I do lots of STEM activities and learning activities with my kids.  (You can find a lot of them on Instagram!)   

I’m a huge STEM nerd and I actively encourage all parents to do more STEM learning with their kids.

But why? Why do the STEM subjects matter so much?

And how? How do you help a child learn about science, technology, engineering, and math before they are even in elementary school?

picture of a preschooler looking at a test tube

Why Preschoolers Need STEM

Don’t preschoolers have enough to worry about with basic childhood education concepts? Why learn about STEM too?

It is never too soon to learn about STEM. Seriously. It is a part of life, whether you like it or not.

Trust me, I know a lot of adults don’t like STEM. But it doesn’t have to be scary or hard.

Benefits of STEM at the Preschool Level

Early STEM Introduction Leads to Later STEM Success

Encouraging science with young children helps them find success in the STEM fields later in life. It’s pretty hard to get ahead in something you’ve never experienced.

Early STEM education lays the groundwork for future STEM topics. Hearing the vocabulary that accompanies a lot of science learning can feel like hearing a new language.

If you have heard those terms and concept, even if you didn’t fully understand them, it is easier to be more comfortable with them and try to learn more.

And we can’t forget that it is easier to get kids to want to go into STEM as adults if we don’t wait until they are high school students to show them how amazing it is.

STEM Encourages Questioning and Problem Solving

The whole point of science is that we don’t know something.

We don’t know, we ask why, and we seek an answer.

Basic problem solving skills are developed this way. And everyone needs problem solving skills. There are a lot of life lessons to be found in the scientific method.

STEM Encourages Creativity

There is a crazy notion that there is no creativity in science. Are you kidding me? There is a ton!

Answers to the big questions aren’t just hanging on trees ready to be grabbed. You need to work to find them, and that takes creativity.

Kids need art and music, but they need the chance to be creative with STEM too.


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How Do We Encourage STEM in Preschoolers?

I think it’s safe to say we all know kids need to be exposed to STEM early and often. But how do we do that?

We do STEM with our kids.

Yes, that means doing some big activities. We make the volcanoes and explore the stars at the planetarium.

But we do little things too. And these little things are my favorite because they have a big impact.

Simple STEM Activities Are Best For Preschoolers

As I said, I do a lot of STEM and learning activities with my kids. And I share most of them here on the blog and on Instagram.

Now, if you have seen some of them you might think, Wow, some of these seem too easy.  What’s the point? 

The point is that they are super easy.  

These activities are designed for two to five-year-olds.  Yes, older kids and younger kids can for sure get enjoyment from them and learn something too.  They are pretty easy to either step up or down in terms of your explanations.

Why Do Easy Preschool STEM Activities?

I have a few very good reasons for the level of ease these activities have.

Families Are Busy

A big reason for the ease is that parents of little ones are busy.  I know with three young kids at home I always have something going on.  

I need to be able to set up something fast and clean it up just as easily.  Kids have a short attention span as it is, and it is frustrating to spend a lot of time prepping for an activity your child will enjoy for two minutes.  

Preschool Learning Shouldn’t Be Expensive

Like most people, I am on a budget. So I want these projects to be cheap too.

There are so many cool experiments you can do with kids.  I mean, spend a few minutes on Pinterest and you can find hundreds!  

But could you do those right now if you found yourself with ten to fifteen minutes to fill?  Maybe, but often times not.  You just might not have a key item to complete the project.  

I want to be able to look around my house and create an activity with things we already have.  

Sure, as I start to gather steam and do more science I might start to stockpile some equipment.  The reality of life is if something is easy and accessible we are more likely to do it.  (And if it is doable on a budget even better.)

Simple Is What Preschoolers Need

For this age range, the simple is good.  

Little ones are still getting a handle on the order of the world.  They are recognizing the fundamentals of how our world works.  

Seasons change in a predictable fashion.  Liquids tend to have similar properties, and these vary from solids, that sort of thing.  They are learning the ways of their world and how to predict what will happen based on these observations.  

Think about it, as adults we have had years to gather this sort of background data that allows us to pretty accurately predict what will happen in the physical world.  For example, look at two objects like a marshmallow and a marble.  Both are solids, both are about the same size and shape.  However, it is clear to us that when put in water the marshmallow will float and the marble will sink.  We don’t even think about it, we have so many examples we have seen throughout our lives that tell us that.  

Three and four-year-olds just don’t have that same level of background data.  That is what you are building up with a lot of these experiments.

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Parents Succeed With Simple Activities Too

I admit have an ulterior motive to the simplicity, and that is to build up confidence in the parents.  

I have tutored and talked with a lot of adults about the STEM fields.  The biggest reason I see for people being completely unwilling to even think about math or science is fear.  

I know it is hard to admit we are afraid of something like this.  The fear is of not understanding, appearing foolish or unintelligent, and feeling inadequate.  Those are some big and real feelings.  

There is also the worry that it will just be too hard, or that our kids just won’t get anything out of it.  I don’t want to discount them or tell someone to just get over it.  Human nature tells us that won’t work.  And they are understandable feelings.  

A lot of people didn’t have the best or most enjoyable STEM educational experiences themselves and are finding their way through it on their own now.  That’s a tough position to be in.

These activities are meant to encourage adults to find joy in discovering the world around them as well.  

They are easy on purpose basically.  We are building ourselves up for success.  

I want adults who are a bit hesitant to consider doing science with their kids to try these and think, Oh, that was easy.  Maybe we could try another one.  So you try another, then another.  

Yes, you will hit some that don’t work out well.  I do, it is inevitable!  How you handle this is what matters.  With some confidence from previous successes, I am hoping reluctant parents are more likely to stay positive and demonstrate for their children that it is okay if an experiment ‘fails.’  

It’s okay if things don’t work how we thought.  It’s okay if we don’t know the answer to something.  In fact, that is kind of the point of science.  We don’t know how something works, so we try to find out.

At the end of the day, kids are heavily influenced by their parent’s opinions.  We all know that.  I have written before about how we need to stop telling our children we hate math and science and then expect them to dive right into it.  I seriously believe what I wrote.  

picture of a toddler doing science with text overlay: Big Reasons Why Preschoolers Need STEM (and why it must be easy!)

Preschoolers Need STEM  

Here is where to start, with the easy stuff.  Try a few activities, see what your children like.  Their interests will lead the way if we let them.

It is important that kids enjoy learning about the world around them and embrace math and science.  And they will if we give them the chance.  

Science with kids doesn’t have to be big or messy or flashy.  

Did you try something new?  

Did you observe?  

Did you ask yourselves why?  

Then you’re doing it.  Anyone can do science.  You can do science, and most importantly you can share it with your children.  You got this.

If you would like access to the science activity printables and all the other learning printables in my free library, just sign up below!  This signs you up for the Team Cartwright mailing list.  Once you sign up you will get an email with the printable library password!

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Here are more science posts for you to read!

The Big Benefits of Sensory Play and Activities To Try Right Now

The Big Deal About Learning Shapes

Boost Your Child’s Math Future with Number Sense

Why should you bother to do science with preschoolers? It isn't like they are going to understand higher level concepts.  But these activities are so important for kids. Learn why these activities are so good for little ones to do! #preschool #STEM #science #activities #development #positive #parenting Team-Cartwright.com

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Danielle from www.twinwinning.com

Thursday 11th of April 2019

Great article and it's inspiring me to do more STEM activities with my toddler. With infant twins in the house, it can get hard to dedicate time to searching out new activities. I'm just going to bookmark your page so I don't have to go searching around. :)

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