In an earlier post, I summarized the concepts of STEM & STEAM, including why it is so important that we instill these skills into our kids. 14 of the 15 highest paying jobs in America are STEM-centered jobs.
Assuming that you are bought into the what & why of STEM, let us get active in applying these concepts in our daily lives. Today's post will focus on how we can start using STEAM & STEM concepts when your child enters kindergarten.
1. Teach your child to read
Perhaps the most critical development skill you can teach your child is how to read at an early age. Benefits include:
- Reading opens up the incredibly diverse world of nonfiction kids books, which will expand your child's imagination and provide some healthy competition to Netflix and TV!
- Reading encourages your child to self-learn and starts to develop their researching skills. Be prepared for the number of questions your kids ask you to explode once they can read! (PS. This is a good thing 🙂
- Reading creates quiet time where your child focuses on learning and development. This is good practice for the future.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of reading, check out this article I recently wrote.
The absolute best resource for teaching kids to read is a book written more than 30 years ago. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a highly effective, structured way to teach your child to read in three to four months. Every lesson builds on the previous lesson. The first couple lessons are a little tricky as you (as the teacher) have to learn the system, but once you build momentum, it is impressive to watch your child's confidence and development grow. One of my most cherished memories will be the evenings I spent teaching my kids to read.
I used this book to teach both my children to read at an early age, and highly recommend it for you. If you are interested in buying, please consider using attached link which enables me to get a small referall bonus which is how I fund this site. Thanks!
2. Encourage your child to write & draw
By the end of kindergarten, your child will learn how to write their names along with simple sentences & words such as "The dog sat on the mat." You may be surprised by how challenging this can be for them as they start to develop their hand/eye coordination in order to correctly write out each letter. Encourage them extensively during this process. I'd suggest you write out one simple sentence in large letters, and then have your child practice by trying to write like you. The book I mentioned above also teaches your child to write and is a great resource.
Also, buy your child a blank writing or drawing pad, and encourage them to create whatever they want. They can share simple sentences showing off their writing skills or create some artwork for the fridge. Whatever it is, encourage them with praise and ideas. When you get home from work, make it a daily habit of asking "what amazing artwork are you going to share today?"
3. Start teaching the concepts of Math
A 2007 meta-analysis of 35,000 preschoolers across the US, Canada, and England found that learning math skills at a young age can turn into a real advantage.
"The paramount importance of early math skills — of beginning school with a knowledge of numbers, number order, and other rudimentary math concepts — is one of the puzzles coming out of the study," coauthor Greg Duncan said. "Mastery of early math skills predicts not only future math achievement, it also predicts future reading achievement."
Here are quick tips you could start today.
- Have your child count the number of similar items you bought at the store. For example, two boxes of cereal. Six tomatoes.
- One the same trip, you could have your child point out different shapes such as circles, triangles, and squares.
- Sort their toys by color and have them report back to you the number of toys that are blue, green, red etc..
- Play board games like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. There is nothing like taking the ladder to the top of the board. Good times!
4. Help your child learn how to colloborate
Researchers from Duke & Pennsylvania State University tracked 700 American children between kindergarten and age 25and found a significant correlation between their social skills as kindergartners and their wellness as young adults.
The 19 year study showed that socially secure children who cooperated with others, were generous, emphatic, and resolved problems on their own, were more likely to go to college and have a full-time job by age 25 than those with limited social skills. On the flip side, those kids who were identified early as lacking social skills statistically also had a higher chance of getting arrested, dealing with substance abuse, and needing government aid.
"This study shows that helping children develop social and emotional skills is one of the most important things we can do to prepare them for a healthy future," said Kristin Schubert, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "From an early age, these skills can determine whether a child goes to college or prison, and whether they end up employed or addicted."
Here are some quick tips you could start today.
- Join your local sports league. Beside the euphoria of watching your five year old score a goal, team sports are a fun, healthy way for your child to learn how to play with others.
- Set a high bar for discipline. It is important that children learn to respect adults and follow direction. Our kids learned early that we have zero tolerance for backtalk or disobedience.
- Playdates or having a couple of your kid's friends over is a good way to see how your child interacts with others.
- Create a culture of positivity in your home. Recognize and appreciate good behavior and genuine effort. Try to see the silver lining in every situation. It is scary how quickly your kids can mimic your behavior, and you don't want your child to be cynical and critical.
- Teach your child to be kind. Check out Rabia's in-depth article of how she's done this with our kids.
5. Subscribe to Amazon's Stem Club
Amazon recently launched a $20 subscription service where every month you'll receive a STEM toy to play with your children. The value here is that most of these toys retail at $30-$40, and often are even more expensive, so you're getting some real savings. Also, there is something nice about a curated service with a pleasant surprise every month. Finally, if you are more interested in STEM instead then toys, then you'll be delighted. These tend to be more learning focused and frankly less fun.
That is also the downside of the club. Almost all the toys are complicated enough that they required adult support (and a little motivation) to help the child. A recent pulley/lever toy was sophisticated enough that I was often challenged trying to put the lever together and understand how it all worked. So only join the club if you're going to be willing to help your child engage with the toys.
I'm a subscriber to this club and have enjoyed quality time with my children playing and engaging with these toys. I recommend it for you if you are ok with the time committment as you'll often need to help your child. If you are interested in buying, please consider using attached link which enables me to get a small referall bonus which is how I fund this site. Thanks!