I'm a huge fan of incorporating STEM toys and STEM learning into my home and I have been doing so from very early on in my children's lives. What better time to encourage a love for STEM and to develop fun STEM activities at home than when they are young and excited to learn? STEM education is a fun and engaging process that a child's curiosity is naturally drawn to.
But first, what is STEM?
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
Why is STEM important?
STEM concepts are an active part of our daily lives, whether you realize it or not. By encouraging creative thinking and analytical skills early on in a child's life, we can easily help our children become confident and lifelong learners.
How To Encourage a Love of STEM Activities
Since I have kids of all different ages, it can feel challenging at times to find activities that are educational and engaging, and age-appropriate at the same time. STEM activities are actually great for children of multiple ages to do together. Older children can work together with younger children. Children can incorporate their own ideas and suggestions on how to make something work. They can also learn from their elder peers to see cause and effect.
What I also love about STEM toys and activities is that when purchasing toys, not only do I want a toy that helps to teach my kids, but I want one that will withstand hours of play and wear and tear too. STEM toys activate a child's mind and brain, so that they can problem solve and work on something over and over again.
I also really love STEM toys that promote quality time together so that we can all work on and complete tasks together.
How To Encourage a Love of STEM Activities
What I've found throughout my years of being a mom is that kids genuinely love STEM learning. But the biggest way to foster that love for learning is to be active and a part of the process.
Some simple tips to encourage a love of STEM learning include:
Explore together. Have fun studying new topics and lessons and be "present" and in the moment with them.
Buy STEM toys that encourage your child to practice their STEM skills and that excites them.
Have hands-on learning. Reading from books is great but let's not overlook the fact that kids love to learn with their hands as well.
Think outside the box. Some of the greatest inventions in the world were made because people thought a bit differently. Encourage your child to have this mindset when it comes to STEM learning.
Ask them what they love about STEM. If you ask your child what they love about STEM and what they want to do with STEM, it will help them share their experiences with you and love it even more.
Hypothesize with them. Ask them what they think will happen or to help problem-solve. Making those tall magnetic tile towers looks amazing, but how high can you really go? What happens if you remove one piece? Will it all fall down?
Tips for Developing STEM Activities at Home
One of the biggest ways that we work on STEM in our house is that we have STEM toys and learning tools that the kids love to create with.
The two STEM toys that my family is currently enjoying right now are:
1. VTech® Marble Rush™ Ultimate Set™
The moment my children saw the VTech® Marble Rush™ Ultimate Set™ box at home, they could not wait to open it. I love that STEM toys have no age limit. My 14-year-old was just as excited as my 7-year-old. I loved seeing my children put on their thinking brains while they conversed with each other and discussed how to fix a piece that wasn't working with the overall layout and design.
The kids love this set because it not only allows them to build with over 128-pieces, but it also has a spinning Ferris wheel and color-coded blocks that make it easy for them to construct, which helps to quickly build their STEM confidence.
Once they built their masterpiece, they were able to drop the marbles and complete the challenges along the way. I love that this is geared towards kids ages 4+ so it's a fun learning tool that the kids will play with together and have a blast. This set is pretty large, and I loved listening to my 14-year-old and 12-year-old brainstorm some of the challenges they saw when building their own designs and how to solve those challenges.
2. VTech® Marble Rush™ Launchpad Set™
The VTech® Marble Rush™ Launchpad Set™ includes 75 building pieces and it has a light-show rocket ship as well as launchers, and more.
This set has color-coded blocks as well for easy-to-follow construction and it makes it simple for the kids to branch out and create something new and unique too.
Whatever they create, they just drop the marbles and love watching the path that they take!
The VTech® Marble Rush™ toys explore the global rules of physics:
Rule #1 - Gravity. Gravity pulls things down.
Rule #2 - Slope. Slope affects speed.
Rule #3 - Random. Random is unpredictable.
Rule #4 - Force. Force is a push or a pull.
Rule #5 - Friction. Friction is everywhere.
Once your children have built the courses that are provided as examples in the book, try to extend the activity. Have them build their own courses, or even better… ask them to find a way to merge both sets together for an even larger marble run course.
You can also find more build ideas here.
Don’t forget to incorporate a lot of other open-ended supplies and items in your kids’ play space as well. Have building blocks, train sets, magnetic tiles, and other supplies openly available for playtime.
Did you know that Slime is also a STEM activity? My kids are a bit older, so I am able to leave out all the Slime materials at home. My children love creating slime from glitter, clear glue (or white glue) and our slime activators. STEM is a natural part of our daily afternoon playtime.
Why STEM Learning?
STEM teaches children real-life skills that they'll continue to use, even as adults.
STEM teaches them how to be creative, how to critically think, how to read and comprehend directions, how to create hypotheses and test them out, and how to be okay with trying something and altering it as needed.
Those STEM skills are ones that can't be taught from a textbook but only with real-world hands-on learning.
This is why in our house STEM toys and family STEM time are essential and something that we'll continue to keep doing day in and day out. And with the help of our VTech® toys, learning time is something that the kids look forward to every single day!
Nadia is a mom of 4 and the face behind Fun With Mama. She loves the magic of childhood and loves connecting with her children through educational and fun activities. Her blog is filled with fun kids’ activities, educational printable activities, travel experiences, and family-related topics.