“I can’t help it; I suck at math!” If you’ve ever heard this phrase uttered in your household, you’re not alone. Children often develop negative opinions surrounding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects from an early age. This negativity typically stems from non-interactive classroom lessons and receiving poor grades. Fortunately, the classroom isn’t the only place to learn, just as report cards aren’t the only way to gauge a child’s success or progress. Parents can encourage children to love STEM with relevant, interactive experiences.
Fortunately, parents have an opportunity to provide valuable one-on-one interaction when it comes to certain types of lessons. STEM topics are all around us; it just takes some creativity and insight to know when we’re using them. Cooking dinner and running errands can easily turn into a learning opportunity if approached correctly.
Shopping and Math
Be honest, when was the last time you were able to go shopping on your own? If you’re a parent, chances are pretty good that most of your shopping trips are geared towards children or with children in tow. While this can certainly slow down the process, it can also be an ideal time to encourage children to learn and understand the use of money.
Paying with cash can be a fun and interactive way to teach math skills because kids get prizes – the purchase – at the end of the transaction. The next time you pay cash, encourage your child to count out the money themselves. Children are often naturally interested in money once they realize it can buy them the things they want. However, if your child is disinterested, offer them the change in exchange for doing math outside of the classroom. Before you know it, your child may develop better coin-counting skills than you!
Cooking and Food Science
Is there really a better type of science experiment than one that you get to eat? Involving children in the kitchen is an excellent way to get them excited about chemistry and math. Really, it’s true! Rather than preparing dinner in the kitchen while your children play, ask them to give you a hand. Without realizing it, they’ll be flexing their math skills while measuring out flour. Or, learning about chemistry watching cookies rise in the oven. Once your children realize they get to eat cookies after being a kitchen scientist, you’ll have a hard time getting them to stop playing chef.
The Outdoors and Biology
Ah, the great outdoors! There really is no better place to learn about science. Whether you are at the zoo or hanging out in your backyard, there are plenty of ways you can captivate your children while learning about nature. Ask them simple questions such as why the leaves have changed color on the trees, or where all of the birds go in the winter. It’s easy to peak your child’s curiosity with a question about nature, and even easier to teach them about science as you figure out the answer together.
De-Emphasize School Grades
Children often develop the belief that they are bad at math or science based on the grades they receive in school. Subsequently, a bad grade can taint their attitude towards math and science for years. While you may not have control over the types of lessons and grading your children receive at school, you can control your reaction. It’s crucial to value engagement and hard work too. Otherwise, children are at risk of developing test anxiety or potentially giving up altogether because they are simply bad at the subject in school.
When we emphasize the process of learning, rather than the outcome, we encourage the scientific process, which is all about exploration and experimentation. Sometimes our experiments don’t always turn out right, but that doesn’t mean they were carried out wrong. Science is about trial and error, which quite literally means mistakes are part of the process. Allow your children to embrace the method rather than the outcome and raise a STEM lover in the process.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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