What is STEAM?
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Maths. You may know the acronym STEM better, but the arts are often added to acknowledge the role of creativity and design in STEM fields. It’s also meant to pull in children for whom STEM may not initially appeal and works particularly well in the early years to make these disciplines more tangible.
Why is STEAM so important in the Early Years?
Young minds are information sponges. While toddlers and pre-schoolers are too young to understand complex equations or sit down with a science textbook, they can still develop a love of learning about the STEAM subjects through play.
STEAM in the early years focuses on self-directed play and exploration rather than directed teaching. Think about scientists conducting experiments – these are the kinds of curious and inquisitive minds to encourage in children.
STEAM learning is becoming increasingly common in the years before formal school education starts. It’s the best way to prepare young children for the educational journeys that await them, while retaining the need for fun and excitement so important at this age. Children that experience this type of learning in their early years are shown to have a better chance of transitioning into school life with ease, with this comfort and confidence translating to better performances too.
So, how can you get involved in STEAM at home?
- Provide the right resources
Many of the best STEAM experiences come when children are playing outdoors with natural materials, like in a mud kitchen.
You can also create your own STEAM environments indoors by providing different resources to play and experiment with. When they are in the bath for example, give them some tubes, funnels, and containers to investigate pouring, measuring and comparing quantities.
- Engage in play beside them
While it is important to allow your child to lead their own investigations, having you alongside them to make observations using the appropriate language is very important.
Notice what your child is doing and then provide language to explain what they see. For example, “Oooh look the water comes out of the bigger funnel more quickly!”
Appearing interested in what they are investigating (even if you’re not!) will foster their own enthusiasm.
“Engage in play alongside your child but let them take the lead.”
- Encourage curiosity
This is another part of playing alongside your child. I can spot a teacher a mile off when they’re talking to their children as they’ll be asking questions and encouraging their child to come up with answers themselves.
Try saying “I wonder what will happen if….” or asking, “What do you think will happen when…?” If they aren’t initially interested, just carry on finding out yourself. You’re showing them that when you wonder about something, you then investigate to find out the answer.
“Crossing over between art and science is a great way to engage young children in a theme from STEAM”.
- Join in online
At Little STEAMers, we run weekly classes for 2-4 year olds to introduce STEAM concepts in age appropriate ways and lead into play and exploration at home. These are perfect summer holiday activities, especially the water-based ones which can lead to hours of garden play.
You can join our interactive classes live each week via Zoom or watch our pre-recorded classes on demand covering subjects like light and shadows, chemistry champions and engineering bridges.
We hope you’ll join us to play, explore and learn together soon!
“An interactive Little STEAMers class in action”
The weekly Little STEAMers classes can be booked here or you can subscribe for unlimited access here.
About Little STEAMers
Laura Cross set up Inventors & Makers in 2019 with a mission to help prepare today’s children for tomorrow’s world. Inventors & Makers classes and workshops focus on developing the 21st century skills of problem solving, creativity and collaboration through STEM and Design subjects. Little STEAMers award-winning classes (by Inventors & Makers) introduce children (Aged 2-4 years) to science, technology, engineering, arts, and maths using age-appropriate ideas.
The sessions include stories, music and hands-on activities to encourage child-led play and exploration. This exploration and play naturally leads to problem-solving, collaboration and creativity – skills so important for children’s futures.