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Children are capable of understanding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts when they are less than a year old but these skills must be developed intentionally, according to a new report released by The Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) at the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
Here are some of the ways adults can encourage STEM thinking skills from an early age:
1. Give children toys that have “manipulative elements” like balls and rattles. Ask children to control elements of these toys, like building higher towers or making the rattle softer or louder.
2. Have children explain how simple tools in your house work, like a can opener or a door hinge.
3. Allow infants to practice “repetitive play,” like dropping a spoon over and over, which helps the child learn about concepts like gravity long before they learn what gravity is.
4. Give children time to practice four kinds of play: pretend play that involves a child using their imagination; exploratory play where children create experiments or take things apart; guided play where adults play and interact with children, and free play without an adult involved.
5. Allow exploratory play (within reason and with safety in mind), even if that means a toddler may get dirty.
6. Ask “why,” “what” and “how” questions as much as possible to push children to explain their thinking.
7. Use complex and accurate vocabulary words, even with babies. Introduce them to words like “stable” when building a tower or “fragile” when touching objects.
8. Teach children that they are constantly learning by encouraging them to say, “I can’t do this yet” instead of “I can’t do this.”
Read more about ways children can understand STEM by Jackie Mader at The Hechinger Report