At Monti Kids, we talk a lot about cultivating 21st-century skills in our children: the ability to focus, problem-solve, and persevere. These are tools we believe will help our children be independent in their future.
In the elementary school grades, we use the term STEM, which is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. How do we support our children as they explore these subjects?
How do we ensure there are enough students entering these fields that we will have sufficient scientists to solve the world’s issues in the next generation?
The answer is: you’re probably already doing it.
When the environment you prepare for your child is guided by the Montessori approach, they are encouraged to explore how things work, to conduct experiments, and to pursue a sense of order out of their observations.
Here are seven simple activities that support STEM learning in the youngest children
A newborn baby spending time watching a lightweight mobile move is absorbing basic facts about the world outside the womb. (Learn more in our Essential Guide to Montessori Mobiles.) If you have outdoor space, placing baby in this same position where they can watch the leaves on trees move in the breeze is a simple way to offer opportunities for observation.
Once our babies have the ability to pick up different objects, they are able to start classifying them. A basket with balls that have a variety of textures and weights allows a child to notice similarities — they are all balls — and differences, even before they have the language to talk about these things. They are little scientists and will begin to anticipate experiences, knowing that their wrist needs to be prepared for more weight when they reach to pick up a ball they’ve already learned — through trial and error — is heavier.
3. Outdoor Play
As shown in the video above, little ones collect information with their senses. When we spend time outside, they can feel the movement of the air, see the effect that movement has on the trees, and use their hands and feet to experience differences in textures such as grass.
4. Nature Studies
When we show children how plants grow and involve them in gardening with water, they begin to build the foundations of academic learning. We talk about different things that grow: plants, flowers, trees, and vegetables. Watching a garden progress over time is a wonderful science activity. Using a hose introduces engineering concepts.
WATCH: Flower Arranging Activity for Toddlers
Using blocks or household items such as cups or kitchen storage containers is a math and engineering endeavor. Children inherently problem solve in order to balance objects, and may even be counting to produce similar stack heights without knowing they are counting.
Much of the way children play is by trying things, self-correcting, and then finding a new solution. That’s what they’re doing when a tower of blocks falls over and then they rebuild it a different way.
You can formalize the ritual of doing experiments in your house by asking questions before the trial begins. When you fill the bathtub and begin to add a toy, ask if your child thinks the object will sink or float.
STEM in everyday life
By showing your child how things work, you are encouraging curiosity about the world around them. This is the foundation of STEM learning. Model your own curiosity, observation process, and experimentation and they will soon begin to imitate you.