Blog post: Phillip Walter (Walter Stores)
We are so often confronted with the latest STEM toy or activity when choosing good quality gifts for our children but what exactly does this mean? Should I care? Does it matter?
In this blog post we will explore what STEM is, why it is important, how we can incorporate STEM activities into everyday life for our children and how purchasing STEM toys and activities can enhance children’s learning.
Table of Contents
Firstly – what is it?
STEM is an acronym for the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and has come to the forefront of an established government initiative to boost the number of pupils leaving education with qualifications in these key areas. The feeling is that these vital skills hold the key to the future growth and success of our economy.
Why is it important?
A good understanding of, and qualifications in STEM subjects will offer a broader set of career choices for young people than following a purely non STEM route. Many of the growth industries employment wise are STEM linked and many offer a higher earnings potential. Current projected UK growth in employment sectors points to STEM related careers outgrowing those not related through to 2030.
So in short…. A well delivered STEM education gives our children skills that make them more employable and ready to meet the developing labour demands of today.
The skills developed include the ability to be creative and to think outside the box, it encourages an understanding of the need for experimenting and modification of ideas. Many new jobs are looking for people who are resilient, who are prepared to try and try again until they get positive results. Often STEM activities build in an element of critical decision making and risk taking, again these are key skills for employment. Education is about the acquiring of knowledge, which is also key to STEM activities. But where they come into their own is with the application of the gained knowledge to a real-life scenario. STEM activities, by nature, involve the use of technology and in particular how technology can be applied to a situation to solve a problem. With our children growing up in a world which increasingly revolves around technology it is vital that they can converse with and operate within these environments.
How do you live it?
We all know that STEM education benefits young children, and we all know the range of off the shelf solutions that are available to purchase to help us expose our children to the benefits of STEM. But can we naturally bring STEM into our everyday activities, so we actively teach STEM on the go? In short…. YES. Here are some ideas (not an exhaustive list but a taster) …
S – Science
Why? And How? Are both our friends here. Great discussion starters and they open up a world of enquiry. It’s raining outside…. Oh yes, do you know why? The plants are really growing…. Yes they are, do you know how plants grow? There is so much fun to be had in this type of questioning as theories are tried and modified until the truth is discovered together.
T – Technology
Technology is in use all around the home on a daily basis. Instead of just accepting that the vacuum works when we plug it in, why not use the opportunity that presents itself to ask and research how and why it works. This questioning approach will work with anything tech in the house.
E – Engineering
Taking things apart may go against our natural instinct but it is a great way of learning some of the basics. Take off a plug and rewire it, show our children what’s under the car bonnet, whenever you are repairing something let them have a good look and explain as much as you can.
M – Maths
There are a multitude of ways that we use maths on a daily basis that our children can learn from. From shopping, through to baking and on to gardening we are using maths the whole time. Take time to discuss with your children the ratio of weed killer to water and get them to help with the mixing. Or ask them to help with the budgeting for the week’s shop, bringing in lessons about choice and good financial stewardship. Discuss how you are overcoming problems in a recipe such as substituting ingredients you are low on.
Among all of the daily opportunities we as parents have to introduce STEM concepts there is still room for a well chosen educational toy that allows our children to explore, experiment and grow. Many educational toys are well designed and fun and offer the opportunity to supplement and consolidate our children’s learning as well as offering opportunity for some parent, child teamwork.
I am a parent of three boys (7, 11, 14), a secondary teacher with 21 years’ experience and I also run EduFunUK. Our mission is to source affordable, quality and fun learning products for all stages of childhood development. I believe that by regularly using learning focused toys with our children during their learning years, we offer them the chance to explore and develop a lifelong love of learning.
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