STEAM is a teaching tool that helps children improve their literacy skills while also learning foundational math and science concepts. The acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. By bringing together different areas of knowledge you encourage creative problem solving and engage different kinds of learners. Some of the science and math skills that are developmentally appropriate for children ages 0-5 include scientific thinking, spatial awareness, pattern recognition, and prediction.
As a parent, you can promote scientific thinking by letting kids explore. For example, if you are playing with magnets, you can supply them with different materials and let them lead the way by forming their own questions. You can also ask open-ended questions like “I wonder what things will stick to the magnets?” Then you can help them guess answers and find ways to test their ideas. A great book about the persistence it takes to be a scientist is the book Jabari Tries.
Another kind of scientific thinking is making observations. Describe the weight, size, color, smell, sound, and texture of things that your child notices in their environment. This will prompt further investigations while also helping them to expand their vocabulary.
Spatial awareness is your ability to judge the distance, size, and location of objects in your area. With toddlers you can practice by sorting objects by size, stacking objects, or playing hide and seek with toys, while using words like “bigger,” “smaller,” “over,” “under,” “next to” and “through.” One book that uses spatial vocabulary is We Love you Rosie by Cynthia Rylant. For older children, go on a trip to a museum or other venues with our Culture Passes and let them help you navigate with a map. Encourage them to build models or draw a layout of things that they see.
Songs and stories are a great way for children to practice pattern recognition. Cumulative and sequence songs have repeating lyrics that build in a predictable way. These are also great for strengthening a child’s working memory, which allows them to recall and use information. Many familiar cumulative songs are found in books as well: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, The Green Grass Grew All Around, Dem Bones, and The House that Jack Built.
A story also has a beginning, middle, and end that occur in a predictable way. Have your child “read” familiar stories back to you by looking at the pictures and putting events in order. At bedtime create a story about your day’s activities and have them think about the next day’s events. This has the added benefit of giving them a sense of security in their routines.
-- Crystal (Downtown)