Why It’s Important to Expose Our Children to STEM Learning Early On

And an Actionable Guide On How to Get Started

Rumy Garbova
Published in
7 min readApr 25, 2021


Image from pixabay.com

What is STEM education?

STEM education can be traced back to the 1950s when NASA was formed to develop its space program and expand innovation in the STEM areas. Later the National Science Foundation created SMET (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) which became STEM in 2001. Another STEM variation appeared to be widely used- STEAM which is STEM + the Arts- language arts, drama, music, humanities, etc.

As if being a parent is not hard enough, now we’re faced with all the fancy abbreviations we need to know as well! So let’s clear the air .. what is STEM education? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. It is a learning hands-on method that encourages children to observe and explore, ask questions, experiment, and think outside the box, all the while having fun and creating unlimited view of the world early in life. Sounds impressive, right?!

Image by Rumy Garbova

Why should I pick STEM over other activities for my child?

STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy, and enables the next generation of innovators. In a world where change is constant and we never stop learning, we could thrive only by adapting to the new 21st century skills. “What are those skills?”, you would ask. That includes technology, social skills, communication, problem solving, decision making, curiosity etc.

Allowing your child to learn the essential skills of the workplace of the future early on would set them up for success and open the doors for a set of awesome job opportunities when they grow up. STEM careers are in high demand, in fact these are some of the fastest growing occupations nowadays and the list of potential jobs is continuously growing- Software Developer, Biomedical Engineer, Data Analyst, Chemical Engineer, Marine Biologist, Gaming Engineer, Statistician, 3D Designer.. the possibilities are endless.

If you think about it, all four components of STEM are everywhere and touch every aspect of our lives. From learning transferable skills and practice your critical thinking on a daily basis to starting a career path that didn’t even exist 5 years ago. STEM career fits all needs and levels of interests and offers highest paid jobs. In 10 years from now we will be probably teaching our kids STEM, the same way we teach them to tie their shoes. Isn’t that great!

“We will always have STEM with us. Some things will drop out of the public eye and will go away, but there will always be science, engineering and technology. And there will always, always be mathematics. Everything is physics and math.”

Katherine Johnson a.k.a. NASA first “computer”

How STEM benefits my child’s development?

Well, there is a simple answer to that — STEM creates soft-skills that your kid would anyway need for any future career: being able to do own research, work well in a team, know how to ask questions, initiate ownership, respect the others and many more. The eye opener is that these skills are absolutely needed in non-STEM majors too, such as Finance and Economics, Real Estate, Nursing, Music, Fine Arts etc. If your kid is enrolled in STEM activities now but decides to take a different career path in life later, that is also fine, because all transferable skills would have been developed through STEM education.

Think about it as learning a new language — both STEM and learning a new language happen through stages of curiosity, testing and experience. Both STEM and a new language could be essential to developing new skills. And finally, this type of learning plays a big role in how we perceive the world, exactly the way the new language you learned is influencing you.

But really, the most important value that STEM brings to the table is the cultivation of creativity in kids, as this skill becomes to be playing a critical role in the so called “jobs of the future”. Although it is scientifically proven that children are born creative (imagination is their powerful tool to play), most of them lose this skill as they transition into adulthood. Good news is- it can be re-learned!

As per new study from the University of South Australia, STEM learning requires the same amount of creative thinking as an art class.

Differences in creativity across Art and STEM students: We are more alike than unalike

So why introduce STEM early?

Kids are naturally curious about the world around them, but giving them opportunities to learn through play would make the process even more fun. This enables a confident learner who will be able to succeed both, academically and socially. From infants to pre-K STEM focused education keeps the kids engaged and eager to learn, introduces them to cognitive (brain-based skills needed in acquisition of knowledge and reasoning) and social skills, storytelling, self-confidence and independence, mastery of gross motor skills, exploratory learning… we can keep going.

All young people should have the chance to see themselves as innovators and leaders, and we depend on them to solve the most crucial challenges in today’s world.

Image from pixabay.com

What if my kid is not interested?

If you find yourself super excited about this learning, but your child is not really into it, don’t worry. Kids are not always interested in all school learnings, right? And there are periods when they can be more open to try new activities. Kids who do not like math or science may consider them as bad words (oh well, adults too) and not find it interesting or funny. Just don’t call it a learning, it’s a learning though playing and who doesn’t like to play?

The key is the approach we take with kids. STEM subjects are everywhere in our lives and could be done in a more interactive, everyday activity type of way- from cooking and grocery shopping to hiking and going to the zoo… and really anything that has practical hands-on learning. You will find yourself amazed by the variety of activities and low key materials you would need to prepare in case you would like to embrace this at home. Yes, our teachers are doing it professionally at school, but the curiosity starts at home and we are the best example to our children. And trust me, you will end up wanting to participate more in these activities and will soon start to be amazed by the creative results your little humans are proudly presenting to you.

How do I introduce this learning to my child?

As adults we are absolutely responsible for helping shape the future of the next generation. This next generation will need to be ready to face not just all modern problems, but also be prepared for the modern job market. So have your plan. And don’t stress too much, kids are born almost STEM-ready, we just need to help them keep it going. And it’s also fun! Here is my 5 Steps Plan:

  1. Encourage your child to start with STEM activities as early as possible. Talk about the endless opportunities and provide support on every step. Studies show that 51% of students are not confident in their career path when enrolling to college. Some early on STEM experience could definitely help them navigate this choice easier.
  2. Practice STEM at home on a daily basis. And don’t forget that you do NOT need a STEM degree in order to help your child learn. Here are some ideas:
  • You’re slicing your pizza for dinner! Great! Talk about fractions
  • Grab a ruler and ask your child to tell you the measurements of objects in the house
  • Grocery shopping is time for math and working to stay in a budget
  • Ask questions about the tools in your kitchen- how are they called and what they do
  • Allow alone time for imaginary and exploratory play
  • Always ask the “why” and “how?” questions. This helps develop critical thinking
  • Use complex words to encourage curiosity

3. Show your enthusiasm about the selected topics and give examples of how you personally use STEM on a daily basis at work, home and as life skills.

4. TED lessons for kids bring a great value, despite the fact that this is considered screen time and we all make sure to reduce that time. But allowing kids to watch 5–10min video about science experiments could be fun educational resource.

5. Research for local groups for STEM activities. Research how STEM is being introduced at childcare and school.

And finally here it is a list of great at HOME resources to start with:

Happy STEMing! The child in you will thank you!

Disclaimer: All opinions and experiences shared in this article are my own and do not represent the views of my employer.