Dedicated parents have always been focused on helping their children learn and grow at an early age to be the best that they can be in the future. In today’s age, the focus is now on getting young kids learning about fields in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), paths that can be both intellectually stimulating and quite lucrative. Parents invest in several different programs, summer camps, and toys, but, according to researchers, all of that isn’t necessary for little kids. In fact, the best way to foster their interest and experience in STEM fields is actually just spending some time outdoors.
In a report from May 2019, the Toy Association surveyed 2,000 parents about the STEM fields and the results were astonishing. On average, parents felt that their kids should be on a career path by the age of five. 75 percent of parents wanted their child to take on a career in STEM and 85 percent of those parents wanted to encourage their child to learn how to code. Because of the economy, many believe that honing skills in mathematics, science and other fields would pave the easy way to success. For these parents to do so for their kids, they invest in high-quality toys and gadgets for their children to play with and to learn. They put their young kids into top schools and programs that focus on STEM in order to give their children what seems to be an early start. However, researchers believe that all of this isn’t needed.
Over The Top
According to research, toys, games and other programs won’t help toddlers grow in STEM. “It’s not necessary to have toys to prepare a toddler for their future jobs,” explains child development researcher Dr. Celeste Kidd of the University of Berkley Kidd Lab. “It is neither necessary or possible to divine a toy that will prepare a toddler for a job they will have as an adult.” In fact, Dr. Kidd believes that even planning a career for a toddler is quite silly and that companies take advantage of parents wanting to do the right thing for their children. STEM labels on toys are more of a marketing ploy to get parents to buy expensive kits and electronics. However, for Dr. Kidd and other researchers in child development, young kids really need to be active and use their imagination. All that they need for that is to step right outside.
The Best STEM Games
The Toy Association has developed “unifying characteristics” that make a perfect STEM toy. Toys and games with this label should be “open-ended, relate to the real world, allow for trial & error, be hands-on, child-led, and offer chances for problem-solving, while also being gender neutral, encouraging creativity, building confidence, and promoting social and emotional skills.” Everyday childhood games, like playing tag or with blocks, showcase their characteristics and are completely free of charge. Dr. Kidd notes games like “Mother, May I?” and “Red Rover” as games that can be instrumental in basic coding principles as they’re based on contingency like coding. Other simple activities for kids like gardening, collecting rocks, and even camping outside can help spark interest in the world around them when it comes to science and other fields. Other less expensive toys that kids play with can still help foster that love of STEM fields early on. “All toys in some sense are STEM toys,” Dr. Kidd shared. “Science is everywhere. There needs to be more widespread awareness among parents that STEM toys are not something special that needs to be designed in a particular way. The impression that there is some sort of certification process for something to be called a STEM toy is probably what needs correction.”
So, take your kids outside and foster a sense of wonder in our natural world.
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