5 Powerful Ways Play Builds STEAM Skills
- Look for toys that can be extended to multiple settings, and move them around, rearrange, and ask “Now how can we use this?” For example, use bath toys outside in a pail or garden or use finger paints on found materials like rocks.
Repurpose household objects and encourage your children to experiment and create!
Purchase toys that require more challenging assembly, hands-on learning, and support persistence, even in the face of ongoing failure.
Encourage children that they can do it!
According to a Pew Research report, employment in the occupations related to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) has grown 79 percent since 1990 to 17.3 million, outpacing overall U.S. job growth. However, economic projections predict a need for more than 1 million additional STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next 10 years.
As educators, parents, and caregivers, we strive to provide a rich environment so the children in our care can develop into their best possible selves. We consider a wide array of experiences for them to engage with. Recent research provides the foundation for understanding how STEAM is crucial to a successful future – for our children and for society. Here are five powerful ways that play and toys can build the skills that lead to these valuable careers.
- Open-ended play with creative toys encourages problem-solving. Learning to solve problems is a fundamental skill needed for engineering and technology courses and careers.
- Children learn to experiment by using toys with multiple levels and modes. Finding different ways to play with a toy or to approach a game supports a growth mindset which leads to skill development through practice.
Recent research provides the foundation for understanding how STEAM is crucial to a successful future – for our children and for society.
- Playing with peers (and parents or caregivers) provides an opportunity for learning how to collaborate. As children encounter playground challenges such as sharing, communicating, and group games, they learn valuable behavioral skills – often by observation – for navigating the challenges of adult life.
- Guided creativity builds confidence. Through DIY strategies such as sensory bins, splatter painting, and maker activities, children learn to celebrate their own creations.
- Toys bring science concepts to life. Blowing bubbles provides a lesson in shapes, wind, and practicing prediction. When will the bubble pop? Where will it land?
Brain research tells us learning is more effective when we are having fun – what better way to learn STEAM skills then by playing? Play also provides an opportunity for practice as we know that kids will play with a favorite toy for many hours. Children with positive learning experiences through play will develop the skills to succeed in a wide variety of STEAM courses and careers. Toys, games, and exploration can inspire the next generation of computer scientists, designers, biochemists, and aerospace engineers. Where will your child’s fun lead them?