Welcome to the third blog post of our MythBuster series.

Last week, we talked about how children’s learning and development in literacy and STEM can be intertwined. This week, we are going to bust a myth that sometimes deters practitioners or families from carrying out STEM activities with young children. 

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By Hsiu-Wen Yang,  PhD. 

Postdoctoral Research Associate at STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

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By Chih-Ing Lim,  PhD.

Co-director of the STEM Innovation for Inclusion in Early Education Center (STEMIE)

Myth 3: STEM learning is too expensive

Fact: You do not need to purchase expensive toys or materials to engage young children in STEM learning. STEM learning opportunities are everywhere, including during daily routines1,2,3,4. For example, cooking or mealtime is a perfect opportunity to engage children in STEM concepts4,5. While preparing snacks, children can count a small number of dry ingredients that you are going to use and bring it to you. Children may also experiment with measuring cups of different sizes, and guess which one holds more, or observe how butter changes from solid to liquid when it melts.

Adults, not toys, are key in children’s development and learning. Adult-child interactions are critical in supporting children’s development across all domains of learning6,7,8. Additionally, adults who are intentional in providing learning experiences and opportunities that balanced self-directed play and adult-facilitated instruction can contribute to children’s development in math9. Young children are active learners and are naturally curious about the world around them. With adults’ support, they can have rich learning opportunities within everyday experiences and without expensive materials or toys.

References

  1. Tudge, J. R. H. & Doucet, F. (2004). Early mathematical experiences: Observing young Black and White children’s everyday activities. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19, 21-39.
  2. Andrews, K. J. & Wang, X. C. (2019). Young Children’s emergent science competencies in everyday family contexts: A case study. Early Child Development and Care, 189, 1351-1368.
  3. Lee, J. & Junoh, J. (2019). Implementing unplugged coding activities in early childhood classrooms. Early Childhood Education Journal, 47, 709-716.
  4. Sikder, S., Fleer, M. (2015). Small Science: Infants and Toddlers Experiencing Science in Everyday Family Life. Research in Science Education, 45,445–464.
  5. Susperreguy, M. I. & Davis-Kean, P. E. (2016). Maternal Math Talk in the Home and Math Skills in Preschool Children,Early Education and Development, 27, 841-857.
  6. Hamre, B.K.; Pianta, R.C. (2001). Early teacher-child relationships and the trajectory of children's school outcomes through eighth grade.Child Development, 72, 625–638.
  7. Howes, C.; Fuligni, A.S.; Hong, S.S.; Huang, Y.D.; Lara-Cinisomo, S. (2013). The preschool instructional context and child–teacher relationships.Early Education and Development, 24, 273–291.
  8. Rodriguez, E. T. & Tamis-LeMonda, C. S. (2011). Trajectories of the home learning environment across the first 5years: Associations with children’s vocabulary and literacy Skills at Prekindergarten. Child Development, 82, 1058-1075.
  9. Fuligni, A.S., Howes, C., Huang, Y.D., Hong, S.S., Lara-Cinisomo, S. (2012). Activity settings and daily routines in preschool classrooms: Diverse experiences in early learning settings for low-income children. Early Child. Research Quarterly,27, 198–209.
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