How busy parents can prioritize quality STEM-based play time with their children
STEM is nothing new in the world of childhood development and education. But, it’s becoming more popular and prominent in schools and homes across the country because of its countless benefits.
If you’re a busy parent, you can still prioritize quality STEM-based playtime with your children. Being able to carve out that time and use it to effectively help your kids learn and grow can be beneficial and rewarding for both of you.
With that in mind, let’s cover a few ideas you can use to bring more STEM activities into your household — no matter how busy you are. We’ll also cover some of the STEM benefits you should be aware of when it comes to your child’s development. The better your understanding of the benefits of STEM-based learning, the more likely you are to put it at the top of your priority list.
Why is STEM important?
The benefits of STEM education are seemingly endless when it comes to inspiring growth and creativity in children. This type of learning uses situations found in the world around us to help kids better understand how things work — and why. Some of the most notable benefits of STEM include:
- It fosters creativity;
- It builds resilience;
- It encourages teamwork;
- It encourages experimentation;
- It teaches problem-solving skills.
Additionally, STEM can keep your child from spending too much time in front of screens. While many STEM activities focus on technology, they’re also often more hands-on and don’t require your child to mindlessly stare at a phone, computer, or television for hours at a time. Finding enjoyable screen-free activities can be a great way for your child to spend more time outside, foster creativity, and improve their overall quality of life.
The best part? STEM is fun. While there are plenty of dedicated STEM activities designed to help your child learn something specific, they’re often so effective because they’re interesting and creative. For example, instead of looking at a math equation on a piece of paper, you can teach your child about Pi by actually baking a pie and discussing fractions, circumferences, and more. It’s fun (and delicious), and the information is more likely to stick with your child while keeping them interested in learning more about math.
Finding time to play
Whether you’re busy with work, raising multiple kids, or just trying to keep up with household tasks, it’s essential to find at least some time to play with your child each day. Most children naturally communicate through play, so it’s a fantastic way to connect with your child and strengthen your bond. Even if you only have ten minutes of special playtime together each day, it can make a world of difference. You’ll also experience notable benefits like:
- Improved mood;
- Reduced stress;
- Lower blood pressure.
Alternatively, not playing with your child regularly can have adverse effects. Your child might not develop an emotional understanding of things as quickly. They might struggle with resiliency and/or communication. Of course, missing a few days of playtime here and there isn’t the end of the world. Life happens, and some things are out of your control. However, prioritizing daily play and trying to make it happen as often as possible will improve your relationship with your child while boosting physical and mental health benefits.
Learning also happens through play. Your child will have better-developed motor skills, they’ll learn how to get along with others, and they’ll learn cause and effect simply by doing what comes naturally through playtime. While it’s important for them to play and interact with other children, you’ll undoubtedly be their first “playmate” — that’s a role that should be taken seriously, as you’re setting the precedent for what play should look like, and how healthy interactions work. Even if you think your child is too young to learn from your example, you might be surprised by how much they’re actually picking up from your behaviors.
Carving out dedicated playtime is ideal. But, if you can’t, there are still ways you can include it in your daily routine – especially when it comes to STEM-based play.
Have your child help you make dinner each night. They can learn about measurements, where ingredients come from, and how things react to each other while having fun with you in the kitchen. Or, let them come along on your evening walk, where you can discuss different observations in nature and how your local ecosystems operate. There’s always an opportunity to play, learn, and spend time together if you’re willing to get creative.
Taking STEM everywhere
One of the great things about STEM-based learning is that it can be done almost anywhere, and fit in with just about any schedule. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are all used in everyday life. Helping your child see that no matter where they are, they can have fun while utilizing those elements will encourage them to become lifelong learners.
Everything from baking and cleaning to grocery shopping and riding in a car can serve as a STEM activity. Talk about how much things cost at the store and introduce money concepts. Bring up speeds and velocities when a car passes you on the highway. There are opportunities everywhere if you know how to incorporate them into your routine.
As a busy parent, maybe you don’t have time for an extended vacation somewhere far away from home. A relaxing staycation might be more feasible for you, and it provides an opportunity to focus on your family and spend more time playing with your kids. Of course, a staycation doesn’t necessarily mean you’re confined to the house during your holiday.
Consider camping in your backyard and playing outdoor games with the kids. Family games are great for your well-being, and staying physically active with everyone in the great outdoors can improve your physical and mental health. If you want to get away from home but don’t want to travel far, stay at a local hotel for a night or two, or try new places to eat in your community. Pretend you’re a tourist and go on a mini-adventure with your kids. Try a geology scavenger hunt outdoors, or visit a local aquarium or national park (even virtually!) for enrichment activities.
You don’t need to compromise your busy lifestyle to spend more time playing with your kids. STEM-based activities are all around. If you’re willing to get a little creative and hands-on with your children, you’ll create lasting memories with them. They’ll have so much fun that they won’t even realize how much they’re learning, and you’ll take comfort in knowing you’re spending quality time building your bond and preparing them for the future.
By Charlie Fletcher