STEAM learning for Homeschool Preschool
Yes, your preschooler needs STEAM learning
If you have any sort of interaction with schooling, no matter the age group, you have undoubtedly heard the term STEM learning.
There is currently a big push to change STEM to STEAM learning. If you are a new parent, you may be asking what does it all mean?
The letters stand for Science Technology Engineering Art and Math.
You can find a great resource detailing out what each discipline entails from the National Center of Early Childhood Development. Their handout, Understanding STEAM and how children use it, will help all educator’s, whether parents or teachers, foster a dynamic learning environment.
STEAM for homeschool preschool
Don’t panic at the idea that you now have to start teaching your kids engineering. I promise you already do. You just might not realize it.
When your kiddo’s play with lego’s and blocks they are Engineering, when they count out the promised 5 m&m’s Math just happened.
Technology goes way beyond screen time, it’s the use of man-made tools such as scissors and pulley’s. My daughter discovered that her hands made prints when she got them wet, they were darker if she pressed harder. She didn’t realize it, but that was Science, she had created a theory and was testing it out.
And, of course, Art happens all day long at our house. Art was added as an essential part of learning as educator’s realized that all of those skills really only thrive with creativity. Art comes in many forms beyond crayons and water colors. Dramatic play (pretending to be a Dr or dressing up your bears for the winter) helps the brain work in creative ways that our children will require to be successful later in life.
This PBS article has a great break down of why fostering creative thinking is essential for kids.
After all, the biggest breakthrough’s in history came because someone was creative in problem solving.
Homeschool Curriculum’s Should Create Focus for the Parent, not the Child
As a homeschool parent, especially at a preschool age, I always want to ensure that I am not overwhelming my daughter or creating too much structure. Sure, I watch a little envious of the parents that post pictures of their 18 month old potty trained child reading sight words.
But honestly, you can never get back those years of carefree exploration and giggles. So, I say play at the park, hang out in your jammies and dress up in your princess dress.
However I do believe that at this age the homeschooling curriculum is more for us as parents than it is for the children. As a parent our experiences with kids is limited and knowing how to foster an enriching environment for them can seem a little overwhelming at times.
If we are not experts on childhood development, we might not really understand how their minds work and how to connect with them. How many times have you searched Pinterest to find an activity to do with your kiddo? Personally, I could probably use an intervention around the holidays.
Honestly, I think parenting is a little like being given a chainsaw and a log and being told to create art. We understand what each is for and what outcome we want, but if we’ve never used the tools before we should be looking for some guidance on how to use them. Otherwise someone is going to lose an arm.
Parent’s Create the Opportunities
Now, don’t get me wrong, I fully support being an organized homeschooler. You have probably seen my posts on how I structure our homeschool days and the plans I have for the week and year.
However, I do believe that structure is my responsibility not my daughter’s. For the most part, she should get to be enjoy being small and running in circles for no reason at all.
I believe that preschool should be about enhancing their interests. I love having a curriculum so that I can have some focus for what options I pull out each day. If she doesn’t love it, then we move on.
But, children are naturally curious and I will admit that she exhausts my creativity on my own. So I utilize resources to create a richer environment for her.
Adults have lost a lot of that curiosity, so we often need some help bringing it back into our lives. I honestly wouldn’t have thought to cut an apple in half and paint with it, or float it in water to make a boat, or count the inside…(well I might have come up with the seed thing with a little time.)
I see an apple…it’s a fruit, it’s red, it’s round, etc. I understand teaching her to value it’s healthy benefits and teaching where it comes from. I have to focus some time to create ideas beyond that, so I look for some help from people who are either more creative, or more understanding of what triggers a child’s curiosity.
It also saves me from overwhelm at the 68th time she’s said MOM in the last 4 minutes. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is fun, but mom guilt creeps in by the 2nd episode as I picture her brain slowly stop turning.
Because there are endless ways to keep our kids busy, the TV and computer being the easiest. But I want her to be fully engaged and enjoying the activity, learning about her environment as she grows, but not feeling pressured by any desired outcome. It needs to be open ended with no correct result.
So we create fun opportunities that she wants to do over and over. It’s kind of like when you sneak spinach into a smoothie and you secretly high five yourself. She doesn’t know she’s learning, just that she’s having fun…shhhh…don’t tell.
Children Lead the Learning
My goal is for STEAM learning, as with all learning at this age, to be child led.
However I need to create those opportunities for her.
She cannot cut an apple (’cause you know, knives) and it probably wouldn’t occur to her to float it. But, she literally remembers that we did this with an apple 6 months ago.
(I forgot until I was trying to decipher her code talk “Mom we need to make a boat” as she looked at the fruit bowl…ummmm…I’m going to need some more info. We live in Texas and I don’t want to have to rely on any boat we’ve built to keep us safely above water…alligator’s, swimming snakes, etc…what are you talking about?)
My daughter is not allowed to blow up balloons obviously, and probably wouldn’t think to put 2 paper plates on craft sticks and make a fun balloon badminton game. But someone else was and I shamelessly stole the idea. Thank you Pinterest!
The learning comes in when we use leading questions. Do you think we could use this ball instead of the balloon? Which one goes higher? Which one is heavier? Which one floats better?
See what we did there? We created a Science learning moment and all she thought she was doing was running around the living room bopping a balloon with mom. I have no ultimate end goal here. I don’t want her to be able to define gravity or physics, I simply want her to explore.
By the Way this activity kept her engaged for almost an hour until we had to put it away for bedtime.
Because really, STEAM activities are about exploring the world around us. Our kid’s are natural scientists, we are simply here to facilitate the learning by providing supplies and opportunity. Whether that means mud and sticks or apples and water.
You’ve heard me say it before, but I love Mother Goose Time for the included STEAM activity ideas that support the overall theme.
We don’t only stick to those though.
I’ll leave this with you as food for thought…
I always create STEAM activities for my daughter when I need to get some things done and they keep her busy for EVER! They inspire her natural curiosity and her interests and I have absolutely zero mom guilt about walking away and making dinner, or finishing a blog or (scandalous I know…) sitting down to have a cup of coffee while it’s hot.
If you are looking for some STEAM ideas for your toddler follow my Pinterest board here.