Learning

It all STEMS from stories

Storytelling enhances your child’s development in so many ways: language, imagination, learning more about the world and how other people think and behave. But did you know that storytelling can also boost your child’s STEM skills?

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STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and developing an interest in STEM from a young age is hugely beneficial to young children. But it’s quite understandable that for some parents STEM conjures up visions of complexity and a lack of confidence as to how to approach the topic.

We often don’t realise that our children are developing and using STEM skills throughout their regular day. From the moment they wake up, they are combining STEM skills with normal daily activities. Young children are already absorbing critical sequencing skills when they learn to put their underwear on before their trousers and their socks on before their shoes. These are ways that children naturally engage with STEM activities. Even the kitchen doubles up as a perfect science laboratory where children can see how proteins like eggs become firm and opaque, starches swell and expand, fats liquefy and vegetables change colour and soften.

Young children are already absorbing critical sequencing skills when they learn to put their underwear on before their trousers and their socks on before their shoes.

There are so many daily activities which support STEM skills building: from children making ‘to do’ lists, designing and building Lego creations, sorting and organising their socks into different colours and patterns in different drawers to creating diverse patterns when they draw.

Storytelling is a key component to building literacy and confidence with vocabulary and a perfect opportunity for children to be exposed to STEM learning, sometimes without even realising it. Stories are a launchpad to engage children from a young age in diverse hands-on STEM activities and experiments. Here are a few examples of classic children’s stories with some STEM themes embedded.

For young children, try nursery rhymes or fairy tales such as The Three Little Pigs. Children see how the three little pigs use different materials to build their homes and discover through the story the strengths and weaknesses of the different building materials. The classic story allows children to act as engineers, thinking about how the little pigs find different building materials, how they use them and then discovering how effective or ineffective they are when the big bad wolf wants his supper!

As an accompaniment to The Three Little Pigs children can conduct simple science experiments to learn about the stability of structures and properties of materials, using Lego, sticks, straws, sugar cubes and cardboard. Children can alse use role play, starting with designing a house as an architect, drawing different house designs on paper and constructing each design as a builder. They can then test out their designs and observe what happens when different designs combined with different materials are used. What happens when you blow on each house like the big bad wolf? What happens when you apply additional wind force, for example with a home fan or a hair dryer?

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, offers a great introduction to a discussion on habitat, simple food chains and ecology.

Another popular choice for young children, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, offers a great introduction to a discussion on habitat, simple food chains and ecology. Children can go outside to search for diverse insects or worms or to locate animal habitats. They can get their science observation notebooks and start noting down or drawing what they see, observing the differences over time. This is a great way to develop a scientific mindset from a young age.

For a contemporary STEM story book, try SuperQuesters: The Case of the Missing Memory. This second instalment in a SuperQuesters series gives children of 4+ an opportunity to learn about coding and robotics while solving STEM quests with a compelling blend of adventure stories and interactive play. Children are encouraged to develop over 12 different STEM skills, including problem-solving, reasoning, coding and debugging, while completing a series of quests (puzzles) within the adventure story.

For older children of 7+, The Iron Man by Ted Hughes helps to unlock insights into magnetic energy. It tells a story of an unlikely friendship between Iron Man and a child who sees how things move on different surfaces and how magnets attract and repel. The story presents the opportunity to experiment with magnets using various materials and surfaces. A fun experiment for younger children is to put a magnet on a paper boat set in a bucket of water. Holding another magnet in their hand, your child can attract or repel the boat and observe its movements on the water.

*This article was written by Lisa Moss and Dr Thomas Bernard, authors of SuperQuesters The Case of the Missing Memory, an interactive STEM story with over 100 stickers to add to the fun. Find it on www.amazon.co.uk, price £6.99 paperback.

For more STEM resources and activities visit www.questfriendz.com

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