SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY / ENGINEERING / MATHEMATICS
The mission of the USF St. Pete Family Study Center is to support and advocate for families with young children. We want to promote strong relationships and share developmental information and activities for all infant/toddler settings: home, child care, community. By working across settings, we and our family and community partners can all boost school readiness.
Recently we developed a model of STEM for infants and toddlers that complements the STEM approaches for older children that include Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Our STEM stands for Sensitive Togetherness in Everyday Moments. Research has shown that babies learn best when their everyday activities are stimulating and occur in responsive and loving relationships with family and caregivers. Their brains become prepared and ready to engage in traditional STEM activities as they move through pre-K and grade school. When infants and toddlers engage in joyful exploration and discovery in the context of safe and attentive interactions, they develop enjoyment in the learning process and positive motivation to learn more. Family members and consistent caregivers can follow young children’s interests in all kinds of activities throughout the day, whether it’s playtime, mealtime or bedtime.
Sensitive Togetherness in Everyday Moments is our way of spreading the word about the critical importance of partnering with young children as they explore and discover the world. That provides a base for learning on their own and with others throughout their lives.
STEM STARTS WITH INFANTS
WHY STEM FOR INFANTS?
- Babies are incredibly curious about their new worlds
- Babies are scientists from birth and love to explore their environments
- Newborns begin to engage in STEM learning from their first moments of life
HOW DO INFANTS ENGAGE IN STEM?
Babies use their senses to build their attention skills
Calm, loving responses from adults prepare babies’ regulatory systems for STEM learning
Early interactions with loving caregivers provide the base for healthy brain development
WHAT CAN GROWN UPS DO?
Hold, rock, touch and make eye contact with your baby frequently
Allow your baby to lead play time and be little explorers
Join your baby on the floor as much as possible
Don’t worry about playing with toys the “right” way, play your baby’s way
Always respond to your baby’s needs so that he feels safe and ready to explore the world
Watch for and talk about what your baby likes to look at, listen to, and touch.
STEM STARTS WITH TODDLERS
WHY STEM FOR TODDLERS?
- Toddlers who explore and learn show greater mastery of early STEM subjects
- Stimulating toddler’s curiosity provides the base for STEM learning
- Toddlers are natural scientists and should be encouraged to discover the way the world works
HOW DO TODDLERS ENGAGE IN STEM?
- Early relationships support rapidly growing toddler brains (Fact: 85% of brain development happens in the first 3 years)
- Toddlers explore their environments when you are their secure base
- Supporting toddler’s feelings leads to self-regulation and better prepares them for STEM learning
WHAT CAN GROWN UPS DO?
- Toddlers need to experience the world with their bodies and senses; give them a safe space to explore and try different ways to study; taste, touch, throw, squeeze, tap, bang.
- Provide common household objects for your toddler to play with and discover, such as plastic cups, pots, scarves, wooden utensils, boxes.
- Spend time on the floor with your toddler exploring things together – let them lead the play time!
- Narrate play time with your toddler: “What does that feel like?” or “What happens when you do that?”
STEM STARTS WITH PRESCHOOLERS
WHY STEM IN EARLY LEARNING?
- Preschool age children are naturally curious about how and why things happen in the world around them
- The earlier children begin engaging in STEM activities, the more likely they will do well in those subjects later
- Early STEM skills are the strongest predictor of later school achievement
- STEM helps children learn how to analyze information and solve problems
HOW DO PRESCHOOLERS ENGAGE IN STEM?
- Preschool age children look to adults as mentors and role models to shape their thoughts and ideas about themselves… and STEM subjects
- Young children learn and retain information much better when they explore along with a loving, nurturing adult they feel safe with
- Preschool age children need to explore STEM activities in a variety of ways that include freedom to touch, test, taste, observe and feel
WHAT CAN GROWN UPS DO?
- Encourage your child to figure things out and explore in their own way with your loving support
- Encourage children to EXPERIMENT – allow for trial and error and take pleasure in their experimentation
- Be mindful of what you say about your child’s and STEM subjects, “Math is so fun! You are great at Math!”
- Find ways to enjoy STEM activities with your child so it has more meaning; encourage their efforts and make it FUN!