Kristel Bell is the Founder and CEO of Surprise Powerz, a WBE and MBE certified STEM-centric doll company building confidence and learning in diverse young girls. She was inspired to love STEM from her mom who had an early career in computer science and is on a mission to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders.
STEM is one of the most important and talked about topics in education today and 90% of a child’s adult brain develops by age, yet research shows many girls believe they are not good at math starting in preschool. It’s critical to show kids they can be successful in STEM subjects starting in their formative years, especially girls.
- Early Childhood Representation Matters! 90% of a child’s adult brain develops by age 5. Show early learning girls Surprise Powerz role models that look like them, talk like them and teach them about the fascinating worlds of science, technology, engineering and math as toddlers and preschoolers.
- Make Math Magical! Numbers are everywhere. As your child goes throughout their day, have them go on a scavenger hunt to find numbers around the house. Whether finding “#1” on a book or numbers “#3 and #2” on the microwave or “#7 and #4 and #5” on mom’s phone, this is a simple and easy way for kids to explore numbers.
- Get Creative! STEM has traditionally been considered boring and challenging, and unfortunately many parents struggle to transfer excitement about STEM to their kids. Math can easily be taught in spaces like the kitchen. Planning to bake a cake soon? Why not have your little explorer join you. From counting eggs to pouring milk in a measuring cup, this is one delicious way to make STEM learning more enjoyable for the whole family.
- Why, Why, Why? Does your kiddo love asking questions? Awesome! Questioning is a key skill of a budding young science-lover. Parents when your child asks questions like “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do birds fly?”. Show them you are listening. Respond back, in a positive manner such as “That’s a great question!” and then begin to explore that topic with curious conversation and fun exploration. Take this as an opportunity to teach your kiddo and help them to discover new things.
- Explore, Then Explore Some More! Kids are new to this BIG world, and are full of curiosity. Create simple adventures in your backyard for kids to explore the STEM around them. Need some simple ideas for easy STEM exploration for your kiddos? Nature’s Soup is a free, fun and simple waterplay STEM activity that can be found via Surprise Powerz here.
- When Kids Play, They Learn! Whether you tend to buy educational – specific toys or not, either way when your child plays they are learning. When the toys presented to preschool aged girls are limited to princesses and glitter so are their beliefs as to what they can be successful at. Research shows that parents tend to purchase more math and science based toys for boys than for girls. Give girls an equal start in STEM by providing them with math and science based toys to play and learn from too!
- Watch your words! Kids are like sponges, and parents are their #1 role model. Be sure not to say things like “I’m not good at math! or “Coding is hard.” Your child will intimidate your words and behaviors. We have to be careful not to transfer anxieties that we have around certain topics to our children. Instead say things like “Girls love coding” or “Math is fun!”, and be sure to have fun connecting with STEM while you are encouraging your kids.
- Museums for Kids! Take your child on a trip to a children’s museum. For example, Chicago Children’s Museum located at Navy Pier, focuses on learning through hands-on exhibits. The youngest visitors will love Treehouse Trails where they can jump and climb, while Kids Town encourages problem solving and the Tinker Lab encourages kids to solve engineering challenges. Your child will beg you to stay while they participate in STEM activities!
- Make Challenges Fun! Many kids may feel frustrated, confused or overwhelmed when they come across challenges. It’s important we positively teach them persistence. STEM is full of challenges, but challenges don’t have to be a bad thing. Show kids from a young age how to work through challenges. Engineering activities such as building a spaceship that can fly, or solving problems in a coding game will help to build your child’s confidence in STEM.