Researchers and educators discovered over 30 years ago that literacy skills in children were greatly improved when parents read stories, recited nursery rhymes and provided a literacy-rich environment. Now it’s time to do the same for STEM learning. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math and these skills are becoming increasingly important for future success in the job world.

Here are a few ways we can help children at home develop the skills they will need to improve their capacity for STEM learning later on:

Encourage Children to Observe and Describe

Observation is the first step in the scientific process. It’s how hypotheses are formed and data is gathered. Model and encourage children to notice the world around them. Engage and encourage them to observe activities like watching plants grow, seasonal changes and animal behavior. Have them use language to describe what they see. Help them move from general features to more detailed, scientific ones.

Talk About STEM Topics

Introduce STEM topics with everyday life situations. For example, why does a ball tossed up in the air come back down? Why do puddles of water disappear on a hot day? Cooking and shopping can provide lots of opportunities for learning number concepts like counting, fractions, calculating and estimating. Certain toys can help demonstrate concepts like levers and pulleys. Teach younger children one-to-one correspondence by counting and matching objects. Let them set the dinner table by matching plates to tableware, napkins, etc.

Go on STEM-Related Outings

Seek out opportunities at home and while on vacation to visit STEM-related places. Nature museums, aquariums, planetariums and national parks and forests are excellent places to observe, describe and ask questions about the natural world. Older children can attend one of several STEM camps that are becoming popular to learn computer skills and science-related topics.

Create a STEM-Friendly Home

Pick up on your child’s interests by watching and noticing what they like to do. Provide children who like to assemble things toys like blocks and legos. Set up a place for children to build models and experiment with materials like craft sticks, paper cups, etc. These activities can provide a foundation for learning math and problem-solving skills.

Be A STEM Mentor

Children learn by observing and imitating the adults around them. Use computer programs, websites, videos and TV shows that support STEM learning. Check out websites like Design Squad, Discover Engineering, and TED-Ed Lessons Worth Sharing. Stay in touch with your child’s teachers and help support STEM activities at home.