When my kids were little, summers were tough enough balancing summer camps and fights over the same toys surrounded by a floor littered with plenty of choices.
“Mom, that’s mine.”
“Mom, she won’t share.”
With the amount of time parents and kids have spent at home over the last year in the midst of pandemic lockdowns, both sides are looking for new ideas to do this summer.
Consider toys and activities that promote STEM learning. With jobs growing in science, engineering, technology and math, children need an early start becoming comfortable with concepts they will face in higher grades and in college, not to mention in the workplace. From simple math skills to piecing together robots, girls and boys have a variety of options available to them.
My youngest recently graduated with an engineering degree. I asked her, “What inspired you?”
“Doing puzzles”, she answered succinctly. She does all kinds of puzzles in her free time, from colorful scenery to small metal ones that need needle nose plyers. Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes from digital ones on the computer to putting together toy models.
Taking things apart and putting them back together is great for young minds. Very young kids are often introduced to this concept with toy blocks and Lego’s. How do they stack to create a tall tower? How do they become a toy car with wheels? How do we add some tech to it and make it move?
My other daughter remembers going to Girls In Technology days through our local charter schools. Participants could sign up for various workshops from basic coding to robotics. For those long weeks in the summer when nothing else is going on, consider how you can set-up STEM activities at home!
Bake together and talking through the steps and science behind the interaction of ingredients. Garden together, again talking through how the plants grow and need both water and sun. Dust off your childhood microscope and talk about how germs are studied and vaccines created. Lay under the stars on a clear night and talk about them. Look for meteors together.
Encourage technology use wisely, balancing both computer and device time with physical activity. If the computer becomes too much of a babysitter, consider collaborating with neighbors and family to plan outdoor activities and take turns over the summer.
After working and homeschooling for a period while my kids were in elementary school, I know how easily the time can slip away when I am on my computer. I also know how many hours kids are spending on computer games today which teach valuable strategy skills but also encourage a lack of physical activity. It’s a balancing act that needs attention to effectively balance.
On the more advanced end, consider adding robotics to your child’s day. Recently, Keyi Tech released ClicBot, a STEM Robot to teach kids all about robotics. Like putting together a puzzle, modular pieces click together to create a two-wheeled robot that responds to touch, sight and gestures. Once assembled, children and parents can experiment with over 200 configurations and two pre-programmed personalities before creating their own unique personality.
Build together and talk through measurements. Again, bake together and talk through measuring out the ingredients and what happens when the measurements are wrong. Go on hikes and record your distances with one of many apps now available. Try beating your record in distance or time on the next outing. Do a scavenger hunt with a ruler. Make a list of items kids need to measure before they find a special reward. Make it fun!
When teaching STEM concepts, let kids explore their imagination and creativity, in a safe way, like not letting them jump from heights to see if they can fly. Flying kites together can teach the same wind and gravity concepts.
The most important part of this process is planning time together. Children grow up so fast and spending time together exploring the world around us is incredibly value to both parties.