While working on revising an online course about young children, I came across materials about using everyday activities and resources to teach young children about STEM - science, technology, engineering, math. I thought it was interesting that there are still specific lesson plans, family activities, and a myriad of other resources to help adults focus on teaching STEM skills to young children using normal everyday activities.
Right away I thought of gifted children. Many gifted children naturally explore STEM activities (without knowing about STEM), and many start very early, even as a very young toddler. This often begins with a curiosity of trying to figure out how the world works. They try to explore everything, perhaps taking everything apart, whether or not it can be dangerous (due to small parts or parts that could cause injury or electrical connections). Young children are curious, and young gifted children are even more curious, which is why it is important for adults to monitor what children do, often in the background, so children can explore and play independently, but certainly stepping in when necessary to keep the children safe.
Some young gifted children may build things with blocks, Legos, or household items such as pots and pans. These children imagine great things while they build. Other young gifted children collect items and sort them, sometimes on a continuous and lifelong basis. I have known young gifted children who collect rocks, pinecones, buttons, spoons, stamps, marbles, or many other specific items and count, sort, and showcase their treasures regularly.
All of these activities help young gifted children explore and practice STEM skills. Following are some concepts, ideas, and resources to help young gifted children learn through play while exploring STEM skills.
Resources abound for STEM activities for young children. See below for a series of ideas, books, websites, and other resources related to STEM for young gifted children. It is a good idea to let the play and activity be child-driven, meaning the child decides what to do, and when and how to do it, for it is then that the child is truly engaged in active play to learn about the world around them.
STEM Teaching Books:
Teaching Early and Elementary STEM
Open Resource Book, East TN University
Free PDF download: https://dc.etsu.edu/etsu-oer/8/
Teaching STEM Literacy: A Constructivist Approach for Ages 3-8
Juliana Texley & Ruth M. Ruud, 2018
STEM Play: Integrating Inquiry into Learning Centers
Deirdre Englehart, 2016
The Questioneers, by Andrea Beaty
World Wildlife Fund, Teaching Toolkits, K-12
Smithsonian Science Stories, Smithsonian Education Center
Lewis Latimer House Museum, Tinker Lab, ages 4-10
STEM Picture Books
All About Weather, by Huda Harajli
Cece Loves Science, by Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes
Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building, by Christy Hale
Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin
When I Build with Blocks, by Niki Alling
Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty
-Resources by STEMRead, Northern IL University
Rube Goldberg’s Simple Normal Humdrum Day, by Jennifer George
-Resource-TinkerLab-Rube Goldberg Machines
Dr. Wanda Routier
Former WATG Board Member
Ask the Doctor