3 simple building projects to build your preschooler's STEM skills

Does your pre-schooler have a good foundation for engineering?

Yes, we understand your child is only 4 and hasn’t set foot in a kindergarten classroom yet. But bear with us — the idea isn’t quite as crazy as it sounds.

First, consider what early childhood educators say about building early literacy skills in preschoolers. It is happening, even when your child sits in your lap and listens to a story. They recognize letters, anticipate what happens next, recall characters and plots, and identify rhyming words. They can even see that you are reading from left to right. All these things are building blocks that point toward reading in a few short years.

Along the same lines, there are everyday opportunities to plant seeds that will become STEM skills. STEM subjects, which include science, technology, engineering and math, have basic components that can be cultivated even at a very early age. Building with simple materials engages important skills that children will use in school when learning about science and math. These include observing, hypothesizing, measuring, counting, experimenting, adding, comparing, evaluating and problem solving. Here are three ideas to get you started.

Project one: Build a car from LEGO Bricks
If you haven’t already, go ahead, give in to what is already happening and just let all those pieces from various LEGO Brick kits pool together into one bin. Then start a little project and build a car together with your child. Or build two cars and race them down a ramp to see which is faster. Then open it up to for discussion; why does your child think one LEGO Brick car performed better than the other? Did size, shape or the number of wheels make a difference?

Project two: Build a toothpick structure
What you will need here is a collection of toothpicks, along with banana slices, small apple chunks and mini-marshmallows. Then, build an interconnected structure by spearing the toothpicks into the food items. Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of the bananas, apples and marshmallows. Is one better in certain situations?

Project three: Build a bridge
All you need here are some wooden building blocks, strips of card stock and pebbles. The blocks serve as the foundation, the card stock is the deck. When finished, place a few pebbles on the deck to test its sturdiness. With a little trial and error, this can guide a basic discussion on the different kinds of bridges, as this home-school mom did.

Gather up your materials, invest an hour or two at the kitchen table with your pre-schooler and let’s start building!

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