5 Ways to Encourage your Child's Interest in Science and STEM

Children are fascinated with the world around them. Their insatiable curiosity makes them natural scientists, eager to explore and experiment with their immediate environment. Young children develop their views of the physical and biological nature of the world. However, many children lose their love of science as they grow older. By the time they're in 4th grade, only 36% of U.S. children are proficient in science. 

Fortunately, you don't have to be a scientist yourself to encourage your child's love of science. If you take your child's thoughts seriously, listen to them, and help them build on what they already know, you can foster a lifelong love of learning and discovery that will help them thrive in school and beyond. 

1. Learn With Your Kids

All kids go through a stage of asking "Why?" constantly, which provides the perfect opportunity to explore scientific principles with your child. When your child wants to know why birds fly, use their curiosity as a springboard to investigate topics like flight, birds, and migration. Don't be afraid to admit you don't know. Answering "Let's find out," is a great way to model a growth mindset for your children. 

Almost anything you encounter can be used as inspiration to learn more about science. While you don't want to overwhelm your child — or yourself — take advantage of their questions to nurture their inner scientist. Follow their lead and show them how excited you are to learn something new with them.

2. Explore the Unseen World With a Microscope

Microscopes for kids allow them to see everyday objects in an entirely different way. Looking at everyday objects, such as a flower petal, velcro, or pond water, can open up the microscopic world to your children. Tardigrades, near-microscopic animals that are also called water bears and moss piglets, are fascinating to learn about and fairly easy to find in any outdoor space. 

You can make your own slides with almost anything you find around the house or outside. Prepared slides are also readily available and can give your child a close-up view of crystals, cells, and textures they wouldn't otherwise be able to see. A microscope kit that includes a camera will allow your child to download and share pictures of their specimens. 

3. Read a Science Book

Build on your discoveries by reading a book. For example, you could read a book about insects after seeing an insect wing under the microscope. Reading science books is a fantastic way to combine all of the benefits of reading with your children and promoting scientific literacy. 

Make science books a part of your everyday reading routine. Model using books to find out more about topics you're learning about. 

When your children are young, expect to read the same books over and over again. They'll have their favorites, and they'll pick up something new with every re-read. As they get older, let them pick out books covering topics that interest them. 

Don't stop with just reading science books, however. Find some books of easy science experiments and do them with your child. Science demonstrations and engineering projects give children hands-on experience with scientific principles and make learning fun. 

4. Observe the Stars With a Telescope

Almost all children are fascinated by space. Using a backyard telescope is an exciting way to learn more about the cosmos. Learning the names and locations of major stars and constellations can make them feel like old friends. Dabbling in astronomy also gives you the chance to learn about history and mythology. It's naturally inter-disciplinary. 

Pick a night when the weather and sky are clear to introduce your children to stargazing. Use a red flashlight to avoid ruining your night vision. Spread out a blanket and bring some snacks to make it even more special. Use a star map, and start with some easy-to-find objects. In the northern hemisphere, Orion is easy to find in the winter because of the three stars in his belt. Planets are brighter than stars and can be easy to see through a telescope. Your kids will also love picking out features on the moon, such as the craters. 

Older children can keep a night-sky journal, where they record what they see and where. Keeping track of the phases of the moon can help them understand the movement of the earth and the moon. They'll notice that the moon isn't in the same place every night and that they can't see it at the same time every night. However, keeping a journal will help them see the patterns in where and when the moon is visible. 

5. Get a Science Kit

Amid busy family life, trying to balance work, school, sports, and other obligations can make it seem impossible to fit in more projects. But when you're feeling overwhelmed, a science kit can be the perfect solution. These all-in-one bundles come with everything you need to start exploring. 

Instead of having to hunt down supplies from various sources, a science kit puts everything at your fingertips. You can choose science kits for kids that come with a microscope, a camera, slides, and activity books. Whether your child is interested in fossils, rocks, or insects, you can find what you need to fuel their passions. 

Final Thoughts

Raising a science-minded child begins at home. Children who grow up in science-friendly homes learn to ask questions, think critically, and seek their own answers. Giving children plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning will help set them up for success later on. The U.S. is facing a shortage of STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — professionals because students aren't learning what they need to know about science in schools. 

But remember, science for kids doesn't have to be a chore. You can help bridge the gap in science knowledge by engaging in kid-friendly STEM exploration at home. All children can do well in science if they're given the support and encouragement they need. Emphasize effort over talent to give your child a growth mindset. 

Providing an enriched environment, reading science books, giving your children scientific equipment, such as microscopes for kids, and learning along with them are simple ways every parent can help facilitate their child's success.