How to Introduce STEM to Young Kids in School

How to Introduce STEM to Young Kids in School

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are crucial fields in education and employment. STEM for kids helps them understand the world around them and prepares them for future advancements, and many students end up taking careers in STEM to develop these advancements. However, many students don’t begin learning about STEM subjects in depth until middle or high school.

Instead, teachers can introduce STEM to preschool and elementary school kids to help boost student learning and interest in subjects.

Why is STEM Important for Young Kids to Learn?

Why Is STEM Important for Young Kids to Learn?

Many school systems postpone teaching STEM subjects except math until much later in education, like high school. Introducing STEM to elementary students or preschoolers can impact their high school learning and have countless benefits, including:

  • Teaching essential skills: STEM subjects are unique because they naturally incorporate critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills. When you teach kids STEM, you can help cultivate and grow those skills at a younger age. Experiments require creative thinking, application and exploration, giving kids a safe environment to sharpen other soft skills and preparing them for situations when they’ll need them in the future.
  • Enhancing language learning: When you teach STEM to young kids, you can help expand their vocabulary. Learning new subjects and materials can teach them new words, allowing them to become more familiar with STEM terms. Understanding these terms earlier can help them better understand math and science later when concepts become more advanced. Further, STEM is naturally communicative, allowing kids to learn how to speak and articulate ideas.
  • Establishing foundations for math and science: While STEM can help teach your students vital language skills, it can also help prepare them for math and science classes later. Many students feel overwhelmed by math and science as it grows more difficult each year. When kids start learning math and science at a young age, they have a solid foundation of the basics needed to succeed in these subjects and prevent that overwhelming feeling.
  • Encouraging interest in learning: As students age, they frequently begin to lose interest in their education. Often, this results from all their classes looking the same with lecture-style learning. Because STEM education for kids relies on hands-on learning with real-life applications, it can help continually keep students engaged with their coursework and learning. Starting STEM lessons at a younger age can instill a love for this kind of learning and keep students excited about school and their future.
  • Connecting them with the world: STEM activities and lessons incorporate real-world applications and examples that can help students better understand the STEM concepts and how the world around them works.

Learning is easier for younger kids. Their minds are programmed to process and internalize new concepts and information. When you teach them STEM at a younger age, they can have an easier time grasping concepts, and you have more time to solidify neural pathways to strengthen information.

5 Ways to Incorporate STEM in Early Childhood

5 Ways to Incorporate STEM in Early Childhood

It might be challenging for teachers and caregivers to come up with ways to introduce STEM concepts to young kids. However, kids are naturally curious and learn new things every day. You can use many tactics and activities to bring STEM subjects into their lives at their learning level.

1. Building

If you want interactive STEM ideas for kids, building is an excellent way to get hands-on with STEM topics while offering teachers a diverse range of activities. You can build all kinds of structures and objects to teach students about different concepts within STEM, allowing them to interact with the subject and have fun doing it. Building is versatile, so you can create endless activities.

For example, you can have students each build towers and ask them to figure out why the towers fell, helping teach them about balance, engineering and practice solving problems and critical thinking. Students can build marble ramps and try to develop the ramp that makes their marble move the fastest, challenging them to use more critical thinking and apply what they learned in lessons. You can guide them in building a garden, allowing them to interact with nature and learn about science firsthand.

2. Teaching Vocabulary

An excellent way to incorporate STEM into early childhood is by frequently using STEM vocabulary. Using unfamiliar words more than once can make them familiar, helping your students understand the meanings of words and how to use them. As you repeat words, you create stronger neural pathways in their minds, creating a higher understanding of the word.

When teaching a STEM lesson or working through an activity, you can help increase your student’s vocabulary and understanding by stating unfamiliar words at the beginning and end of the lesson or activity. This repetition might include going over materials or explaining a concept and then asking your students to explain it back to you at the end. Especially if you are engaging in an activity, making a connection between objects, actions or concepts can impact understanding.

For example, let’s say you are dropping objects of various weights, like a ball versus a feather. You might introduce the concept of gravity before demonstrating and then reiterate that point as kids try dropping the objects themselves. They can then gain a better understanding of weight and gravity.

3. Identifying Shapes

While math is an independent subject in STEM, it is also the foundation of many of the other STEM subjects and applications. You can help build your students’ math knowledge and comfort by having them interact with shapes in STEM activities. Identifying shapes is an excellent way for younger kids to practice problem-solving and communication skills.

For example, you can invest in a toy with various shaped holes in the top with blocks of matching shapes. You can ask kids to determine which shape goes in each hole. This activity can encourage them to use reasoning and critical thinking. Point out that the square hole has four straight lines, and ask your students to find any blocks that might fit.

Working with shapes is an excellent way to show kids how STEM subjects interconnect with one another. While shapes easily correlate with math and geometry, you can also talk about how the Earth, sun and planets are circles, connecting geometry with science and astronomy. Kids can point out where they see common shapes in their lives. They can match rectangles with buildings and triangles with pyramids, connecting shapes with engineering. This kind of instruction can help bring real-world examples to your younger kids’ STEM activities.

4. Asking Open-Ended Questions

When planning STEM experiments for kids, asking open-ended questions can help foster creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving. Further, it helps communicate to your students that you value their ideas and suggestions and aren’t looking for one correct answer. Especially since STEM activities are often open-ended, asking these types of questions can help kids strive to find a unique solution.

Try to ask questions that start with “what,” “why” or “how” to engage students and get them thinking more about your activity. If you are building marble runs and testing different methods and setups, you might ask questions like:

  • What do you think will happen if we try adding this to the course?
  • Why does the marble move faster on this course?
  • How can we make our marble roll faster next time?

Open-ended questions allow students to find a solution themselves and encourage them to try or voice new ideas. Part of critical thinking and problem-solving skills is making predictions and analyzing problems. Developing strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills is essential for preparing students for their futures. When they feel confident facing problems, they can better handle the unexpected.

5. Planning Activities About Exploration and Investigation

If you are trying to determine how to teach STEM to kids, remember that they need both structured and unstructured play, especially younger kids like preschoolers and elementary students. Structured play helps guide them through new activities where they can easily access assistance when they need it and learn about new things. Unstructured play allows kids to explore what interests them and follow their curiosity in a safe environment.

You can incorporate STEM into structured and unstructured play by working exploration and investigation into each activity. When leading a STEM activity, you can encourage your students to find solutions and answers independently or as groups and to explore their options and investigate new subjects where they feel safe.

However, you can also encourage students to continue exploring STEM subjects by creating opportunities to work STEM into unstructured play. Have STEM toys available, like building blocks, so they can try building independently and explore new ways to make things that they hadn’t tried earlier. If you built a garden, allow students to explore it during recess, so they can observe plant growth, interact with bugs or even care for plants themselves. There are plenty of opportunities for adults to encourage independent STEM exploration and investigation.

7 Tips for Making STEM Interesting for Young Kids

When introducing STEM at an early age, many teachers and caregivers worry that kids won’t find STEM activities interesting. However, kids have naturally curious minds and embrace learning new things. Especially since STEM is so hands-on, students welcome activities to get up close and personal to the subject matter.

As you plan your STEM program and activities for preschoolers and elementary students, you can help maintain interest by following these tips.

Working with Peers and Friends

1. Encourage Group Play

While STEM fields are often naturally collaborative, you can help keep activities engaging by encouraging your students to work together to find creative solutions. Each student brings their unique background and perspective to the activity, allowing them to think of new solutions for problems. Students will need to negotiate and compromise to settle on a solution, helping further develop their communication skills.

Working with their peers and friends can help add more fun to activities that might feel like another task to students. Students can talk, joke and get closer to their classmates, helping to create a stronger social environment with their peers. When students can work together, learning can feel more like playtime.

Planning STEM Activities

2. Provide Loose Parts

When planning your STEM activities, you can help keep your kids engaged by leaving room for personal interpretation and exploration. Loose parts and supplies have many applications and give students more opportunities for creativity and following their curiosity. Loose parts can include:

  • Fabrics.
  • Building blocks.
  • Open boxes or containers.
  • Everyday items, like paper towel rolls.
  • Craft supplies, like crayons, markers or scrap paper.

These elements allow students to make discoveries on their time and follow their interests. They can get markers and discover what happens when they mix colors. They can see what happens when they look through paper towel rolls. They can build structures with cardboard boxes.

Loose parts are integral to planned, structured STEM activities too. Using loose parts allows students to find unique solutions to problems and use their creativity to see how components can fit together. Loose parts allow for multiple solutions for the same problem, helping each student face the activity with a different insight.


When given free time, students can return to topics they found interesting in the classroom and continue to explore them

3. Offer Plenty of Free Time

While structured play is helpful to guiding kids through new concepts, having too many planned activities can be overwhelming. Unstructured play and designated free times throughout the day allow students to process what they have learned and act on any remaining questions or curiosities.

When given free time, students can return to topics they found interesting in the classroom and continue to explore them. For example, if a student found building paper airplanes interesting, they might try to make another during free time or pretend to be a pilot flying a plane. They can continue exploring and growing their interests, discovering new questions and learning more about the topic.

When students are free to act on their interests, they can grow more excited about returning to topics later. Further, students who have a break from regular learning will feel refreshed and ready to return to a learning environment, helping improve focus.

4. Take a Step Back

STEM activities leave more room for interpretation and creativity. Because of this, teachers can help encourage students to think outside the box by stepping back and letting students figure out problems independently. When playing, kids have a lot of motivation to find solutions and keep playtime going. You can help continue their motivation and encourage them to find creative solutions by stepping back.

Further, taking a step back and letting students find solutions to problems can help reiterate that there is no single solution to a STEM activity. When you allow students to approach projects in a way that makes sense to them, you let them know that they have the freedom to express their ideas and try new approaches to problems. This freedom can help keep kids interested in STEM subjects. They can see STEM activities as a time to express their creativity and try new things.

Allow Failure

5. Allow Failure

In addition to stepping back and letting students discover solutions by themselves, it is also essential to let them fail. When students experience failure, it causes them to backtrack and find a different solution, growing their problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Teachers and caretakers may feel it is beneficial to help kids solve problems to avoid frustration and boost self-esteem, but allowing kids to work through issues themselves can give them a sense of accomplishment. They can see the reflection of their hard work and feel proud of what they came up with.

Allowing failure and giving students their space can help keep STEM activities engaging by creating challenging opportunities for students to stretch their imagination, creativity and critical thinking to develop unique solutions to complex problems. For example, if you ask students to build a tall tower, instead of helping them create a base, let them come up with a solution themselves. They will likely be excited to show you how they faced the problem.

You can help keep students interested in STEM

6. Use Various Teaching Methods

You can help keep students interested in STEM by using multiple methods. Kids lose interest when their classes and subjects all look the same. STEM activities can already help break up regular learning with fun group participation and creative thinking, but there are other ways to introduce young kids to STEM.

Books are a great way to expose kids to STEM. You can find many fun, engaging picture and storybooks with bright visuals and simple language that you can read to students or encourage them to look through themselves during play. Books can help introduce students to STEM concepts that might be hard to bring to the classroom, like space or animals. If books feature young kids as the main characters, students can see other kids enjoying STEM.

Books can help connect STEM with other subjects and learning materials. Especially if you want to increase their vocab, books can help introduce students to new concepts and contain all the terminology they might need. Books are great if you’re going to discuss a specific topic with your students but aren’t sure how to explain it to them — books aimed at younger audiences will have simpler explanations to make it easier for them to understand.

Toys can also help teach students about STEM. Stuffed animals can help students visualize different species and create scenes to reflect specific environments. Blocks can help students learn to count, add and subtract while playing. You can ask students to find toys that are all the same color. Students can then seek out these toys outside of learning and continue to explore subjects.

Use Outdoor Structures

7. Extend the Adventure Outside

Another way to switch up your teaching methods and keep students engaged and excited about STEM is to move your lessons and activities outside. The outdoors offer increased opportunities for STEM subjects, where students can interact and observe nature up close. They can see leaves changing in the fall, look at different clouds in the sky and search for bugs on the ground.

You can also use outdoor structures, like playgrounds, to continue activities. Many teachers ask students to build bottle cars or paper planes. You can use playgrounds as additional space to test your students’ creations. They can race their cars on sidewalks or blacktops and measure how far they go or throw their airplanes from playground structures to watch them fly from above.

Going outside provides a new environment that kids can safely explore. Kids are often familiar enough with school playgrounds to feel safe and comfortable exploring in that environment, making it perfect for unstructured play. Kids can choose what they want to investigate, and the outdoors opens a new range of subjects for them to question and discover.

If you can, field trips can also be impactful to keeping students interested in STEM. Even going somewhere small, like a local park or stream, can introduce students to new and exciting environments where they can apply what they learn about nature and science in the classroom to a real-life setting.

Extend the Adventure Outside

Bring STEM to Your Students With Miracle® Recreation Playground Equipment

Introducing young kids to STEM has countless benefits to their present and future. Many students discover topics they grow to love and that keep them interested in their education. Further, STEM activities allow them to practice practical skills they’ll need, like communication, collaboration and critical thinking.

You can help create a safe, inclusive and interactive learning environment for STEM with quality playgrounds. At Miracle Recreation, we design and manufacture engaging, interactive playground equipment, like our Miracle Machines product line or our Miracle Museum collection, to create spaces on the playground that spark STEM interest. These product selections include moving parts, bright visual elements and even sound to encourage kids to explore and follow their curiosity.

Request a quote from Miracle Recreation today and discover how to bring engaging and inclusive interactive experiences to your playground.