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While careers in STEM are considered some of the best, in recent years, the number of kids enrolled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects has been the lowest in 20 years

Is it because STEM subjects are seen as intimidating or too abstract, and not as much fun as, say, the arts? Himanshu Gupta of Mathnasium Australia – a worldwide phenomenon that aims to help kids overcome their anxiety and fear towards maths – says this could be the case.

“STEM subjects need to be taught in ways that appeal to every child’s learning style, be it tactile, verbal, visual or written,” says Himanshu. “Once you have the attention of children and their interest is piqued, you allow their confidence to grow and open the door to endless career possibilities.”

Here are a few ways you can kickstart your kids’ interest in STEM subjects and show them the wondrous world that science, technology, engineering and maths can provide. 

Get outdoors
Research shows that outdoor activities that interact with the environment can help to stimulate our children’s brains, allowing them to develop concepts that relate to STEM subjects.

Organising a scavenger hunt is a great way for kids to interact with their environment, and will encourage them to ask questions or give answers. Create a list of items including flora, fauna, types of rocks and bodies of water for your kids to discover, discuss and tick-off – you could even ask them to draw, sing or write about what they know about each item on the list. This is an activity that engages multiple senses and offers something for every child, which will also help you to understand how they learn. Not only does this activity introduce kids to the great outdoors, but it is also a form of exercise and will stimulate their sense of adventure.

DIY at home
For rainy days when it is preferable to stay indoors, encourage your child to build their own entertainment! Have them make a parachute, catapult or bridge using common items they’ve found around the house – think rubber-bands, toilet-rolls, pegs, baking paper, scissors, recycled paper… the options are endless. You could draw or print out an idea of what their finished product might look like, but also be sure to leave room for interpretation. Exercises like this one appeal to kids who love building with LEGO bricks and using their hands to construct things. Your kids will learn the fundamentals of engineering and how things work together, while also helping them engage with other structures they see and think about how they were built.

Engaging with professionals
One easy way to inspire your kids to enjoy maths is to set up a shop at home. Through buying and selling items, they will practise their computation skills on the fly and in a “real-world” situation.

If maths is not your strong suit, you can find help at Mathnasium. Maths can be incredibly rewarding, and Mathnasium teaches maths in a way that your child understands. Through Mathnasium, professional educators deliver maths lessons tailored to your child by working out if they are tactile, visual, verbal or written learners. By making maths approachable in this way, you can begin to empower your kids and build their confidence, making maths fun.

Periodic table match or snap game
This exercise is two-fold. Print out the periodic table on an A3 piece of paper and use either recycled paper or cardboard to cut out palm cards. Have your kids write out 10 to 15 of the most common elements with their matching symbols – for example, iron goes with the symbol Fe, or silver with Ag. Encourage your kids to use colour to code the elements to enhance their ability to match, and make a game of either matching the symbols with the elements or playing snap. Knowing the periodic table is a useful skill that your children can carry into adulthood – regardless of whether they end up using it in their chosen career. These elements feed into areas of health, engineering, and of course, science!

Grow a fruit and vegetable garden
Introducing kids to where their food comes from is immensely valuable – it teaches kids the basics of biology and what it takes to make something grow, i.e. germination, and is also a useful way of helping kids build their sense of responsibility when tending to their garden. Once they see growth, their confidence and self-efficacy will improve even further. It’s important to remember that feeling empowered in one area of STEM feeds into other areas of your child’s life where they may not feel as confident.

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