Posted in Education, guest blogs, Parenting, STEM

Why you should teach S.T.E.M. to children from a young age By Jonathan Drake, Head of Accessories at The Core Group

The world today is changing rapidly. Technological advancements are unlike anything we have seen before. We have entered the fourth industrial revolution and can only speculate about the future of workplaces and the required skill sets.

 

Children need to prepare for an exciting and tech-driven future, and we need to enable them to acquire the necessary skills to build their careers. The education curriculum is adapting to meet this need by introducing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (S.T.E.M.) in the school syllabus to help children develop creative problem-solving, critical thinking, logical reasoning, and other vital skills. Many early learning brands like PlayShifu are creating incredible toys that help children master S.T.E.M. and all these essential skills early on.

 

However, S.T.E.M. is more than learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. At its core, S.T.E.M. is the process of integrating these disciplines to help children develop new ways of thinking that interlink science and mathematics to technology and engineering and how it all fits into our daily lives. This holistic approach to learning encourages children to experiment with concepts and develop critical thinking, logical analysis, curiosity, and inquiry through trial and error.

 

Although educators and parents are generally aware of the importance of S.T.E.M. and its benefits, until recently, S.T.E.M. initiatives have been limited to children that have demonstrated an aptitude for subjects such as mathematics. Further, funding is often set aside for higher grade levels and overlooking the benefit of S.T.E.M. for younger learners.

 

When should S.T.E.M. be introduced to children?

Children are naturally curious, explorative, and eager to learn. All these qualities are crucial for S.T.E.M. learning. By their very nature, they are scientists at heart exploring the world around them, organizing items, and trying to figure out how and why everything works the way it does. PlayShifu’s Orboot, Plugo, and Tacto offer children a safe and sound space to play, tinker, and learn. PlayShifu’s Orboot, Plugo, and Tacto offer a safe and sound space for children to play, tinker, and learn.

 

Introducing children to S.T.E.M. experiences helps establish a critical foundation early on and fosters a positive attitude towards learning. Children as young as three can be introduced to S.T.E.M. learning as suggested by the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, Next Generation Science Standards, and International Standards for Technology in Education[1].

 

What are the benefits of introducing S.T.E.M. at an early age?
From language development to collaborative learning, there are several significant benefits to introducing S.T.E.M. to children at an early age. The most pertinent benefit is that it prepares them for the workplace of the future. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, non-S.T.E.M. occupations are predicted to grow by 5% between 2018 and 2028, while the number of S.T.E.M.-related jobs are expected to grow by 9%, creating 10.6 million jobs[2].

 

Children who are introduced to S.T.E.M. early on could perform better academically and could pursue a career in S.T.E.M. comfortably. Early S.T.E.M. learning helps develop critical thinking, creativity, and other essential foundational skills. The Joan Ganz Cooney Centre at Sesame Workshop study[3] asserts that closing the gap between preschool and elementary school practices is necessary to prepare children for a better digital future.

 

What can parents do to encourage S.T.E.M. learning at home?

Many schools have started implementing S.T.E.M. learning into the curriculum from preschool through to Grade 12. However, parents have an important role to play in encouraging S.T.E.M. learning at home from an early age. Parents’ guidance at a young age could impact children’s attitudes toward learning in the classroom and beyond.

 

The study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Centre at Sesame Workshop found that many parents felt anxious or lacked confidence in their knowledge of S.T.E.M. and thus found it difficult to implement and encourage S.T.E.M. development at home. Fortunately, more tools like PlayShifu’s Orboot and Plugo are becoming available to help parents foster S.T.E.M. activities at home.

 

How to introduce S.T.E.M. to young children?

 

Many innovative S.T.E.M. toys integrate tech seamlessly with rich storytelling and gameplay that encourages curiosity and learning.  However, screen time is a major concern among 21st-century parents. Extended screen time is known to cause behavioural problems and sleep disorders.

 

That said, the focus of screen time is shifting from avoiding screens to harnessing their benefits as learning supplements, providing opportunities to learn through play, and changing the role of children from being passive recipients of information to participants in learning alongside a screen.

 

PlayShifu’s innovative use of Augmented Reality and tactile toys brings phenomenal educational games for children. These games are driven by hands-on play that enriches and brings new meaning to screen time. They have developed smart S.T.E.M. toys that work in conjunction with a phone or tablet device to help foster critical thinking, grammar, logic, social-emotional learning, cultural awareness, and problem-solving skills. The products have physical components that children can touch, connect, and build with. And the companion app has super fun games that teach children various curriculum-based concepts.

 

The PlayShifu range includes Orboot, Plugo, and Tacto, which start at R899 and can be purchased from iStore, Takealot, and Toys’R’Us. Designed for ages 4 to 12, all the product platforms are supported by free-to-download apps that work with a range of devices on iOS and Android.

 

About PlayShifu

PlayShifu is a leading early learning toy company offering a variety of immersive, educational toys that connect the physical and digital worlds. The play experiences are specially designed for kids ages 4 to 12 years, and build foundational STEAM skills through fun. Founded in 2016 by Dinesh Advani and Vivek Goyal after they saw a need to provide meaningful digital play experiences for their kids, PlayShifu is now loved around the world. With offices in the U.S. and India, PlayShifu products are available in more than 35 countries through online marketplaces including Amazon, and brick-and-mortar locations including Sam’s Club, BestBuy, Argos, Toys‘R’Us, Hamleys, Virgin Media, and Rakuten.

 

To purchase and find out more, visit PlayShifu.com.

[1] http://cadrek12.org/sites/default/files/DRK12-Early-STEM-Learning-Brief.pdf

[2] https://soeonline.american.edu/blog/stem-in-early-childhood-education

[3] https://joanganzcooneycenter.org/publication/stem-starts-early/

Posted in Education, STEM

Skittles experiment- how to make a rainbow on a plate

Although Hamish and I have tried this experiment before for our blog, we initially used Smarties and Rascles, both of which only let off a very light colour and when mixed did not form a bright rainbow. So, when trying with skittles today I was happy to see a brighter rainbow.

The Skittles experiment is both easy to do and low cost to try. To me, it is. Wonderful first experiment for children and it opens up opportunities for a wider observation, investigation and conversation.

Although this experiment is normally done with hot or warm water you could also try the effects using :-

  • Milk
  • White vinegar
  • Lemonade

To try this experiment yourself you will need:

  • White plate (we used a white cutting tray. We use white to allow the colours to show up better)
  • Skittles
  • Warm water

Instructions.

Place the skittles in a circle around the plate.

Slowly add warm water to the centre of the circle. If the skittles move a little out of place, just push them back.

Slowly watch as the colours spread. You can watch our experiment HERE

Why do the colours spread?

When the Skittles are made, they are coated in sugar and food colouring. The warm water causes this outer layer to melt and results in the good colouring dissolving into the water and defusing the colours. As these colours blend they give the impression of a vibrant rainbow.

You will however note that the colours do not blend into each other, unless the water is disturbed.

One of the reasons for this is that each colour skittles has a slightly different chemical make up and so when each colour disolves, each has slightly different properties such as salinity, density and oxygenation. This then creates a barrier preventing the colours from mixing.

Children of all ages, ( and their moms)enjoy this experiment but you could expand this for older children by:

  • Timing how long it takes for the colours to start running.
  • Use one plate with color water and one plate with warm water and discover which plate disolves faster.
  • Use different liquids.
  • Use different sweets and see their reactions.

Have you tried this experiment? Let me know how your children enjoyed this.

Follow us on YouTube for more fun learning videos

Posted in babies, Education, Fun Mamma SA Products we love, Fun Mamma SA Toy of the Week, Parenting, preschool, preschoolers, STEM, Toddlers

Fun maths games with Building Genius by Moluk

We are huge fans of the Moluk design brand and I can not recommend these open ended toys more.

Read my reviews on the awesome bilibo and oibo

So you can imagine our excitement when Straight_zigzag sent Hamish the latest product – Building Genius.

This soft, safe, silicone construction toy comprises of 3 of each of the brands popular products – Mox, Hix and Oibo.

Truly toys that grow with your child and can be used from baby stage.

With so many uses.

  • Your baby 0 -1 year can grasp and sense.
  • Toddlers 1-3 can stack and build.
  • Children 3 – 12 can imagine and invent.

We spent some time exploring the products and using them in lessons to:

  • count objects
  • sort colours and shapes
  • identify shapes
  • do maths sums
  • build

We also used them in play….

  • Hamish used them in free play with water to experiment with volume
  • we turned the hix into boats and see who could blow them across the bilibo fastest
  • he rolled the mox balls to the bilibo
  • practised throwing and catching with them
  • and he played with them using his imagination creating robots

The hix fold into 3 sizes and are great for fine motor development as your child manipulates the silicone into it’s different sizes.

The mox balls have groves that could look like eyes and slits which Hamish calls a mouth. You can post items inside for your child to get out or let them squeeze the sides to open the mouth.

The oibo are also flexible and the mox fit inside. Hamish loves to pop the balls in and manipulate the sides of the oibo to get them out.

How to use the Building genius in lessons

Nothing excites me more than a toy we can use in lessons, mostly because I know that I will immediately have Hamish’s full attention and that he will grasp the concept a lot faster because he is enthusiastic to play.

I jumped straight in by introducing the building genius to our next maths lessons.

We’ve been working on sizes and Hamish categorized the hix into:

– small, medium and large

-big, bigger, biggest

-small, smaller, smallest

Next we reinforced categorizing and sorting by placing the items on a piece of paper to match the colours.

Lastly we reinforced shape names and properties by looking at the hix, mox and obio and discussing what shape they were and how many sides each had. Then Hamish grouped each onto a piece of paper with its corresponding shape.

Using familiar objects and favourite toys in learning activities makes learning a concept much more enjoyable.

So, although Hamish loves to build and create his own items with this lovely set, he also loves to add them to his learning time.

I love the possibilities of play and learning that this set of toys offer and can’t wait to share the new and innovative ways we find to introduce them into our every day learning and play

Posted in STEM

Marshmallow toothpick structures

Hamish will be 4 in September and we have recently started to introduce more STEM activities into our curriculum.

So, the other night when he asked for something fun to do, I brought out some marshmallows and toothpicks and we spent the time learning to construct 3D shapes.

To do this activity you will need:

  • Toothpicks
  • Marshmallows

( marshmallows can be substituted for grapes, berries, soft sweets or even playdough)

Method

First we grabbed our supplies and discussed the shapes we could make.

Next I spoke Hamish through constructing basic 3D shapes – a square and a triangle.

Then I left him, with his knew found knowledge and skills to construct his own sculpture.

I was impressed to find that he had built a little house. This is an activity that encourages creativity and problem solving.

Notes

We used ordinary sharp toothpicks bit it may be advisable to use flat toothpicks for younger kids.

Coloured toothpicks could also be fun.

You can add depth and size to this project by supplying a variety of marshmallow sizes and both toothpicks and kebab sticks.

You can challenge your child by giving them various items to construct, ie: a bridge, a house, a boat, ect

This activity is adaptable for all ages and you may find a younger child would rather construct a flat 2D shape, rather than a 3D shape.

This is a fantastic affordable way to introduce geometry and shapes to your children.

Posted in easy science experiments, preschool, preschool curriculum, STEM

Fun science – changing a flowers colour

One of my favourite activities as a child was to pick my mothers flowers and try change their colour by leaving them in food colouring water.Tonight as I glanced over at the flowers I bought before lockdown I decided it was the perfect time to show Hamish this ” magic” trick.And so we grabbed some glasses, water, food colouring and 2 flowers and set our experiment up.Eager little hands were ready to help me and are still learning to do things slowly.As he poured the blue food colouring he managed to splosh it all over the counter. ( thank goodness for jick)So, when pouring the red, he was so much more gentle and deliberate.After we had coloured the water, he placed one flower in each glass and we have left them overnight.I cant wait to see his reaction in the morning.It takes 24 hours for the flowers to completely change colour and you normally use a plain white flower, so I’m not too certain how vibrant the shades will appear on our slightly greenish flowers.This morning our flowers had absorbed enough food colouring to change colour already.The longer we leave them the more vibrant the colour will appear.

How this works

Plants absorb water from the roots. This water travels up the stems into the flower petals.Although the cut flowers we use no longer have roots, they still absorb water up their stems through a process called capillary action.As the water is coloured with the food colouring, the dye enters the flowers petals and stains them to change colour.What is most interesting is that you need to leave each flower in dyed water to keep the colour as plain water would make the vibrant shades of the petals fade.

Posted in Education, STEM

A list of easy STEM activities for families

STEM, stands for the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

These 4 subjects teach critical thinking, logic and a large variety of other skills needed for when your child one day enters a future workplace.

But, how exactly do we as parents who grew up in a totally different world, equip our children for their future through everyday play ?

A boy stacking cups
How do we prepare our children for their future ?

I’ve compiled a list of easy STEM activities that the entire family can enjoy together.

Activities

I have tried to separate the activities into a category each but many of the activities cross over into one or more of the other categories as well.

Science

  • Take a nature walk in your backyard or neighbourhood.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Get an old microscope and look at things.
  • Plant seeds and record their growth.
  • Take photos of nature.
  • Make slime or ooblek.
  • Learn to recognize trees from their bark.
  • Study a scientist and read their biography.
  • Use a magnifying glass and search for bugs.
  • Make art using leaves.
  • Complete a science simulation online.
  • Plant a vegetable garden.
  • Weed the garden and identify weeds.
  • Go rock hunting.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Make a time lapse video in nature.

Technology

  • Give your children old appliances or toys to dismantle and discover how they work.
  • Fix broken toys and let your child try help with a solution as to how it can be fixed, what materials or tools to use to do so.
  • Investigate your family car’s engine.
  • Learn to code a game.
  • Create a stop motion video using LEGO or PLAYDOH.
  • Learn to use a compass for direction.
  • Fix a bike.
  • Tour a factory.
  • Make a “How to” video.
  • Build a solar oven and cook something.
  • Build something using a pulley
  • Build something using using gears.
  • Use a lever to lift something heavy

Engineering

  • Use a large cardboard box to create a rocketship.
  • Create your own boardgame.
  • Make a LEGO car, building or ship.
  • Make a LEGO bridge.
  • Work out how much paint is needed to paint a room.
  • Design a blueprint of your home.
  • Invent a useful item.
  • Make paper aeroplanes and host an aeroplane flying competition.
  • Design and build mini boats and float them down a river or stream.
  • Build something using only craft sticks, paper straws or pipe cleaners.
  • Make a raft from an empty milk jug.

Maths

  • Take a calculator with to the store and let your child add up your bill, find the best price or work out the cost per item.
  • Play a card game involving numbers.
  • Play connect 4.
  • Play chess.
  • Play checkers.
  • Bake a cake or cookies.
  • Learn to use a maths compass.
  • Build a puzzle
  • Make your own puzzle.
  • Watch a sporting event and keep statistics.
  • Play monopoly.
  • Try origami.
  • Build a picture only using one type of shape.
  • Take photos of shapes around your home.
  • Point out numbers whilst driving in the car.

Do you have any other ideas of fun STEM activities we could enjoy as a family? I would love you to share them in the comments below.