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Ask HN: For parents, how do you expose your kids to STEM?
11 points by markus_zhang 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 7 comments
Hi HN parents, I'm wondering how you expose STEM topics to your kids?

On my side, I think I picked the interest as my parents frequently took me to Natural Museums when I was 5 and I was super interest to dinosaurs and palentology in general at the time. We also sit together every Sat night to watch a few episodes of palentology programs (probably BBC or something else but there was many years ago). I never studied in that field but nevertheless I think that was one good trick to get kids into STEM and I'll probably do the same for mine.

What's your trick? I really believe that every kid is naturally interested in STEM but needs some guidance.

I prefer some safe experiments that they can do with minimal help.

Changing the color of red cabbage juice with lemon and changing it back with backing soda. (Bonus points for the bubbles.) (Some teas also change color, but it not so dramatic.)

Magnets, lot of magnets. Make a complete analysis of every wall and object at home to see if it is magnetic, and think what is is made of. (Try also coins. Here in Argentina, some of the 10 cents coins were magnetic and other non magnetic. (Self nitpick: ferromagnetic.))

Some germination experiments. (Bonus point for spotting the difference between corn and beans.)

Watch light at night using a CD as a diffraction lattice to get rainbows. Some light have a continuous spectrum (like the old incandescent lights) and other have very peaky spectrum (like the old red/orange/yellow/green leds, or the neon lamps of different colors). (Modern lamps and white/blue leds are more complicated.)

Did you see the video of the feather and hammer in the Moon? (This in not in the DIY category, but there are a lot of things to talk about.)

What kind of Stem topics are you looking for? For natural sciences, documentaries like Our Planet can get kids interested in animals and ecosystems. Birdwatching is also a great start, I recommend guides like Sibley's guide to whatever region of the world you live in.

For plants, I strongly believe that guidebooks like Tree Finder (https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/tree-finder-may-theilgaard-wa...) can be a fun activity. You can turn it into a scavenger hunt or make hikes more enjoyable. There's similar books for insects and flowers as well.

For programming and tech, graphical programming languages like Scratch (https://scratch.mit.edu/) are good introductions. Oftentimes, basic math and physics concepts can be rolled in as they get older and want to create more complex programs.

Engineering has a wide variety of different kits that can be completed, but the best way is to figure out what your kid wants to build and see what you can do to make it happen.

And finally, always be on the lookout for learning opportunities. For example, my parents would let me keep the change at the grocery store if I could calculate it before the cashier returned the money.

Visit science centers in your area, watch science shows and documentaries, watch rocket launches together.

We have science nights where kids can ask how something works and then we white board explaining how it works. Or we just pick a topic and white board it.

Lego mindstorms, check out Lego First Robotics League, if you can't find a team to join you can create your own team. They have a few options for different age groups.

Do science kits, chemistry and electricity.

Do your own experiments like rubbing a balloon then holding it by a stream of water in the sink. There are thousands of cool experiments and projects out there.

Kids are naturally interested in this stuff.

When they are a little older arduino projects are good fun for the kids and adults.

My four year old daughter loves books. I have been buying her books since she was born about math and science and engineering. [1] There are a lot of good children’s books now [2] that she enjoys hearing the story and they are just on the shelf with the other books. Someday it’s all princess books others it’s animal books. Recently I’ve found my How Things Work book and I’ve been reading a page or two of that in between the stories when she wants to read the whole Mickey and Friends anthology. Another great resource has been my wife got us a RaddishKids [3] subscription for Christmas and we’ve really enjoyed making the recipes and they are very kid friendly and highly recommended. We’ve found quite a few new favorite recipes that we keep going back to. I’m not an expert seeing as my Datapoints == 1, but I personally feel even an exposure to great many things helps breed interest in things. If you don’t know something exists how can you think about it? My ultimate goal is to help her become a self sufficient human not necessarily an Engineer or Scientist or Programmer. She has helped me change light switches and fix stripped screws for door hinges, she helps cook dinner when we’re not in a rush and sits on my wife’s lap when she’s using the sewing machine.

[1] Baby loves science books by Ruth Spiro [2] Books by Andrea Beaty, Ada Twist scientist etc, Grace Hopper:Queen of computer Code that I bought from Adafruit, How things work and sorry I don’t have the authors name right on hand but he has some other great books on architecture ‘built to last’ I think was one that are beautifully illustrated and fun. [3] https://www.raddishkids.com

Besides the other great advice here, I always try to make my kids question their reality and develop some critical thinking. I will sometimes say things that don't sense, give answers that are obviously wrong, etc., in order to check if they are really thinking about what I'm saying. My oldest got pretty good at catching these things, so now I'm going to more subtle things, and he is also started catching things that don't come from me: he recently found a plot hole in one of his books.

Also, video games are really good at making them interested in numbers, calculations, etc.

As far as commercial products go, we've had luck with home chemistry kits. Also, optics (projectors with little slides, binoculars, magnifying glasses). And home insect kits (caterpillars to butterflies, keeping ladybirds and feeding them aphids) went down extremely well.

Otherwise, I just take my chances when I can. When there's some interest in some random thing, I just try and run with it and encourage further scrutiny.

Why STEM? Just chill out, it never takes much intuition to figure out what someone else’s talents are.

Everyone will show you their innate talent. Don’t be that shitty parent that has an idea of what that talent should be.

What you meant to say was, ‘everyone has a natural interest in something’, roll with that.

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