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3 Tips to Get Your Kids Interested in STEAM

by Dr. Sara LaFleur

Photo credit: Jon Feingersh Photography Inc, The Image Bank/Getty Images

“How was your day at school?” If you have a tween, you already know the answer: “It was fine.” Talking to tweens about academic subjects that interest or inspire them can be challenging for parents and educators.

Between ages 8 and 12, tweens start to see themselves differently, often comparing themselves to others with varied strengths. As a result, tweens who haven’t been sufficiently exposed to STEAM concepts (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) may not view themselves as “math-brained” or “science-brained.” How can you help them overcome this misperception? Start by remembering that they listen to what you say! They absorb a lot when you engage with them.

Try these interactive, family-friendly tips and watch the 8- to 12-year-old in your life light up with curiosity!

Pick a STEAM-based project to do together.

Tweens are more comfortable doing rather than talking. Choosing an activity to do together can create space for natural, free-flowing dialogue and provide insight into something they feel passionate about.

Almost anything can get turned into a fun STEAM activity. Cooking chicken soup? Step into the shoes of an archeologist or an orthopedic (musculoskeletal) surgeon by reconstructing the leftover chicken bones correctly. Taking the dogs for a walk? Have your tween record your pulse rates (felt at the inner wrist) at the beginning, on a steep slope, and at the end of the walk. Make a simple graph of the results together and calculate the change (difference) in heart rate. Discover why heart rate increases with exercise. Don’t forget to provide positive feedback to your tween about the STEAM skills they used and mastered during the activity!

Become the local news reporter.

As kids move closer to becoming teens, they form their identity and measure their self-image by thinking about how others fit into society. This is a golden opportunity to teach them about careers in STEAM fields while building their self-esteem and confidence in these areas.

Have your tween grab a notepad and pen and transform themselves into the local news reporter for the day. Help them pick an adult in a STEAM job to interview about what they do for work. For example, Uncle Adam may work in tech as the chief executive officer for an artificial intelligence company — but what does he actually do each day? Work with your tween to create a list of five interview questions to ask. Challenge your respondent to use words that an eight-to-twelve-year-old would understand. Bonus points if the adult can sketch the primary goal of their job. Make sure your tween keeps a log of their interviews or — better yet — encourage your tween to pitch them as stories to the school paper or community blog!

Play the STEAM fidget game.

Tweens can have difficulty focusing for extended periods of time, so they often benefit from opportunities that briefly shift their focus. Whether you’re waiting in the grocery checkout line or sensing your tween’s attention drifting, try this quick and fun distraction break.

Here’s how it works: Tell your tween to play the STEAM fidget game whenever they’re feeling restless. Have them pick a person in their immediate surroundings and take turns describing aspects of their job related to science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.

Let’s try it with the grocery clerk: Science – nutritional science/reading food labels; Technology – scanner as a computer input system to ring up food prices; Engineering – planning the configuration, space, and fit for packing items into bags without tearing them; Art – designing promotional materials; Mathematics – calculating change due to customers at checkout.