Aspirational play comes naturally to children. They may borrow dad's white button up for a lab coat while pretending to be a scientist. Or make mud pies in a make-believe backyard bakery. Children may mimic what they see at home or in pop culture and free play their way to self-discovery.As educators and parents, witnessing a child's interests unfold (without adult interference) is nothing short of miraculous. Still, one may wonder, should we be exposing children to a variety of "when I grow up" careers with passion potential?
For example, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) check many of the same boxes’ children might gravitate towards like creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship. STEM careers also provide opportunities in philanthropy like inventing life-saving technology, environmental solutions, or ending food scarcity in underprivileged communities. Furthermore, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in STEM are projected to grow at double the rate of all other career categories.
How to Introduce STEM to Kids Through Aspirational Play
Children love novelty and variety in their play schedule. STEM activities like a day at the science center, a fun early coding game at home, or a day at the aquarium can offer children a real-life glimpse into the wonderful world of STEM. These opportunities may also broaden their interests and curiosities at every age and stage of their development.
Take a STEM Field Trip
Plan for a STEM activity field trip in your community. Visit a university science lab, a robotics competition, or a kid-friendly STEM workshop. Not only will these STEM activities provide hands-on fun, they may also spark new interests and future ambitions!
Use STEM Games to Gather Data
Through various STEM games, children can learn STEM principles while they pretend play along with the theme of the game. For example, learning primary code-thinking skills with early coding game, Team Digger.
Or children can pretend to be an ecologist as they build an ecosystem on the Seregenti-Mara with SavannaScapes. Aspirational play can also transport kids to outer space while the learn fun planetary facts with strategy game, Planet Voyagers.
Plan a Kid-Friendly STEAM Project Together
STEAM is essentially STEM, but with "art" thrown into the mix. STEAM activities can encourage young artists to explore math and science in a more creative way. One thing to consider, is for children to engage with STEM and STEAM activities, they need to be able to apply them to real-life scenarios. A fun way to make STEM and STEAM activities hands-on for children is to plan a project together.
Art projects require planning, measuring, counting, construction- all of which are skills used in engineering. Check out sites like ScienceSparks.com for safe DIY science projects you can conduct together. Bookmark your projects and plan for a weekly or quarterly STEAM activity that explores different learning modalities.
*Fun Tip: Let children participate in the research of materials. Also give them a journal so they can create a lab log of goals and project outcomes.
Aspirational Play May Inspire a STEM Future
For kids and teens to fully explore their "when I grow up" potential, they must be exposed to different subjects. Highlighting unsung heroes in STEM, connecting the dots from art to engineering, and exploring hands-on STEAM activities can open a path to self-discovery. The key is broadening their horizon and then stepping back and letting them make their own conclusions. Children learn best when they tap into their play instincts, so above all, make it fun with aspirational play!
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