At Alpha’s Discovery Kids Preschool and Daycare, we understand the importance of educating children using a wholistic approach. Engineering is a key component of our STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program which is one of our four pillars of learning. You may be wondering how we teach young children engineering skills. This may seem like an abstract concept that young children wouldn’t understand. So first, let’s define engineering and then discuss how we teach those skills to young children.
Engineering is the application of scientific knowledge to solving problems in the real world. Therefore, people use engineering skills to solve problems, which may include learning how things work and building things that we will solve problems in our daily life. So, if you look at it that way, young children are constantly in the process of engineering. They are so inquisitive and they are constantly trying to figure out how things work. It starts with simple tasks, like opening a closed cupboard door or moving a car up and down a ramp. Every activity that they are participating in, is giving them the opportunity to problem solve. One day, these simple little tasks will teach them to solve bigger problems. Teaching children how to think creatively and learning to solve problems prepares them for the future.
Engineering is the process by which young children discover how the things in their world are built and how they work. Whether it is building a block tower, or it is exploring a simple pendulum, engineering is a natural part of everyday, early learning.
Now that we understand what engineering is and how it relates to young children, how do we foster the development of engineering skills. Exploration is a major component when it comes to engineering, so we need to give children opportunities to explore. The ability to freely explore something is important while avoiding too many rules and instructions. This will help the children to solve a problem creatively and lead to understanding and insight.
Another way to foster engineering skills is to let the children play. As parents and educators, we can be over-protective of this generation of children as we try to eliminate any area of risk for them. We fear the slide is too high, that they shouldn’t climb up it. We begin to instill fear in them that isn’t there. Let them play in mud and make mud pies, let them play with sticks and blocks and shovels. Let them be kids and explore. Playing in mud won’t hurt them, it only creates opportunities to problem-solve, create and imagine.
At Alpha’s Discovery Kids, we provide planned activities to the children every day that builds on engineering skills. We provide specific materials to let them build and engineer with. It is important to have a plan and purpose, as well as have the freedom to play and explore. It is okay to create challenges for young children to engineer and build.
Here’s some things you can try at home. Give your child a basket of blocks and challenge them to see how high they can create a tower. Gather rocks outside and create a rock tower. Provide different shapes and sizes of these materials so that they learn what order to place the items in, from biggest to smallest, from fattest to thinnest. It is important to allow the space needed for when the tower does fall, or they make it too tall or too wide.
Provide children with random material in a basket and see what they can build and create. You can put paper, glue, scissors, random craft supplies and let them create and imagine. It is important to ask thought provoking questions along the way. The key is to have one-on-one conversation with your child throughout the engineering process.
Visit our curriculum page for more information about how we incorporate engineering into our four pillars of learning through STEAM curriculum. We have truly developed an exceptional program that focuses on the child as a whole. We believe that language, literacy, STEAM and mindfulness can provide children a path for continuous growth.