Introducing Engineering to Preschoolers
How to foster a love for engineering in early years? Is your child constantly playing with tower blocks, making different objects from clay or amazed by tall buildings or beautiful bridges? Chances are your child is a little engineer. Children are naturally curious and are always looking to unravel the mysteries around them. With the right approach by adults, these little adventurers can one day become successful engineers. With our ever-changing physical and digital infrastructure, engineering is in high demand in all sectors. The skills of an engineer are needed in all aspects of building a society and this demand is not going to go away. It is easier to engage and introduce children to engineering concepts at a much earlier age than you might think. The ability to think outside the box, learning to communicate and collaborate with others, and to overcome failure using trial or error are all traits which can be taught. Children do not have to wait until entering college or high school to learn the concepts of engineering.
Engineering makes the backbone of STEM education and is used in all aspects of building, designing, and testing. Engineering is introduced to children infrequently from K-12 despite growing evidence that knowledge and education of engineering leads to improved learning in science and mathematics. Whether it is their favourite character building a house, designing a windmill, or travelling in spaceships, topics of engineering can be introduced to little minds at an early age. Young STEM tots often find engineering problems in books that they read. Our engineering kits for kids are inspired by children’s storybooks to introduce the concept of engineering in the most fun and engaging way.
Literacy in books provides a rich environment for problem solving. The focus is on key steps in the engineering design process: recognizing and framing problems, planning big ideas, testing and optimizing solutions after several trial and error processes. The subject of engineering is considered as the responsibility of educators in college or universities. This misconception has caused very little integration of engineering in elementary, middle school and high school. Engineering is not primarily used by workers in the field of construction or architecture. Engineering concepts are also used to develop knowledge in life science, health science, space and earth science.
How to introduce engineering to preschoolers?
Explain what an engineer does: Talk to your kids about what is engineering in simple terms. Molding a clay, making a block tower and balancing a birdhouse is all engineering. Engineers build, design, and maintain machines and all the structures around us. They are master builders! Point to their favourite structure in your neighbourhood and explain how an engineer was probably part of that building process.
Find out what interests them and explore the topic: Almost all topics have an element of engineering to it so try to bring the role of an engineer into the conversation. “did an engineer help to resolve this problem” “what is the part of engineering in this activity or structure?” Explain the different types of engineers. Engineering skills are not only used to build structures but they are an important part of several industries such as manufacturing, food, aerospace, painting and gaming to name a few. In fact, almost every job or daily activity has an aspect of engineering to it. Breakdown the design process; do they have a favourite toy or love playing in the playground? Explain how the toy was constructed; help them understand how a merry-go-round works or how to balance a birdhouse.
Bottom line is, you do not have to wait for your kids to enter secondary school or college to be introduced to the subject of engineering. You can expose them to the concept of engineering in early childhood.