When it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM), the ability to solve complex problems and think outside the box are key to driving innovation. According to child development experts, play lays the foundation for these and many other skills, while helping kids discover real-world applications of STEAM early on. What if your family’s playtime was not just fun, but a pathway to future success?
In a recent survey of parents conducted by OnePoll on behalf of The Genius of Play in the US, a leading online hub of expert-based play ideas and resources for families, 87% of respondents said the skills they learned while playing as a child helped them achieve success in their adult careers.
Those skills, according to survey respondents, include creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, empathy and communication, all of which are highly valued across many different industries and careers.
For example, when it comes to careers in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM), the ability to solve complex problems and think outside the box are key to driving innovation. According to child development experts, play lays the foundation for these and many other skills, while helping kids discover real-world applications of STEAM early on.
“Play driven by curiosity and wonder presents endless possibilities for STEAM learning,” says Anna Yudina, senior director of marketing initiatives at The Toy Association, which spearheads The Genius of Play. “While many STEAM concepts may seem intimidating and lack real-world relevance when taught in a formal classroom environment, play gives kids an opportunity to engage in free, hands-on, child-led exploration, igniting their natural curiosity and fueling the innovative thinking they’ll need in future careers.”
To combine fun with STEAM learning and practical skill-building, consider these playtime ideas from The Genius of Play that get the whole family in on the fun:
• Build a car: Find materials at home to create a car. For example, an empty juice carton can be turned into the car’s body, and a spool of thread can serve as wheels and an axle. Now, work together to make the car move. Slide it down an incline, push it by hand or attach a balloon and use air as a propellant. Design additional cars to see which goes fastest or farthest!
• Make colourful bubbles: Blowing bubbles is a great opportunity to apply STEAM concepts to play. In a container, combine 1 1/2 cups of hot water, 1/4 cup of light corn syrup, 1/4 cup of dish soap and washable paint and fill a glass jar half full. Make a wand out of a pipe cleaner. Explore how different shape wands change the shape of the bubbles.
• Create structures: Children of all ages enjoy building, and it’s the perfect way to strengthen fine motor skills while using one’s imagination. Whether building a volcano or a house, design the plan on paper and tap into your collective creativity. Then, construct your design. You may need to make changes and that’s okay. That’s part of the engineering process.
• Experiment with cabbage colours: Cabbage have tubes called xylem that allow water to be pulled up into their leaves, and you can watch this phenomenon in action. Slice each cabbage at the stalk and place in a jar of dyed water (made with food colouring). Watch the cabbage change colour from the bottom up. Take notes. What do you observe after one hour, one day and one week?