Five Ways to Encourage Your Child to Pursue STEM
Coding is the language of the future.
You’ve probably heard this many times before and might be worried how to make sure your child learns this new language on top of playing sports, doing their homework, and just being a kid. Don’t panic. The good news is that anyone can learn how to code and there are many free or inexpensive resources available, many of which we’ll detail below.
If you are a parent who has no prior experience or knowledge with science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) concepts, there is no need to worry! If you would like to, you can actually learn right along with your child.
You might also be nervous because perhaps your child has not displayed exceptional strength in science or mathematics. Again, no need to worry. Many amazing coders are extremely skilled in writing, social studies, or the arts. In fact, learning to code often helps children strengthen their math, science, creative problem solving, and communication skills.
Ready to get started on learning the language of the future? Here are five ways to introduce coding into your kids world.
1. Connect computer science with other interests
The most important way to encourage someone to pursue STEM related activities is to find how it connects to other things they are already interested in. Coding is a part of nearly everything, so it’s pretty easy to find ways to bring personal interests and coding together.
For instance, almost every child enjoys playing with apps on their phone. Apps are a combination of coding and design, and there are many programs out there that will teach your child to build their own app. This not only teaches your child programming skills, but also how to design a user friendly experience, entrepreneurship, problem solving, and more.
Other connections might be that your child loves to dance. Scratch has a dance studio where kids can learn how to make their drawings or cartoons come to life and perform dances like *NSYNC’s iconic “Bye, Bye, Bye” dance or a routine they’ve made up all on their own.
Think about what hobbies your child already has and we bet there’s a program, app, or kit out there that can help them apply STEM techniques to it and be able to enjoy their hobby in a whole new way.
2. Sign them up for a camp or class
As coding continues to grow in popularity, summer camps, after school programs, and online classes are becoming easier to find and more affordable. If you live in Atlanta, Ga., we’d love to see you on campus this summer at one of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing summer camps. Georgia Tech also partners with the annual Atlanta Science Festival and other Science ATL events that include robotics and coding camps.
Nationwide programs like Girls Who Code, CoderDojo, Code.org, and Code Club offer a variety of programs that are either free or a low-cost and are available for students of different age ranges and skill levels.
Signing them up for a class or camp not only allows your child to learn new skills, but to also make friends who are also interested in computing. We call that a win-win!
3. Find them a coding mentor
No matter what your child’s interests are, it’s always helpful to have a mentor. If your daughter is interested in a career in space, she might find value in Women@NASA, a hub for female NASA employees to provide virtual mentorship and document their career paths.
Engineer Girl is another great online community for girls interested in STEM. The website is full of stories and interviews about real female engineers career paths, tips on how to prepare for college to become an engineer, and even a section where you can ask questions to a real female engineer.
A mentor could also be discovered through engaging them in one of the opportunities listed in number three. The important thing is that your child sees people who are applying STEM to make a difference in the world. This helps them see that if they keep working on their skills, they too, could design the next popular video game, soar into space, or create the next social network.
4. Forget the screen and just play
Learning computer science does not mean your child is destined to spend even more hours locked into a screen. In fact, some of the best ways to learn computational skills is not with a screen at all! Hummingbird robotics kits, Little Bits, and unplugged activities, are all great ways to reinforce coding skills while limiting screen time.
5. Learn with them
One of the best ways to engage your child in STEM is to learn with them. We know that life is hectic and we all wish for more time in every day, but we encourage you to spend a few minutes a week with your child learning STEM concepts together.
This could be doing an unplugged activity together, teaming up to build a Lego set, or talking about their experience at their after-school program. You’ll not only be engaging with them mentally, but emotionally as well, and that can make a huge difference in whether a child continues to pursue STEM or not.