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3 Fun, Affordable STEM Activities for Kids!

by Rachel O. Williams, Founder of Paige & Paxton

· Tips for Parents,Science for Kids,Engineering for Kids,Kids and Technology,Raising STEM Kids

You don’t have to deplete your child’s college fund to give him or her a solid start in STEM!

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Families spend up to $12,000 annually on enrichment programming for just one child, and the cost becomes staggering for families with two or more children. Here are three, easy affordable ways to lay the foundation for future success in STEM.

1. Membership has its privileges.

Paige & Paxton with Grandpapa puzzle (the town Paleontologist) in Paige & Paxton Discover a Piece of the Past

Paige and Paxton with Grandpapa puzzle (the town Paleontologist) in Paige & Paxton Discover a Piece of the Past.

If your family makes multiple visits to museums during the year, you’ll find that family memberships are a better value than one-off admissions.

Here’s an example, let’s say the annual membership fee for a family is $115 and the price of admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children. A family of four will break even on the third visit, and the cost of admission diminishes with each additional visit.

Membership revenue helps underwrite annual operating costs, so typically memberships come with additional cost-saving perks such as free parking, reduced or free admission to special exhibits, guest passes and invitations to members-only events. Your membership is also a charitable gesture in that it provides museums with a predictable income stream, helping keep the doors open and the lights on.

2. Put a little STEM in story time.

Mama Puzzle loves reading to her little ones,  Paige and Paxton! (From the Paige & Paxton Go Green storybook)

Mama Puzzle loves reading to her little ones, Paige and Paxton! From the Paige & Paxton Go Green botany storybook.

If you’re like most parents, you read the same books to your child that you read as a child. For many families, this means story time consists of primarily of folktales, fairytales and fantasy.

Here’s an idea. The next time story time rolls around at your house, mix it up. Include a few non-fiction titles that explore STEM along with your favorite childhood classics. If you haven’t already checked out STEM-focused books for your little learner, then you’ll be delighted at the breadth of topics—from staples like astronomy and paleontology to microbiology, coding, and structural engineering.

Opt for well-written, age-appropriate books with beautiful illustrations or photos. Picture books help young readers to grasp the STEM concepts and make the reading experience more enjoyable overall. Start with STEM subjects of interest your child and then move to other STEM topics that you think he or she might enjoy. And remember, including STEM literature should be an exciting expedition into the world of STEM, not a litany of facts. There are many books that leverage storytelling and fictional characters to teach factual STEM concepts. It’s a technique that we use at Paige & Paxton to explore STEM through the lens of children’s own experiences.

3. Lead, link, and label

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There's STEM all around us! Connect the dots for your child.

Scene of downtown Puzzleland from Penelope Wraps Things Up the packaging engineering storybook).

One of the things that I cherish about my role at Paige & Paxton, is the opportunity to interact with STEM professionals on a regular basis. These interactions provide insight into the qualities that it takes to prepare for and succeed in STEM careers. Many of these highly educated and successful people often lament about the sense of isolation that they felt regarding their non-traditional childhood interests. Why do I prefer to watch thunderstorms as opposed to baseball? Why do I find mold on bread fascinating instead of yucky? Some whether there was something “wrong” with them and actually hid their interests. That’s why it’s so important to give your child the support and encouragement to march to a different drummer.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to lead, link and label. Let your child take the lead. If your child is interested in gardening, link that activity to botany, the science of plants. Is your child fascinated by yucky, crawly things? Validate that interest by linking it to entomology: an entire science devoted to the study of insects. One parent was exacerbated about her son’s interest in zombies. I said introduce him to mortuary science. She reached out to me a few weeks later and said thank you! It worked: he’s no longer interested in zombies…

Not the expected outcome, but the point is, STEM is all around you. The opportunities to lead, link, and label are endless! Observe your child’s interest and let that be a gateway to greater awareness and interest in STEM.

List some of your children’s favorite interests below and let’s talk about how we can help connect them to a STEM field!

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About Rachel

Rachel Williams is a mom of two millennials, an entrepreneur, an award-winning children's book author, a marketing communications expert, and a fitness fanatic. She was the “alpha” tester of the Paige & Paxton approach over 20 years ago when she wanted to ensure that her daughters were excited and proficient in math and science, but didn’t have a STEM background herself. In 2011, her daughters came to her with an idea to bring the puzzle piece characters and build out an elementary STEM curriculum. Since then, the trio has been on a mission to change the course of the nation by making STEM simple for elementary schools and teachers to implement. Rachel has a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Missouri-Columbia.