Last week in my blog about summer camp I touched on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning and how important cultivating innovation is for a child’s future success. For those of us who feel challenged in these areas, the thought of doing STEM at home can be extremely intimidating, but, really, it doesn’t have to be. Math and science are all around us, and whether or not you realize it, your children are experimenting with math and science as they play at home, on the playground, in the backyard every day. If you think about it, science is basically a process of inquiry — raising questions and then investigating methodically to answer them. Children are naturally curious about the world, and this curiosity provides the starting block for investigations that promote scientific thinking. Rather than overwhelm you with open-ended project and activity ideas to get your little ones constructing, engineering, exploring, and experimenting, I want to share with you one of my favorite things: light boxes
Why light boxes? Playing with light creates magical experiences and provides rich possibilities for developing a child’s natural curiosity and sense of wonder for learning about the world around them. Placing different objects and materials on a light box makes them more beautiful and interesting, transforming ordinary things into things that are extraordinary. Light boxes stimulate exploration of materials in a completely different way while being very calming and engaging of the senses. This in turn tends to draw children in and hold their attention for longer periods of time.
Light boxes can be bought from educational supply companies; you can also look on freecycle and craigslis for someone looking to unload overhead projectors or slide viewers, but even better (in my opinion), YOU CAN MAKE YOUR OWN! All you need is a plastic storage container with a clear lid, white Christmas tree lights, and parchment paper. Line the lid with parchment, fill the container with the lights, plug it in, and you are ready to go. Begin with providing a variety of materials for your child to explore (I have provided some examples throughout) and watch to see where their process of inquiry takes them.
Do you have a light box already? We would love for you to share your favorite activities with us in the comments, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter!