As a parent, you want to support your child's education in and out of school. Educational toys that teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills are a fun and engaging way to do that. Products like littleBits, LEGO Mindstorms, and WhalesBot provide robotics kits tailored for different age groups, making them a perfect STEM learning solution for children.
Choose a kit that matches your child's age and skills.
Look for robotics kits for ages 3 and up, with increasing complexity. For younger kids, start with simpler kits that teach basic skills, then progress to more advanced kits as they get older. Work through the activities together, asking questions to make sure they understand concepts like robot design, coding, and engineering. Guide them without taking over, challenging them to figure some things out on their own. This approach is supported by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, who study the cognitive development benefits of guided play.
Expand beyond the instructions.
Once they've mastered the basics, encourage your child to get creative by modifying or designing their own robots and inventions. This helps build valuable problem-solving skills, which the World Economic Forum ranks among the top skills for the future workforce. Discuss how these technologies apply in the real world and potential career opportunities in STEM fields.
Make learning fun by cracking jokes, setting time limits and coming up with scenarios to act out.
Studies show that engagement and enjoyment increase motivation and learning. Set time limits to prevent excessive screen time while programming and doing online kit tutorials. Balance robotics time with unplugged play, outdoor activities and exercise which are also important for child development according to the research from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Find the right level of difficulty - challenging but not frustrating, as supported by Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development.
Provide assistance when they struggle. Look into other useful tools and resources to support your child's interests and emerging skills over time. With your guidance, each creation they build will boost their confidence in evolving abilities.
Do research on local STEM events and competitions you might get involved in as a family.
But keep things voluntary and fun - participation should be encouraged but not required. Focus on sparking interest and passion, not compelling competition. This approach is adapted from research on inspiration and intrinsic motivation from Stanford and MIT.
Be patient, offer praise and help build your child's confidence over time.
Help them see that these skills are useful and within their ability. With your support and guidance, your child can learn through play. Nurture their natural curiosity about how things work in a low-pressure environment. This guidance helps address fixed mindset concerns and encourages a growth mindset, according to Stanford's Dr. Dweck.
Robotics kits provide an exciting opportunity for your child to acquire critical thinking and problem solving abilities that will benefit them for years to come. At the same time, you'll cultivate their curiosity about robotics, programming and technical fields - opening their mind to a world of possibilities. Help them build skills and confidence through engaging experiments you work on as a team. The future is brighter when children discover their passion for learning at a young age. Guide them toward pursuing their interests, and a lifelong journey of imagination and creation will follow.