There’s no one way to teach young kids to think like engineers because it comes naturally. Toddlers and preschoolers are fascinated with building things and taking things apart. Elementary ages use learning to build more complex things using different materials and methods. Fostering curiosity and natural problem-solving skills among the youngest ages helps to build a new generation of critical thinkers whose skills are important to many fields.
According to the Museum of Science, Boston’s EiE, “Engineering calls for children to apply what they know about science and math—and their learning is enhanced as a result.”
If you’re worried that your anti-Tiger Parent tendencies don’t want you to push math and science on your toddler or preschooler, you’ll be relieved that you don’t have to! If your young child is showing an interest in building, capitalize on it!
3 Resources That Teach Young Kids to Think Like Engineers
Fun and engaging age appropriate activities can foster interests in a gentle way while teaching them skills that can be useful in all aspects of life. Here are 3 great resources you can use to inspire your young kids to think like engineers.
Play & Learn Engineering App from PBS KIDS
Play & Learn Engineering is a free educational app is designed for parents to teach young kids to think like engineers. Using the app, parents help 3 to 4-year-old children explore engineering concepts through play, both on and off screen.
Developed in collaboration with early childhood experts, this app allows young users to design and test roller coasters and use simple tools to problem solve their way through an obstacle course. Work with your child to build clever contraptions to deliver food to hungry animals and construct boxy towers to rescue a kitten from a tree.
Here’s a look at the 8 games that teach young kids to think like engineers through play.
Boxy Towers Section
- Game 1: Robo Builder— A robot helps you stack boxes and other objects to build a tower. The challenge is to see how high you can make it before it topples. In the process you discover which objects are best for building a stable tower.
- Game 2: Kitty Rescue— Use your tower-building skills to construct a tower high enough to help a kitty climb down from the tree. With each level of the game the kitty is stuck higher and higher in the tree, requiring taller towers to get it down.
Obstacle Course Section
- Game 3: Cavern Crawler— Problem solve using simple engineering tools such as pulleys and levers to go around or remove obstacles and help Dee get through the cavern.
- Game 4: Lava Leaper— Don’t let Del fall into the hot lava; use your engineering smarts to help him avoid obstacles and safely reach the exit of the lava cave.
Roller Coaster Section
- Game 5: Track Tracer— Use your finger to draw a roller coaster track that takes your friends on a wild ride with lots of hills and loops.
- Game 6: Roller Adventure— Design a roller coaster that goes up, down, and around obstacles on land, underwater, and in space.
Snack Time Section
- Game 7: Sandwich Machine— Design and build a whimsical machine to move a sandwich from one place to another.
- Game 8: Animal Feeder— Build a sandwich machine to feed hungry animals, including monkeys, tigers, and kangaroos.
In addition to these 8 great games, the app includes tips for parents to engage young players in conversation and extend in-app learnings to the real world.
The app also includes:
- Eight engaging games that encourage kids to design and test solutions to solve problems while exploring STEM concepts
- Parent section with English and Spanish localization helps to guide children’s learning both while in and outside of the app
- Within the parent section are tips for how parents can engage with kids are they are playing the games in order to enhance learning
This summer Camp YouTube is a free digital learning experience that helps parents recreate the fun of summer camp at home from YouTube Learning. CampYouTube offers STEM, arts, sports, and adventure themed camps to learn new skills, stay active, and explore the world together.
There are over 1,200+ videos across the four camp themes. Content will refresh daily through Friday, July 3 ensuring that there’s something for everyone!
Camp YouTube’s offerings for little ones give them the chance to get their feet wet with STEM themed learning on YouTube Kids. They can learn to code with Goldieblox or engage in science activities from PBS Kids.
Teen siblings will also appreciate that YouTube’s STEM camp features science, space, coding and more that is appropriate for older ages. Teens can learn science facts, get inspired to do experiments at home, and learn more about everything from coding to chemistry. Cool partnerships bring space exploration from National Geographic, earth science from AsapSCIENCE, and computer programming from Jabrils to this favorite video platform.
To watch, check out our Camp YouTube page for resources and a roundup of camp content for kids of all ages. Little ones can also explore videos just for them on YouTube Kids.
As a bonus, check out the Camp YouTube bingo cards that are perfect for inspiring new ideas or helping your family cross off bucket list activities!
Little Passports Camp in a Box: Science Junior
If you’re looking for a hands-on way to inspire your young kids to think like engineers, Little Passports Camp in a Box makes it easy! The Science Junior STEM kit includes everything you need to host a science Summer Camp right from your kitchen table for 6 days for 3-4 hours a day.
With Summer Camp in a Box: Science Junior, budding scientists can explore the world with STEAM-based activities. While visiting six unique locations around the world, campers build projects like a Weddell seal walker, an erupting volcano, a stringed instrument, a swinging chimpanzee, a sinking submarine, and a balloon-powered air boat.
Campers will also read full-color comic books, complete pen-to-paper activities, collect trading cards, and place badges on their very own camp backpack. An easy-to-follow, flexible camp schedule allows campers to participate in camp over a one-week period or spread camp out all summer long.
Summer Camp in a Box: Science Jr. includes:
- The first six packages of the Science Junior product: Weddell Seals, Volcanoes, Sound & Music, Chimpanzees, Deep Sea Exploration, and Wetlands
- Our signature green backpack
- Materials for hands-on projects and DIY experiments
- Full-color magazine with comic, instructions, and pen-to-paper activities
- Stickers, trading cards, and badges
- Plus access to online videos, DIY crafts, printables, camp schedule, and a camp completion certificate
I love that Little Passports provides everything you need to keep your camper engaged for six days, 3-4 hours a day. The Little Passports Summer Camp website provides digital content to extend the camp experience. You and your kids will love watching building project videos, following step-by-step drawing instructions to exercise their creative muscle, and the ability print outdoor activities, jokes, and riddles for added summer fun!
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