STEAM Lab Jr

Lupuca on Flickr

Practical resources and tips to get kids engaged in STEAM from an early age.

A typical preschooler’s schedule is packed with a variety of activities. Think you can’t squeeze in coding and circuits between preschool and play dates? Think again! In response to the push for STEAM starting even before elementary school, our library now offers pre-coding programs for preschoolers! Our STEAM Lab Jr. programs allow children ages 3-6 the chance to work with popular STEAM learning toys including Code-a-Pillar, Code & Go Robot Mouse, Scratch Jr., Start-Up Circuits, Snap Circuits Jr. and Gears! Gears! Gears!

Children learn best by experimenting through play and STEAM learning toys are a natural choice for teaching computational thinking. Read on for tips on how to manage your own program.

There are several things to consider when planning technology events for younger kids.

Cost

All of the following recommended STEAM learning toys can be bought online at reasonable costs. Our initial startup cost (not including the iPads for Scratch Jr.) was approximately $250. Over time, we decided the following was the appropriate amount of equipment for a group of up to 12 children.

  • Code-a-Pillar – $30 each (we bought 5 for a total of $150)
  • Code & Go Robot Mouse – $40
  • Start-Up Circuits – $20
  • Snap Circuits Jr. – $20
  • Gears! Gears! Gears! – $20
  • Scratch Jr. – free but you will need tablets (Scratch Jr. is not available for PCs)

Location, Staffing, Time of Day

Our STEAM Lab Jr. programs take place in an enclosed room at the Library. The room is tiled (a must as the Code-a-Pillars should not be used on carpet). We set up 4 small tables and several chairs for the table top activities. The Code-a-Pillars are left on the floor. A library staff member sits at each station to manage the activity. We encourage parents to engage with their children and help them through the activities.

We found we had to offer the programs two times a day (one AM, one PM) to accommodate children that are in preschool or cannot attend the morning program due to naptime and lunchtime.

Attention Span

Attention span is an issue with this age group. Children at this age have the most difficulty with tasks that involve sitting, listening and learning in group settings – all factors that are important when teaching pre-coding skills.

Educators recommend some strategies to overcome these issues. Instructions should be broken into small, incremental steps and demoed before the children try. Activities should be short – no more than 8-10 minutes per activity. Children should be given a choice of which activities they can do.

Overall, I have had nothing but positive feedback and have been asked if this was going to become a regular offering. I’m thrilled to see there’s an interest in preschool STEAM and cannot wait to see what new STEAM learning toys become available in the future.

Preschoolers creating with Scratch Jr., mirroring their program on the Smart Board. (Bianca Rivera, 2019)
Children and a Librarian look on while preschooler works with Start-Up Circuits. (Bianca Rivera, 2019)
A preschooler programs a Code-a-Pillar and shows off his work. (Bianca Rivera, 2019)

Learn More

My Steam Labs

http://www.mysteamlabs.org/http://www.mysteamlabs.org/http://www.mysteamlabs.org/

Stem Jr. Little Tykes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RjNYmhuOFk

Steam education games

https://www.steamcraftedu.com/steam-education-games-kids-should-play/

Kindergarten Stem Activities

https://thestemlaboratory.com/kindergarten-stem-activities/

25 steam projects

https://babbledabbledo.com/25-steam-projects-for-kids/

Science experiments and activities

https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/science-experiments-and-activities/

Stem activities for kids

https://thestemlaboratory.com/stem-activities-for-kids/

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