There’s overwhelming proof over many years that kids who excel in STEM studies tend to go on to bigger, better, more fulfilling and better paid careers. Leaving college with a STEM-based degree in any one of hundreds of fields means more, better prospects, and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon.

The interesting thing is that recent research has hinted that in the psychology of STEM, much of the early development happens before children even start their formal studies.

Earlier Challenges Better for Development

Psychologists studying STEM in young children have found that even before they leave preschool, most children already have a surprisingly large body of informal knowledge related to math. This early accumulation of math ability and understanding has a long term impact on children’s numeracy and literacy development, but it’s not the ultimate deciding factor in whether they will be fans of STEM studies, or disengage early on.

That responsibility often lies with early childhood educators, and more specifically, in teachers challenging and pushing children early on.

In fact, research shows that when children are challenged more at a younger age, they’re more likely to embrace STEM studies, and excel later on.

Start Sooner Than You Think You Need To

All of the research into STEM is indicating that the sooner children start to grasp the basics of STEM, and the earlier they gain confidence, the better their long term prospects in these fields of study will be. As parents and educators, there are several things we can do to get kids started on the right track:

  • Encourage early exploration of STEM concepts, using age appropriate teaching methods.
  • Introduce kids to math and science early on, in an informal setting. Science museums, STEM camps and other fun settings are all great places to start young children on the path to STEM success.
  • Add an element of fun to STEM learning. We want kids to be excited and engaged, not intimidated and bored!
  • Challenge children early on. There’s nothing that offers greater validation (and creates lifelong fans of STEM studies) than taking on tough, challenging tasks and mastering them!
  • Remind kids that in challenging studies like STEM, there’s always an answer. All they need to do is keep trying long enough to find it.
  • Don’t rely only on your children’s teachers. Many public schools lack the resources and funding to offer individual help to every child, and when kids fall behind, they often stay behind.
  • Investigate and invest in out-of-school STEM programs, which can help to equip your children with the skills and attitude they will need to be one of the STEM success stories.

Early STEM success, and indeed long term commitment by kids, starts by taking the fear out of learning new and complex ideas in math and science, and in teaching kids that they can do it.

Children who are armed with these tools will go on to enjoy and excel, and have the option to enter countless exciting, in demand and well-paying fields. Which is really what we all want for our children.