At home

Resources for home

Families play a vital role in influencing children’s perception and confidence around science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers. The language used in conversations, the books they read, the toys they play with and the technology they use all impact on choices that children make.

More than ever, families are busy supporting, guiding and engaging with their children’s education. We’ve shared some useful resources, events and videos to support families to engage children with STEM.

family bonding together

Introducing STEM skills at home

“Learning problem-solving skills through play is important, so children can learn how to resolve conflict to prepare them later in life. When kids hone this skill, it can lead to a healthy level of self-esteem and self-confidence.”

– Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith
Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador.

STEM concepts and skills encourage children to play, experiment, ask questions and learn about the world around them. Encouraging STEM at home allows children to develop skills and values including: problem solving, communication, designing, building and creativity.

STEM skills are the defining skills of today and the future. As workplaces change and grow and as the world at large is faced with new challenges, developing STEM skills has never been more important.

Encouraging the development of STEM skills through inclusive resources and collaborative activities gives children the opportunity to confidently pursue their interests in STEM. Learning STEM skills also helps children develop skills in problem solving, critical and creative thinking and collaboration. These life skills underpin new and exciting careers of the future. 

The wonderful thing about STEM is that STEM skills can be introduced and encouraged at home. Women in STEM Ambassador, Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith says, “Learning problem-solving skills through play is a very important thing, so children can learn how to resolve conflict to prepare them later in life. When kids hone this skill, it can lead to a healthy level of self-esteem and self-confidence.”

STEM concepts and skills encourage children to play, experiment, ask questions and learn about the world around them. Encouraging STEM at home allows children to develop skills and values including: problem solving, communication, designing, building and creativity.

From an early age, children are exposed to gender stereotypes and bias from family members and peers that impact confidence and interest in STEM subjects and skills.

By the age of 6, most children identify science as a profession for men. While children have become more likely to draw a woman when asked to draw a scientist, they still draw nearly twice as many men over women.

Gender stereotypes maintain and reinforce gender inequality across society. Gender stereotypes can significantly impact a child’s confidence and perceptions about what they can and cannot do. As children progress through school, higher education and the workplace, gender stereotypes become increasingly difficult to navigate and overcome.

Families have great power to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage the development of STEM skills and interests at home. When all children are encouraged to pursue their interests in STEM, we pave the way forward to achieving equality not only in STEM, but across all other facets of society. 

We’ve shared five strategies for building STEM skills at home.

1. Reduce bias and stereotypes in activities and play

Being aware of our language and actions when doing activities with children can help us avoid reinforcing stereotypes and reduce the effect of our biases. Role model behaviour and actions that challenge stereotypes, e.g; women exploring, building and fixing, and men helping, cooking and dancing.  

For more resources on STEM education and strategies to encourage girls in STEM, head to the Girls in STEM Toolkit.

2. Share inclusive STEM resources

TV shows and books often portray characters according to gender stereotypes. Think about how many TV shows you watch that have men characters problem solving, building or fixing things and women characters in caring roles, doing chores or artistic activities. Children are more likely to repeat the stereotypical examples they see, and this includes examples at home and at school, where stereotypes are often reinforced. Within this framework, other gender identities are often ignored.

3. Flip the gender stereotype

When students ask science questions, position women role models as the ‘experts’ answering kids’ questions or helping children find out the answer.  In children’s books and media, it is common to for characters who are brave, curious and risk-takers (e.g. explorer, scientist) to be men and characters who are caring or in submissive roles (e.g. doing domestic jobs or princesses needing to be rescued) are women. You can challenge or flip these gender stereotypes and try to find examples of characters who challenge the stereotype. Swap the characters or their actions in the story you’re reading.

4. Explore STEM at home with STEM activities for kids

Children can work together and explore their creativity as they build anything from rockets to bridges. There’s no denying that kids love technology. There are hundreds of engaging STEM activities for kids you can do at home. With the wonders of technology, children can now explore robotics and learn the foundations of coding with programs developed with little ones in mind. By including STEM activities for kids into daily play or weekend activities children are given the opportunity to develop foundational STEM skills.

5. Building confidence in STEM at home

Inclusive STEM activities for kids can be used to teach STEM skills in a fun way, which not only makes STEM more interesting for kids but also helps them retain STEM knowledge. 

Families can greatly contribute to creating a world and future where gender equality is realised. Encouraging the pursuit of STEM at home with inclusive strategies and a range of engaging STEM activities provides all children with the opportunity to confidently pursue their interests in STEM, now and in the future.

Our STEM education resources

Other resources

References

Gender differences in individual variation in academic grades fail to fit expected patterns for STEM.  R. E. O’Dea, M. Lagisz, M. D. Jennions & S. Nakagawa (2018). Nature communications. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-06292-0  

The Girls in STEM Toolkit. (2020). Classroom strategies for inclusive STEM learning environments. https://www.thegist.edu.au/media/1534/gist_classroom_strategies_booklet_web.pdf  

Women in STEM Decadal Plan | Australian Academy of Science. https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/women-in-stem-decadal-plan

Women in STEM Decadal Plan | Australian Academy of Science. https://www.science.org.au/support/analysis/decadal-plans-science/women-in-stem-decadal-plan