With all the attention that neuroscientists and Silicon Valley engineers are receiving these days, it’s tempting to believe that your child has to be a great athlete or a budding biologist to succeed in the job market of the future. Yes, all students, in addition to reading and writing, need a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). After all, the bulk of employment opportunities in 20 years will most likely be in STEM areas. Teachers, salesmen, and product designers will all need to be STEM-savvy to utilize the more complex tools of their trades, according to David Geary, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri.
Experts believe that no matter what profession a child pursues, they will need a different set of abilities. According to Steven Paine, Ed.D., president of the educational advocacy organization Partnership for 21st Century Skills, “nearly every company, in almost every profession, wants employees who know how to problem-solve, be creative, work collaboratively, and communicate well.”
These six abilities may easily be incorporated into other courses — both in and out of school — without taking time away from your child’s existing curriculum. “It’s about how we educate, not what we teach,” says the author. “Kids need to acquire deeper concepts via project-based work so that they don’t forget the information after the test,” Paine says.
Fortunately, you can develop those necessary skills via fun activities and games that can pass the time on long car rides and rainy days. Read on for creative ways to combat the “I’m bored” blues while also enhancing the abilities that all 21st-century youngsters require:
To succeed in today’s competitive world, your kid will need to be able to think critically, which means being able to observe, evaluate, and come up with creative answers to difficult problems. It’s the kind of thing youngsters need to create a compelling marketing campaign or fill out a fresh prescription for a senior who takes a lot of pills.
“It means addressing higher-level questions that demand thinking and exploration,” says Jeff Charbonneau, a 2013 Teacher of the Year from Zillah, Washington. To get there, your kid will need to learn to ask questions like “why?” and “what if?” as well as consider all sides of a situation. Here are two things you can do to help him:
Transform your questions into initiatives. If your kid asks, “Why do I have so many freckles?” turn the question back on him: “Why do you believe you have so many freckles?” (“Kids learn more through self-discovery than from having you explain things,” adds Charbonneau.) Have your kid come up with a few ideas, then monitor him or her while he or she does some internet research. “Finally, to help him digest what he’s learned, ask him to describe what he’s found in his own words,” Charbonneau advises.
Create a superhero character. Point your kid to the rubbish cabinet if he complains about being bored. Suggest that he make his superhero out of whatever he finds, assembling it using modeling clay or glue. To increase his problem-solving abilities, tell him you need to be able to recognize his hero’s unique abilities just looking at him: Elastic Man, for example, could wear a rubber-band sash. That additional step will offer your child experience weighing alternatives and deciding on a course of action.
2: Playing Well With Others
The most successful businesses understand how to recruit the finest employees and motivate them to work together toward a shared objective. One of the reasons instructors like classroom projects is because they teach students the importance of working together. Kids learn self-control (how not to lose it when peers choose a different route), diplomacy (how to encourage a slacker without yelling), empathy (how to consider a teammate’s emotions), and time management as they work together (how to finish in the time frame). All of those teachings come into play 20 years later, when your kid is working with colleagues to create the first hack-proof credit card. Meanwhile, your family may do the following to raise a kid that works well with others:
Organize a bake-in. Cooking with siblings or playdate friends improves cooperation as well as arithmetic and reading abilities. Taking turns with the mixer (and sharing the beaters) is, after all, the first step in learning to work together. Cookies are usually a success, but older kids may be more creative with their ingredients and try making a whole dinner. If they have to throw their culinary masterpiece in the garbage later, so be it – Charbonneau believes that teaching children to cope with failure is equally essential, and this is a low-stakes method to accomplish it.
Make a movie. Making a movie allows children to use their imaginations to create something enjoyable while also allowing them to negotiate who will do what. They may write the story and screenplay themselves, act out the scenes (or set them up with dolls or action figures), and outsource the smartphone photography to someone else. Then you can assist kids in creating amazing time-lapse movies from the pictures using the iMotion HD app (iTunes, free) or Lego Movie Maker (iTunes, free).
3. Smart Tech Reliance
Sure, you ask your child for assistance when setting up a new smartphone, but knowing how to use a device isn’t the same as knowing how to use it properly. Digital natives must learn to assess the reliability of information sources and navigate social media.
According to Michael Levine, Ph.D., of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a charity that works with instructional media for children, it’s helpful to think of digital media as food. Empty calories (think Candy Crush) should be reserved for special occasions, while healthy sites should be allowed to flourish. (Code.org is a good one to try together since it teaches youngsters how to write computer code that builds websites and applications.) Other options for bringing kids up to speed on all things media include:
Make a team of co-bloggers. Create a family blog with your kid (for free at a site like Blogger.com) where you can share photos, news, and her newest artwork. Work with your child to trim things down so that relatives aren’t inundated with information – a good lesson for when she’s preparing PowerPoint reports later. Blogging also improves your writing skills.
Laugh at e-mistakes. Instill in your child a healthy amount of skepticism when it comes to the internet. Show her your iPhone’s most ridiculous autocorrect blunders and explain that computers may make similar errors when she relies on them for assistance with things like spelling or interpreting. Take a current incident that is suitable for your age group and observe how the same narrative is told differently based on the site.
4: Thinking in three dimensions
Experts refer to spatial awareness as the capacity to perceive things and how they fit into a place. We utilize the skill daily, for example, while merging our vehicles into motorways or navigating a new shop.
According to Vanderbilt University psychology professor David Lubinski, Ph.D., spatial awareness is second only to fundamental arithmetic as a building block for STEM learning because it teaches children how to manipulate shapes in their heads. Architects, doctors, and fashion designers are among the professions that benefit from increasing it. Whether it’s a new heart, a home, or a couture garment, everyone has to envision the final result while they work.
Cultivating the skill is particularly beneficial for females since the toys that guys get from their parents — train sets, Lego kits — offer them an advantage in terms of thinking about how things go together. Despite this, Lubinski claims that neither gender receives much instruction in school. Thankfully, there are methods to include it into your daily routine at home:
Encourage people to play video games. Video games have a terrible reputation, but those that encourage youngsters to construct cities out of virtual bricks, such as Minecraft, are excellent for developing spatial abilities. Levine explains, “It’s a mix of entertainment, engineering, creativity, and social media abilities.” “It’s also enjoyable for older and younger siblings to interact.”
Let the building begin. When your child constructs bridges or parking garages, having them determine whether a Lego piece or an ice-pop stick should go under or over another piece, or next or perpendicular to it is an excellent approach to teach 3-D object relationships. Charbonneau has his 7-year-old construct two buildings and then connect them with a zip line made of thread for an action figure to ride. “Building a building that can bear a big weight is difficult,” he says. Take a picture of your child’s completed structure to encourage him to construct more complex structures in the future.
Turn off the GPS
Keep an old-school map in the vehicle for when your child asks, “Are we there yet?” Help him figure out where you’re going and ask him to keep track of your progress along the way, letting everyone know when you’re halfway, three-quarters of the way, and about to arrive.
When your kid explains concepts in class or argues with you for additional privileges, he must express exactly what he means – simply and politely. And, when more high-tech methods of communicating emerge, your grown-up child will be forced to use this skill regularly. After all, he’ll be communicating in real-time with colleagues and customers all over the globe, and he can’t afford to have anybody second-guess his motives. What you can do to help:
Follow the lead of the leader. Any activity that requires your kid to listen to or give instructions — even pretending — may help him develop his communication skills. Try this to give your talents a good workout: Put on a blindfold and walk around the room to pick up an item, following your child’s instructions. Then swap so that your kid may learn listening as well as explaining the difficulties in the room.
Inform the spellbinders. Story chains are a fun way to pass the time in the vehicle or keep the conversation flowing between meals. Create a hero and a location to begin the tale. The person sitting next to you continues the story, and so on. Encourage everyone to give 15 to 30 seconds of their time. With practice, your children will be able to hear the initial stories, layer their additions on top of them, and set up the next person with creative cliffhangers.
6: Out-of-the-Box Concepting
Whether your adult child is teaching a class full of fidgety second-graders or identifying the genes that cause sadness, creativity is the act of envisioning what might be. According to Charbonneau, parents may promote creative thinking by having their children go through the same procedure that engineers go through: They start by identifying an issue or topic, then brainstorming ideas, and then devising and implementing a strategy. These activities are ideal for accomplishing your goal:
Channel Rube Goldberg is the inventor of the Rube Goldberg machine. Give your grade-schooler a ball of thread and some tape, and have her come up with a method to switch on her bedroom light from down the hall using her materials. “It’s difficult for a kid to figure out how to raise the wall switch from outside the room,” Charbonneau explains. Hint: You might try tying the rope to an unused picture nail, bunk-bed post, or door. But don’t reveal anything! The goal is for your kid to come up with a strategy on his or her own.
Make rainbows all over the place. Amaze your kid with the rainbow you can create by pouring water through a strainer while doing the dishes — or draining pasta — near a sunny window. Encourage her to experiment with different methods of light refraction, such as outdoors with a garden hose or indoors with a spray bottle and a flashlight. She may also search for prisms in everyday items (jewelry, a crystal vase).