As part of our Design and Build (Engineering) week, we thought we’d offer a few tips for you parents and caregivers to keep in mind while engaging with your child. As you will see, these intentional acts are also very intuitive for both parent and child, and you are probably already using these with your little one!
So, what is engineering? Generally speaking, engineering is the scientific process that creates a solution to an existing problem. Want to find any easier way to get to an island? An engineer would build a bridge or a tunnel. Looking for a really strong sheet of glass for a building? An engineer can help with that, too! What does engineering play look like for a young child? Playing with blocks, rolling cars down a ramp, pushing a train on a track, flying a kite or a paper airplane. . . the list goes on and on!
We like to use the California Preschool Learning Foundations as a jumping off point when we approach early childhood learning. If you click the link above, you’ll see that the four pillars of this framework are mathematics, social-emotional development, language/literacy, and English language development. How can we apply each of these to engineering?
Social-emotional learning: Toddlers and preschoolers have a lot of FEELINGS! Use engineering play to work through self-regulation and recognizing emotions. “You worked really hard on your tower, I know it’s frustrating that it fell down. I’m sad too. Should we try again?” “I think your sister wants to share the Legos with you. Let’s think of something you can build together.”
Mathematics: Incorporate number sense. Beyond simply counting the number of blocks on the table, help your child make connections. “Let’s use one red block for every person in our family” or “Wow, I like how you stacked those from biggest to smallest!” Recognizing patterns is another way to learn about math through engineering and building.
Language/Literacy: We love creating a literacy connection by reading a story alongside a building activity. For toddlers, you can’t go wrong with classic stories like The Three Little Pigs or Billy Goats Gruff. For preschoolers and older children, we like “If I Built a House” and “Rosie Revere, Engineer.”
English language development: Engineering play is wonderful at building language skills. Model this yourself by talking through your actions. “I’m going to put two trains next to each other. Oh no, they won’t fit through the tunnel! I’m going to push them one at a time instead.” Use specific words like behind, across, next to, underneath, at an angle, etc to push those vocabulary skills even further.
We hope you find these tips useful and can approach engineering playtime with confidence! Remember that “Play is the work of childhood” and that there is nothing like the joy and closeness that develops when playing and working with your Little Engineer.