Four fun ways to teach your child about engineering

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This is the third in a five-part series about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

A combination of science, maths and technology, engineering is a broad subject that includes sub-disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and chemical engineering, just to name a few.

At its core, however, it revolves around designing and constructing structures, devices and processes. For preschoolers and adolescents, the simplest way to impart a foundational knowledge of this complex subject is through play. You can join in too, even if you don’t know much about this field. Here are four ways to introduce engineering concepts to your child.

1. Taking things apart
Most inquisitive tots are already predisposed to this sort of behaviour, but instead of viewing it as a destructive habit, turn it into an opportunity for learning. What’s more, you’ll be able to monitor your little tinkerers and keep them away from any hazardous objects.

Known as reverse engineering, this process is every kid’s favourite pastime. Take them through it with simple toys to figure out how they work. To keep these explorations safe and manageable, make sure that these objects are affordable, don’t contain too many small pieces, and are made of kid-friendly materials such as plastic and wood. Brownie points if you’re able to piece them back together.

2. Playing with Lego
The opposite of taking things apart, playing with Lego bricks is a great way to teach your kids how to build objects and structures. They may need some help at the start though. Not every kid knows what those plastic blocks are for, and end up going nowhere and getting bored of stacking them without any direction or goal.

This is where you come in. To start off, challenge them to construct simple objects like a wall or a table. Once they get the hang of it, get them to build bridges, buildings and vehicles. You can find examples online and use them as pictorial guides for your kids to recreate. This is what productive playing looks like.

3. Folding origami
The art of origami is another way to build objects, but instead of putting multiple pieces together, you’re dealing (most of the time) with just a single piece of paper. This limitation encourages your young ‘uns to view things from a different perspective and solve problems in a more creative way.

You can create paper baskets, paper boats and paper airplanes, experimenting with various types of designs that produce different effects. How you fold them influences how they behave in the air – how far they fly, which direction they fly, and how long they stay in the air. This helps them understand aerospace engineering, aerodynamics and weight distribution.

4. Playdough building challenges
Much like Lego bricks, playdough offers a more flexible material with which to build things. Its soft malleable texture allows for endless possibilities. It can be shaped into an entire object, or used as part of a larger construction. For instance, when rolled into tiny balls, playdough pieces can serve to connect toothpicks to build a tower or a skeleton of it.

Turn these building challenges into a game by timing each task. You can join in the fun too, and compete with your kid. Better yet, if you’ve got more than one child, you can bring them together, and be the judge as they compete to create the best design.


Learn more about STEAM and how to integrate it in your child’s life! Join us at Happy Sparks on 23 and 24 June from 10am to 8pm at Our Tampines Hub. Click here for the programme lineup.

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