Help kids pick up summertime STEAM and catch the creativity bug

Picasso said, “Every child is an artist,” and Albert Einstein is credited as saying, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” With more relaxed schedules and the simmering, shimmering anticipation of summer, it’s an excellent season for making masterpieces—or simply playing around with ideas and materials in new ways, from new angles.

Creativity, of course, extends well beyond “art” or “the arts.” It’s also a way of seeing and thinking. A post titled “The Importance of Creativity and How to Foster It”on Love Play Learn, a blog devoted to “kids’ activities and positive parenting,” suggests that creativity is really important. The blog notes that “Creativity helps teach cognitive skills such as mathematics and scientific thinking. Creative thinking involves imagination, basic use of the scientific method, communication, physical dexterity and exertion, problem posing, problem solving, making interpretations, and using symbols which help [sic] with future literacy skills.”

This interconnectedness of skills is why a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) focus is increasingly giving way to a STEAM focus, with the A standing for art. While that makes another easy-to-recall acronym, it doesn’t fully do justice to the broader concept of creativity and how to build it.

For example, Kids Discover offers up “3 Creative Summer Activities for Kids” by Heather Woodie. One of her ideas is a summer book club. She says, “Engage your kids by hosting a book club for neighbors and friends. Book clubs are an effective motivator for kids who don’t enjoy reading independently,” adding that “Book club books help kids tackle books they might not read otherwise” and sometimes “spark an interest in more books from the same author or books that are similar in genre or subject matter.” (This can even work for new readers, especially with a package such as the Start to Read! Complete Early Reading Program 18-Book Set.)

The second great summertime suggestion from Woodie is the idea of Adventure Boxes. You or your child pick a subject of interest—bugs, flowers, boats, you name it—then “Once you select a subject, gather up activities and experiences that relate to the theme that your kids will love. Try fiction and nonfiction books, blank journals, stickers, art supplies, relevant tools and gadgets like binoculars, magnifying glasses, field guides, etc.” The site urges keeping all your supplies “in an accessible basket, file box, tray, or crate.” An Adventure box lets kids explore a subject independently but also gives parents the chance to check on progress or ask where kids are with it at different points during summer.

Third, Woodie proposes holding a Writer’s Workshop for kids that might include word puzzles, storytelling games, long or short writing challenges, and the captioning of images, among other activities.

Want to help kids blow off some “steam” while also building it? Get them busy blowing bubbles! Last year Kids Discover also posted “7 Ways to Use Bubbles for STEAM Lessons,” in which Education Consultant Kristine Scharaldi shared “ some tried-and-true methods of teaching STEAM lessons while playing with bubbles.” Few things (other than maybe flip-flops and sandcastles) suggest the magic and wonder of summer than blowing bubbles outside. Scharaldi’s post, though, emphasizes that “Not only is it fun to do, but there are lots of ways that exploring bubbles can engage kids in concepts related to math, science, and engineering.”

Another wonderful tool for helping kids catch the creativity and exploration bug is the Giant Science Workbook (ages 7 to 9). Packed with fun-filled activities and simple directions, it can help both STEM and STEAM as kids are transported out of their everyday way of thinking and seeing. They can travel a maze to the eye of a hurricane. Study bugs up close or look inside a seed. Label the parts of a plant or identify mammals by their tracks. Simple experiments such as Condensation on a Can or Fantastic Cloud Maker teach the joy of hands-on discovery.

An Exquisite Minds article titled “Why Nurturing Creativity in Kids Is so Important,” credited to both Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., and Stacie Garland, summarizes uniqueness and innovation beautifully: “As parents, educators, and leaders of the next generation, it is important to emphasize the joy of creativity and instill in our children the sense that there is something important they can personally share with the world.”