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What is STEM education and why is it important in Early Years?

Early Years Education Blog

STEM education stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Arguably the most important subjects in real life. The world depends on these areas of learning; the economy, our general well-being is all linked to developments in science, technology, engineering, and maths. These subjects are vital manufacturing, food production, health care, and so much more that frankly, we might take for granted, but can’t live without.

A 2016 report, entitled UK STEM education landscape conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering highlighted that the UK needs better coordinated STEM education from a young age in order to have a long-term impact.


Children need to develop natural curiosity and engagement with the world around them. They need sufficient space, time and choice with a range of activities and experiences to play with and explore, some of which have been planned and prepared by the practitioners like STEM activities on the basis of their observations of individual children’s current interests, talents, learning styles and stages of development. Science often sadly seems to be lacking in Early Years yet, this is an area that fascinates many children and will entice them to be curious enough to play and explore.

Purposeful learning

An integrated curriculum is so important, as many know who work in Early Years, however still many maths activities are stand alone.  When Maths is mixed with a little bit of science many children start to get a little bit excited about Maths and they don’t even realise they are ‘doing Maths’. When learning is purposeful, children are more receptive to the learning and have increased motivation to solve problems. Hands on, experiential learning and practical inquiry processes is one reason STEM education is so successful in early years education. STEM enables children to think critically and learn by their mistakes. Practitioners can facilitate this with modelling thinking and open-ended questioning.

Facilitating learning

In STEM activities adults need to be the facilitators, they need to tune in, giving eye contact and be genuinely interested so they are able to ask relevant open-ended questions to provoke deep critical thinking at the right time. The helps children to become immersed in scientific enquiry. It is the magic of Early Years and supports all of the Characteristics of Effective Learning. Children will experiment and master learning through trial and error, making mistakes and learning so much from them.


By planning for STEM children will develop a passion for these subjects and hopefully later in life be inspired to choose a job in that field. A great STEM activity is challenging and helps inspire children to seek new information, have a go and solve a problem, see our STEM planning here.

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