10 STEAM Activities To Do With Your Pre-schooler This Fall

It’s fall and we’re going full STEAM ahead!

STEAM is an educational discipline that aims to ignite an early interest and love of math, art, and sciences in children. Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math are similar fields of study in that they all involve creative processes and none uses just one method for inquiry and investigation. 

Not only do these activities support the development of math and science skills but also provide opportunities to strengthen language skills. A study by researchers at the University of California Irvine even found that early math skills were the most consistently predictive measure of future academic success among kindergarten to fifth-grade students.

This month, as we continue our partnership with DreamWorks Animation and Netflix for Gabby’s Dollhouse, we’re focused on highlighting the STEAM activities that are in the show. Some of our locations are hosting STEAM Parties to explore Bubble Science, but just in case you can’t make it, or don’t have an event near you, we pulled 10 STEAM-themed experiments you can do at home with your pre-schooler.

1. Ice Cream in a Bag

Looking for a simple treat that’s fun to make? Try this easy recipe for making ice cream in a bag. Little ones will get to expend some energy as they shake, shake, shake to churn the ice cream. This activity is best for preschool-age children (~22 months and older).

2. Black Pepper Soap Science Experiment

Teach little ones in an abstract way why it is important to wash your hands to keep yourself and others healthy. This activity is best for Explorers and preschool-age children (~2 years and older).

3. Soap Playdough

Use this playdough recipe for a fun STEM-building challenge that your kids will love! You can use simple materials to challenge children to build, create and problem solve with this recipe.

4. Magnetic Fishing Game

Practice your hand-eye coordination with this easily-assembled fishing game. You can even talk to your little ones about how magnets work! This activity is best for Explorers and preschool-age children (~20 months and older).

5. Sensory Bin Coffee Grounds

Don’t throw out those coffee grounds just yet! Learn 3 ways to use coffee grounds for a super sensory bin! From a Spring garden to a construction site, what else can you think of to do with your coffee grounds? This activity is best for Explorers and preschool-age children (~20 months and older).

6. Toy Car Painting

Bored of your paintbrush? Try painting with a toy car instead! Afterward, you can bring out a tub of water and have a car wash. This activity is best for Runners, Explorers, and Preschool-age children (~20 months and older).

7. Slime

This slime recipe is super! Mix together water, borax, wet glue, and a bit of food coloring or paint. This activity is best for preschool-age children (~2.5 years and older). Be sure to supervise your little ones while they play with their slime!

8. Color Explosion Science

Chemistry doesn’t have to be boring—especially when you can get a cool art project out of it! This science experiment demonstrates chemical reactions. Not only is it fun to watch, but even more exciting to do.

 

9. Five Green Speckled Frogs

Enjoy this fun stop-motion version of a classic finger-play song! This activity is perfect for children of all ages!

10. Threading Practice

Let your little one practice some threading using simple supplies. Great for developing fine motor skills and preparing for tasks like lacing up shoes or stringing beads. This activity is best for Walkers, Runners, Explorers, and preschool-age children (~14 months and older). Make sure younger children are no longer mouthing and be sure to supervise them during this activity.

How to Inspire a Growth Mindset In Your Child


Whether we consciously know it or not, we all have certain beliefs about our abilities and our future potential. These beliefs form the foundation of our mindset early in life, ultimately fueling our behavior, and shaping our everyday lives.

This month we’re discussing the idea of the growth mindset, and why it can support the future success of your child. We took a deep dive into the research of Dr. Carol Dweck, which was featured in her 2014 TED talk

In her research at Stanford University, Dr. Carol Dweck identified two different types of mindsets. Read more below. 

What are the mindsets? And why do they matter?

According to Dweck, the beliefs children have about intelligence, effort, and struggle impact the choices they make about learning. Based on her research, people tend to hold one of two different beliefs about intelligence:

    • Children with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed. These students see school as a place to develop their abilities and think of challenges as opportunities to grow.
    • Children with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed at birth and doesn’t change or changes very little with practice. These students see school as a place where their abilities are evaluated, they focus on looking smart over learning, and they interpret mistakes are a sign that they lack talent.

Developing the right mindset early on is crucial for a successful, happy life. When kids learn putting forth effort and using the right strategies can help them get better at things, they feel empowered, and try harder. When they know their brains are capable of growing, they are more confident, resilient, and are not afraid to fail! 

So how do we instill this simple and incredible concept to children? To start, it’s important to understand the basics.

Step 1: Build the Foundation 

Take time to talk to your child about the following questions:

  1. What does it mean to GROW? What sorts of things grow? Answers will vary. Growth means to develop, change, mature, evolve. Living things grow – plants, animals, and people. Even our brains can grow!

  2. When you think of the brain or minds, what do you think MINDSET means? Mindset is the way our brain perceives ourselves and the world. Our mindset helps us look at problems and mistakes in a positive way!

  3. Let’s put those words together: growth and mindset. When we combine them, it means something really important. What could growth mindset mean? A growth mindset is believing in the power of yourself and your brain! We know our intellect and abilities develop when we try difficult things, use the right strategies, and don’t give up. So a growth mindset is when we know, with practice, we will get better at something.

  4. If fixed is the opposite of growth, what does it mean to have a FIXED mindset? A fixed mindset means you think you can’t get better at things, even if you practice. Wanting to quit, give up, or deciding we’re just not good at something are all clues we have a fixed mindset.

Step 2: Share Examples from Your Life

Share a personal story about when you were stuck and used hard work and/or help from others to overcome a challenge. 

Ask your child to share similar examples from their lives. You can encourage other caretakers like grandparents, babysitters or siblings to do this with your child as well. 

Step 3: Practice Switching from a Fixed to Growth Mindset

Ask your child/class to think of some FIXED mindset phrases commonly used at home or anywhere else (“I am not good at this”, “I can’t do anything right”), and write them down.

Next, create a list of alternate phrases that reflect a growth mindset (“I’m not good at this yet”). Above the fixed mindset column, write “Instead of” and on the Growth mindset column, “I Can Say…”

Ask your children how they can change each statement from negative to empowering. For example, you could ask, “What is a better way of looking at a situation?”

Step 4: Use the Power of Yet

With one simple word, any fixed mindset phrase can be transformed into a statement of hope. “I can’t do this…yet.” It’s all about the FUTURE, and not giving up until we get there.

Make a “YET” bulletin board or designate a wall at home for all the things you can’t do…yet!

Step 5: Encourage Productive Struggle & Reframe Mistakes

In the safe environment of your home or class, give children time to think through their challenges, brainstorm solutions, and seek help if needed. Grappling with a problem builds resilience, so give kids time for reflection before jumping in to help or “save” them.

Get excited when opportunities for growth occur! In a challenging moment, say things like, “This seems like an opportunity to grow our brains!” Create  
an environment where setbacks are expected and even celebrated

Content appearing from this blog was originally published on TED, and Big Life Journal

 

Special Episode with Jennifer Twomey & Traci Paige, Executive Producers of Gabby’s Dollhouse.

Episode Information

In this episode of the Parent Pod, we spoke to Jennifer Twomey and Traci Paige Johnson the Emmy-nominated executive producers and showrunners of the preschool Netflix original series, Gabby’s Dollhouse. We talk about everything from the season 2 premiere of the show on August 10th, to the concept of Growth Mindset and the TED talk by Carol Dweck.

You can find the Big Life Journal resources that were mentioned in the episode here.

Jennifer Twomey is the Emmy-nominated executive producer and showrunner of the highly-anticipated  preschool Netflix original series, Gabby’s Dollhouse from DreamWorks Animation.  

Previously Twomey has been a leader in preschool television for over 25 years serving as creator,  showrunner, writer and development executive on numerous top rated series, including Nickelodeon’s breakthrough series, Blue’s Clues, Team Umizoomi, the Emmy Award-winning series, The Upside Down  Show, Super Why, and Amazon’s preschool show, Creative Galaxy. Twomey also worked as a Senior  Production and Development Executive for Nickelodeon Preschool Television, overseeing current series  and developing new content. While there, she launched Jack’s Big Music Show and created over fifty live  action music videos helping to establish Nickelodeon’s preschool music brand.  

She is a Peabody Award winner, a multiple Emmy Award nominee, and a recipient of the Gold and Silver  Parents Choice Awards. Gabby’s Dollhouse is the result of her inspiration from her childhood love of  dollhouses as well as the grit and determination of her real-life daughter Gabby and a dream project for  Twomey. 

Traci Paige Johnson is the Emmy-nominated executive producer and showrunner of the highly- anticipated  preschool Netflix original series, Gabby’s Dollhouse from DreamWorks Animation. 

Paige Johnson has been a leader in children’s television for over 25 years previously serving as Co-Creator  and Director on Nickelodeon’s breakthrough Emmy-nominated series, Blue’s Clues in which she also  voiced the show’s star, Blue. She continues in these roles on the Nick Jr. reboots of Blue’s Clues & You! 

She served as co-creator and creative director on PBS’s hit show Super Why! And Amazon’s Creative  Galaxy, where she invented all the original crafts that were showcased. Paige Johnson also currently acts  as Creative Director for PBS’ Emmy-winning series, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. A multiple Emmy Award nominee and Parents Choice Award winner, Paige Johnson is now thrilled to be  playing in DreamWorks Gabby’s Dollhouse that was born out of her love for cats and all things miniature.

About

The Parent Pod podcast by Gymboree Play & Music is a weekly conversation that features various experts who are willing to share helpful tips for parents and grandparents on how to support their little ones during the first five years of life. Our podcast drives conversations around early childhood development and parenting strategies, with topics ranging from sleep training, and minimalist living to maternal mental health and postpartum depression.

Special Episode with Teri Weiss, EVP, Television Development for DreamWorks Animation.

Episode Information

In this episode of the Parent Pod, we spoke to Teri Weiss of Dreamworks Animation.

Teri Weiss is EVP, Television Development for DreamWorks Animation reporting to Chief Creative Officer, Television, Peter Gal. In this role, she oversees the creative development of a rapidly growing slate of original television projects, including the content for DWA TV’s groundbreaking multi-year deal with Netflix as well as Peacock, Amazon,  Hulu, Universal Kids, and other leading broadcasters around the world. As part of the studio’s global initiatives, Weiss and her creative team are tasked with developing original animated programming inspired by characters from DreamWorks Animation’s iconic franchises and upcoming feature films, the company’s vast Classic Media library, and  Universal Pictures, as well as projects based on original and acquired IP. 

Weiss previously served as the EVP, Preschool Development and Current Series.  Recent projects that Weiss oversaw in this role include Archibald’s Next Big Thing from  Tony Hale, Dragons Rescue Riders and Where’s Waldo?, as well as the upcoming series Gabby’s Dollhouse, Rhyme Time Town, Go, Dog. Go! and Madagascar: A Little Wild. 

Prior to joining DreamWorks Animation Television, Weiss worked at  NBC/Universal where she was hired to head up kids content for Universal Kids  Productions group after a 16-year stint at Nickelodeon where she served as EVP of  Preschool original programming. She launched a series of hits, including Shimmer and  Shine, Blaze and the Monster Machines, Dora and Friends, Paw  Patrol, and Wallykazam! She also helped solidify Nick Jr’s leadership position with series hits Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi, and The Fresh Beat Band. Prior to Nickelodeon, 

Weiss was a producer on Sesame Street, as well as Where in the World is Carmen  Sandiego? and Square One TV

Raised in New York, Weiss graduated from John Hopkins University with a degree in International Studies. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, and daughter.

About

The Parent Pod podcast by Gymboree Play & Music is a weekly conversation that features various experts who are willing to share helpful tips for parents and grandparents on how to support their little ones during the first five years of life. Our podcast drives conversations around early childhood development and parenting strategies, with topics ranging from sleep training, and minimalist living to maternal mental health and postpartum depression.

Encourage Independence In Your Child With These 4 Tips


We all know our children will eventually take their place in the world, but long before they become Olympians, doctors, and teachers, they are just little tykes who are looking to us to understand the basics of life. Whether it’s confidence, grit, or independence, our small cues help them better understand how to approach these things and how to practically leverage them in their environment. Below are some proven tips to help you support your child develop their own independence as they grow. 

 

Give Them Tasks

One way to help your child understand independence is to give them tasks to complete on their own. Research supports that small tasks and chores for children are a way to building a sense of responsibility, teaching collaborative skills and nurturing empathy. Not only does it give the child the opportunity the finish things on their own, but it’s a subtle way to help them understand your expectations. Some simple tasks to try are: 

  • Putting away toys.
  • Let them select the bedtime story.
  • Let them determine their daily snack, get it out of the fridge and clean up.
  • Help make bed.
  • Select clothes for the day.

Ask Questions 

As parents, it’s common to step in and make decisions that we feel is in the best interest of our kids. But what’s not so common is to ask the child if they agree with what we’ve selected and why. By asking questions we get a sense of their preferences, and we help them think critically about what they prefer and why. Some simple questions to ask are: 

  • What kinds of snacks should we buy?
  • What kinds of shows do you want to see?
  • What kinds of places do you want to visit?

Let Them Struggle (A little)

No one likes to see their child struggle. But when it comes to their long-term success, sometimes allowing them to struggle temporarily is a good thing. Let your child to try things that are difficult (for them) to solve on their own. When children are first learning to walk, we let them fall. When they try something that’s spicy (that we told them not to), we wait for the tears and offer something to quell the burn. Leave room for your child to feel discomfort, learn and try again from their own learned experience.

 

Give Positive Feedback

It goes without saying that we should always support a job well done. But what’s important when it comes to independence, is to support all of the attempts and failures. Children need to know that their progress is a step in the right direction. When you provide the cue that some failure is normal, and they will get it right, they will thrive through those hiccups. 

 

5 Ways to Resocialize Your Kids This Summer


Every parent wants their child to have a strong foundation early in life. Whether it’s through their child’s ability to excel in academic environments, meet milestones or even make friends, parents are constantly on the lookout to help their little one succeed. 

But what does a parent do when a global pandemic shifts their ability to control how their child develops outside of the home? They do what most parents did last year,  provide as much emotional and academic support in the home as possible, and hope for the best

But now that more businesses are re-opening, parents have found themselves facing new questions; how much did the pandemic really impact my child, and how do I resocialize my kids so they feel comfortable in the world again? 

We feel your pain moms and dads, so we set out to find answers to both of these questions.

To our surprise, researchers said the pandemic might not have impacted your littles as much as you think. A recent New York Times article revealed, “The majority of neurotypical kids will be able to socialize just fine… A lot of socialization happens implicitly through interactions with caregivers,” said Erika Hernandez a postdoctoral scholar of social development at Penn State. “Just having conversations with your kids, asking them about their feelings, and setting boundaries gets you most of the way to the socialization they need.”

But if you’re not completely sold on this theory, we did some research to identify the top 5 ways other experts are saying you should support your child this summer as they venture back into the world. 

In no particular order, experts say: 

Start Small 

In our excitement to get back into the swing of things, and re-start our “old-life,” we may inadvertently rush this process for our kids. We have to keep in mind that even though we’re comfortable spending time with new people in new environments, our children still need to operate at their own pace. Taking small steps with new interactions should also be managed with mini-milestones. Experts say setting small incremental goals can help children feel more in control about facing uncomfortable situations where their initial response may be to avoid.

Go at the Child’s Pace

Another way parents can ease the transition of re-socializing is to start with environments and people with whom the child may be more familiar. Pediatric psychologist Kate Eshleman, PsyD, encourages parents to remember kids need to go at their own pace. 

“Kids haven’t had to share with others, and they haven’t had to talk to unfamiliar adults,” Dr. Eshleman says, “so you may see some shyness or kids responding to other people in ways that aren’t typical of how they act around their families.”

A Routine Helps

Whether you want to re-start classes at Gymboree Play & Music, join a play-date group or head to the farmer’s market, other experts say it’s best to create a routine around the places your child will socialize in. Pandemic aside, when babies and toddlers are a part of familiar activities and routines, they establish relationships with familiar people who help them gain a sense of self-confidence. And as older toddlers and young children grow, a routine can help them demonstrate independence.

Listen to Them in Busy Environments

One of the positive benefits children experienced in the last year was more of their parent’s undivided attention. In many cases, they haven’t had to compete with other adults or people to get your attention. As social engagement for your family picks up, don’t forget to listen to your child when other people are around. They need to know you haven’t cut them off now that other adults are around. We found this proven research on the CDC website that gives some examples of how to actively listen to your child so they feel supported. 

Try the Scaffold Approach

The concept of Scaffolding is that a light framework helps to support new skills as the child is stretching beyond their current, stable abilities. It teaches kids to reach higher because the scaffolding provides extra support. When the child can do it themselves, the support is removed. And just like a building supported by scaffolding during construction, it stands on its own.

According to Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, author of The Scaffolding Effect, the three pillars of scaffolding are support, structure, and encouragement. At every stage, parents can model and teach positive, prosocial behaviors, give corrective feedback, and boost self-esteem. 

In practical terms, Scaffolding means: 

  • Support your children with empathy, and validation. Assure your child that you understand their fears and concerns. 
  • Provide security through scheduling. Many of our structural norms — like having breakfast and going to Gymboree Play & Music were upended during the pandemic. You can ease a child’s anxiety by reestablishing old household routines and reinforcing rules more than you have in the past. 
  • Encourage your kids to put themselves out there. This can be as simple as taking them to the park and encouraging them to play with other kids, or arranging play dates where the kids can interact with other kids to watch a movie, bake or engage in a shared interest or activity. 

Helping Your Toddler Thrive with MFT Michelle Tangemen.

Episode Information

In this episode of the Parent Pod, we spoke to Michelle Tangemen the founder of the Thriving Toddler.


Michelle is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She specializes in working with children & families by applying her experience in developmental psychology and behavior analysis. She has over a decade of experience using evidence-based practices to decrease undesired behaviors and increase adaptive/desired behaviors in order to strengthen the relationships between parent and child. Her goal is to support parents as they navigate the challenges that come with parenting.

Learn more at https://www.thrivingtoddler.com/.

About

The Parent Pod podcast by Gymboree Play & Music is a weekly conversation that features various experts who are willing to share helpful tips for parents and grandparents on how to support their little ones during the first five years of life. Our podcast drives conversations around early childhood development and parenting strategies, with topics ranging from sleep training, and minimalist living to maternal mental health and postpartum depression.

Conscious Untigering and Peaceful Parenting with Author with Iris Chen

Episode Information

In this episode of The Parent Pod, we spoke to Iris Chen, Iris Chen is an author, unschooling mom, deconstructing tiger parent, and founder of the Untigering movement. As an advocate for peaceful parenting and educational freedom for children, her mission is to inspire generational and cultural transformation, especially among Asian communities.

She spent 16 years living overseas in China (land of the tiger parent!), but now resides in her native California with her husband and two sons. You can read more about her adventures in parenting and unschooling at www.untigering.com.

About

The Parent Pod podcast by Gymboree Play & Music is a weekly conversation that features various experts who are willing to share helpful tips for parents and grandparents on how to support their little ones during the first five years of life. Our podcast drives conversations around early childhood development and parenting strategies, with topics ranging from sleep training, and minimalist living to maternal mental health and postpartum depression.

Postpartum Plans and Parent Education with Julia Mitchell

Episode Information

In this episode of The Parent Pod, we spoke to Julia Mitchell, the founder of Gather and Bloom. Julia Mitchell is a life-long family advocate and the founder of Gather + Bloom. With hundreds of families assisted, Julia combines research-based methods with over twelve years of time-tested experience to provide custom postpartum plans, parent education, and newborn care.

Learn more about her company at www.gatherandbloom.co.

About

The Parent Pod podcast by Gymboree Play & Music is a weekly conversation that features various experts who are willing to share helpful tips for parents and grandparents on how to support their little ones during the first five years of life. Our podcast drives conversations around early childhood development and parenting strategies, with topics ranging from sleep training, and minimalist living to maternal mental health and postpartum depression.

Car Seats, Lactation Support and Everything in Between with Tot Squad Founder Jen Saxton

Episode Information

In this episode of The Parent Pod, we spoke to Tot Squad founder Jen Saxton about how she’s helping families identify and hire the best experts for their family.

Jen is the founder and CEO of Tot Squad. She started Tot Squad in 2011 during her time at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, where her business idea won first place in the Kellogg Cup Business Plan Competition. She’s been featured on CNBC, Fast Company, Forbes, Bloomberg BusinessWeek and The Doctors, you can learn more about her through LinkedIn, and through the Tot Squad website.

About

The Parent Pod podcast by Gymboree Play & Music is a weekly conversation that features various experts who are willing to share helpful tips for parents and grandparents on how to support their little ones during the first five years of life. Our podcast drives conversations around early childhood development and parenting strategies, with topics ranging from sleep training, and minimalist living to maternal mental health and postpartum depression.