Positive Parenting: Spatial Skills & STEM

The words you use during playtime with your baby and toddler do matter.

Today in positive parenting, we take a look at language that help kids develop the skills they need for stem: science, technology, engineering and math.

Developmental Psychologist Susan Levine and her colleagues studied 58 pairs of parents and kids age one to five.

Researchers measured spatial words, words that describe objects and the relationships between them. From age 1, parents used more spatial words with boys.

“The first time we detected differences in spatial thinking of these kids is about four and a half years of age,” Levine says.

At that age, researchers found boys produced more spatial words than girls. They also had stronger spatial skills.

Levine says parents should make sure boys and girls have access to toys for spatial play, things like building blocks, Legos and puzzles.

Use spatial language like over and under. Point out shapes, and objects that are different sizes.

“These kinds of findings that we are uncovering early in life are important for changing parent behaviors and ultimately for diversifying the STEM pipeline,” Levine says.

Susan Levine and first author Shannon Pruden say they aren’t sure why parents in the study used more spatial words with boys, but say stereotypes about certain games and activities being more “boyish” might have played a part.

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