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Oct 7, 2020

Babies are born wondering. They have to piece together the world around them by gathering information, and they do this by observing, experimenting, and asking questions. In this way, children are like little scientists. If you have a toddler in the house, there’s no shortage of questions in your daily conversations. But is it a two-way street? How many questions are you asking your toddler?


Jessica Rolph welcomes Dr. Sarah Lytle to today’s episode. She is the Director of Outreach and Education at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington. She says parents have a critical role to play in promoting early learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). And this starts with asking questions of your toddler.


Key Takeaways:

[1:26] What does STEM learning look like for toddlers?

[2:42] Early math skills are a strong predictor of later school achievement. Does Sarah’s research support that finding? 

[3:49] How do you make math part of the every-day with your toddler?

[5:06] Guided play versus instructing.

[7:52] The power of narration for preverbal children, as well as for toddlers.

[9:06] Sarah gives examples of how parents can shift from a narrative style to an inquisitive one: Why do you suppose birds live in trees?

[11:50] Sarah explains the scientific concepts children are learning while playing with water. She models some questions parents can ask their children while they are splashing around.

[14:35] We tend to associate technology with screens, but what kind of technology learning is Sarah promoting at I-LABS that is screen-free? 

[15:55] What kind of tools can support spatial awareness?

[17:53] Sarah offers her advice for parents around block play and suggests how parents can really get engaged and help their children discover the joy of learning through blocks.

[19:09] Women continue to be under-represented in STEM fields. Sarah explains how to encourage little girls to have positive experiences in STEM from an early age.

[20:46] What did Sarah’s parents do to get her excited about science? 

[21:32] What other activities can we do with our toddlers that really bring math, science and engineering to the forefront? 

[23:49] Jessica summarizes the key takeaways from their conversation.


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