What is STEAM?

S is for SCIENCE:

Children are natural scientists. They try to figure out how the world works by engaging in the scientific method. The scientific method includes observing, forming questions, making predictions, designing and carrying out experiments, and discussing. Even infants and toddlers are using a basic form of the scientific method (or performing little experiments) as they explore and discover the world around them! Children find patterns and build theories to explain what they see, and collect “data” to test those theories. A toddler makes footprints after she walks through a puddle. She may form a theory based on her observation of her footprints, that the way she walks changes the size and shape of the prints. She then tests her theory by hopping on one foot or walking on her toes to see if her prints change.


When we think of technology, cell phones and computers often come to mind. But the “T” in technology also stands for any type of man-made object. Technology includes simple tools such as pulleys, wheels, levers, scissors, and ramps. They support children’s cognitive development, because as children play with these tools, they observe and learn from the underlying cause and effect.


Engineering applies science, math, and technology to solving problems. Engineering is using materials, designing, crafting, and building – it helps us understand how and why things work. When children design and build with blocks or put together railroad tracks, they are acting as engineers. When children construct a fort of snow, pillows, or cardboard, they are solving structural problems. When they figure out how to pile sticks and rocks to block a stream of water or how objects fit together, they are engineering.

A is for the ARTS:

A creative mindset is critical for STEM subjects. That is why the arts was added to STEM to become STEAM. Scientists, technology developers, engineers, and mathematicians need to innovate and solve problems creatively. Active and self-guided discovery is core to the arts and to STEAM learning. Children engage in painting, pretend play, music, and drawing. Art is sensory exploration. Children can feel the paint on their fingers and see colors change the way paper looks. As they grow, children include symbols in their art that represent real objects, events, and feelings. Drawing and play-acting allow them to express what they know and feel, even before they


Math is number and operations, measurement, patterns, geometry and spatial sense. From birth until age five, children explore everyday mathematics, including informal knowledge of “more” and “less,” shape, size, sequencing, volume, and distance. Math is a tool children use every day! Babies and toddlers learn early math concepts like geometry and spatial relationships when they explore new objects with their hands and mouths. Teachers support math learning with infants and toddlers by intentionally using math language throughout the day. They make math concepts visible when they connect them to objects and actions.

Click here to read more about the benefits of STEAM in early childhood education!