Introduction

ReIntroduction, October 2015

More than once my son has been described as "all boy" because of his high energy, imperviousness to pain, and obsession with all things mechanical. (I won't mention that his favorite color is pink.) His attention to simple machines started when he was six months old and his grandmother gave him his first toy car. The car was merely a drop in the pail compared to the massive quantity of gifts the child was receiving. I was struck by two things: how the single high-quality toy was received and how the oodles of other toys laying around the house seemed to offer little or no value. The moment my son fell in love with the wheel was the moment I began supporting his interest. I began offering him books and experiences that supported his interest in and learning about mechanics, physics and engineering.

My friends marveled at our activities and how my young child played. After many conversations and at their urging, I began to write. I started by writing "Playground Physics" and researching early childhood education. But the topic of Playground Physics was too narrow. My dedication to the topic kept me at the playground and I didn't allow myself room to grow. As my learning grew, so did my writing and Preschool Engineering evolved. I describe interesting activities we do, I review books and toys, and I write about parenting. My topic is narrow enough to keep me focused but broad enough to allow me room to grow: I am an advocate for children to be playful, independent STEAM learners.

Most of what I've learned about early childhood education I have learned because of my nerdiness. My formal education is marked by three advanced degrees: a BS in Electrical Engineering, an MSE in Electrical Engineering and an MA in Science Curriculum and Instruction. My informal education comes from my bookish habits - I read everything from board books to parenting books to novels and research articles - as well as my experience as a parent.

Now that that is all said and done, I welcome you again to my blog.




Introduction


The value of a toy is not merely in the having of the toy; it is realized when a child plays. The right toy played with at the right time elicits the joy and wonder of learning.

When my son had just learned to sit he fell in love with cars and trucks and things that go. For two years his interests were primarily related to types of cars and trucks - how they worked and why they worked. Now that he is four years old his interests have evolved from cars and trucks and things that go to a broader category - mechanical stuff.

As Mikey's mom, I am constantly looking to scaffold his interests with toys, books, games, videos and experiences that interest him and provide fun opportunities to learn. It has challenged me to look at the world through his eyes, to be creative and open with where to find resources for him. I am writing the Preschool Engineer blog because I haven't yet found anything like it.

Each entry will provide a small list of related toys, books, games, videos and/or experiences. I will offer a brief explanation of how they are related and links to where you can purchase them. I imagine you are looking for ideas for gifts or themes for your preschooler to discover. I hope my posts inspire you to look at the world through your little Preschool Engineer's eyes and to find ways to engage in the mechanical inner-workings of our world.

2 comments:

  1. Richard Scarry's "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" picture book (http://www.amazon.com/Richard-Scarrys-Cars-Trucks-Things/dp/0307157857) was an excellent bedtime story book. It has little plot, but the pictures have enough details to keep the discussion going for quite a while, and the book had lots of opportunities for vocalizing sound effects.

    I haven't been there in decades, so doubtless things have changed, but when I was a kid, there was an exhibit at Newark Museum in NJ of little machines. When you pressed a button by each panel of the exhibit, the machines would operate. My suggestion is a broad one: seek out kid-friendly museums and help with the reading of the signs and so forth, while leaving the pace of the visit up to your child.

    On a different front, the kids had fun with a home PC long before they were doing boring word-processing or frittering away the hours on computer games. A (wacom) pen/tablet is a worthwhile peripheral. Just make sure that you get a wide enough kid-size computer-desk so there's room for the tablet. My kids are all grown up now, so I can't say first-hand how a pen/tablet peripheral compares to a touch-screen tablet computer for kid play.

    Suggestion: You have a books tag on your blog. A software tag to help find good kid-friendly software would also be useful. Perhaps a "places" tag would be interesting too as you find good exhibits, zoos, streams, trails and so forth.

    Magnets are also great fun. The big caution is that you have to make certain the magnets are big enough to not get swallowed.

    Sadly, there are things I enjoyed as a kid that are now too dangerous to amuse the kids of today. Playing with a droplet of mercury, for instance.

    Given that you have more than one kid, I'm sure I don't have to remind you that one "size" doesn't fit all. Be sure to leave room to discover if the child is more interested in creative or performing arts then engineering.

    I learned of your blog through your recent post to the STEM Community on Google+. Congratulations on finding an unfilled niche and filling it with an interesting blog. My blog (rdrewd.blogspot.com) tends to be less focused. Mine has some recurring themes (education, python software, ...), but yours has a specific focus that looks like it'll be good for years of new articles until you run out of preschoolers. Alas, they don't stay little for long. Both of my kids have now completed college. One is now a game software developer in Silicon Valley and the other an equities analyst in the canyons of Manhattan.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Indeed, this is a niche blog and only reflects this niche of my parenting life and my children's lives.

      Per your suggestion, I added a "software" tag that will probably be more all-inclusive than just the "app" tag. I will also add a misc page for links to other related and informative websites including the children's museum directory. (We have been members at our local museums since my son was six months old and we think they are really amazing places.)

      Richard Scarrey's books are a fixture in our reading lives, too. I feature his books in my "I Spy" list and in my "Favorite Truck Books" list on Amazon.

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