The "E" in STEAM
I have been doing quite a few workshops lately regarding engineering in early childhood settings. Most early childhood teachers already offer engineering activities for their children, but few use engineering vocabulary when the child is engaged. Just building with blocks is an engineering activity, but the activity can encourage engineering thinking by challenging the child to think before she/he builds and analyze afterward. The Boston Museum of Science has designed engineering procedures for elementary children. Recently, they have also included preschool-age children. Those engineering steps are:
Explore (find out more)
Create (explore an idea)
Improve (make it better)
Young children can engage in those three steps when participating in an activity. Think of giving a child a set of blocks.
Have him/her explore what the blocks can do. You may even encourage the child to draw a picture of what he/she would like to make. Have the child create their project. After the project is complete, encourage the child to think of ways to make it better. An example of encourage vocabulary could be, "What could you do to make your tower solid enough to go even higher?" 'Solid' would be a nice vocabulary word to discuss.