How play can build a STEM mindset

Learning about STEM doesn't have to be relegated to the classroom in preparation for a future career. At its essence, STEM is about exploration, observation and curiosity, which sounds an awful lot like another four-letter word - PLAY. So often when children are playing, they are testing theories, considering alternative possibilities, and most importantly, they try-fail-try again - all of which are the tenets of STEM.

Instead of molding every opportunity into a learning moment, parents can rest easy knowing that the need and benefits of more play can reap some profound STEM benefits. And, in many cases, simply asking "why" can turn playing with a toy or careening down a slide into fun, STEM-inspired play.

Here are five ideas on how to dial-up STEM fun at home:

1. Get messy. Your kitchen is the perfect setting for an epic science experiment, be it bubbling slime, erupting volcanoes or fireproof balloons. Virtually everything you might need for a homemade science day is likely lurking in your cupboards. Find the ingredients for a fun color experiment that teaches chemical reactions in your kitchen. Use recycled materials and tea bags to make your own rocket. A quick Google search will yield hundreds of easy-to-do science experiments at home. Plus, there's the added life lesson on cleaning up!