- June 10, 2017
- Posted by: Dr. Elise Cohen Ho
- Category: Parenting & Family, UWP Blog
Please welcome guest blogger, Kristy of From Engineer to SAHM
Almost three years ago, I left my career as an engineer.
Most of all I worried that my children would get bored being home with me.
Find a toy that introduces them to your field of engineering.
If you’re an electrical engineer, introduce them to circuits with a Snap Circuits toy. If you’re a chemical engineer, play with a chemistry set with them. Since both my husband and I are mechanical engineers, we love anything with gears. My husband introduced my son to hobby grade remote control cars, and it has opened up a world of opportunities to teach him about what we have done in our careers. From materials science to reliability engineering, my son’s toy has been a great way for us to connect and teach him a little about what Mommy and Daddy do.
Incorporate math into (almost) everything you do with your kids.
If you have a technical degree, like us, math and numbers do not intimidate you at all. To you math is fun and useful. Its a part of everyday life. Share your love for logic and math with your kids by showing them that math is fun and a part of everyday. When you’re at the grocery store, have your toddler count the apples with you while you put the fruit into a bag. Count the number of slices on the pizza you’re about to eat. Play subtraction, addition, and multiplication games with them.
Need some ideas? Here are some of the ways my family makes math fun!
Make up an activity that teaches your kid about your career.
My oldest son is very interested in what I used to do before I decided to stay home. My last position was as a project engineer, and I wanted to find a fun way to teach him about what I used to do. So I came up with a simple activity that taught him what being a project engineer was like. Showing him a simplified version of what I used to do has stuck with him a lot better than me just telling him.
Build something with them.
Since my husband and I are both Mechanical Engineers, we are both able to guess how things are made by just looking at them. To teach my son this same skill, my husband is teaching him by building things with him. Some of the things they have built together include side tables, a sofa table, and a ramp for his RC car. Before they start building, my husband talks to my son about what they’re going to build, and how they are going to build it. He lets my son use power tools (age appropriate ones), and talks to him about safety. Sure the project takes much longer than it would if my husband had just done it on his own, but the connection my husband is making with our son is completely worth it!
Look for opportunities to teach your kid what you know!
Many of the greatest opportunities I’ve had to connect with my sons are when I watch them while they play. You would be surprised how many toys involve some kind of engineering principle. For example, my son’s Hot Wheels have presented me opportunities to teach him about the laws of motion and energy. Just watch your kids playing, and jump in when you see an opportunity to share with them. Trust me, they won’t mind the interruption. They’ll be glad mommy or daddy was paying attention.
Have them fix something with you.
Most engineers love to fix and improve things. My husband, for example, prefers to do his own car maintenance. So when he changes his car’s oil, or needs to change out the brakes, he does the work instead of taking it to a mechanic. And while it would take him half the time to complete these things on his own, he always asks my son to help him. Not only is this a great way for my husband and son to connect, but it also teaches my son about maintenance needs of equipment.
Try an experiment you’re not quite sure will work.
We all know that failure, especially when developing new technology, is a great way to learn. Unfortunately our kids never see that side of us. They imagine mom and dad to be indestructible and infallible. But it’s important to not only show our kids that we are human, but that failure is not something to fear. One way to teach them to accept failure is to try an experiment without making sure it will work. For example, I once tried an experiment with my son that involved marshmallow chicks and some sticks we had picked up during a walk. Well, my unplanned experiment failed miserably, but my son watched as I tried several times to make it work. He learned that mommy doesn’t always know the answer, but trying to figure out the answer is a lot of fun!
Buy a subscription box with engineering activities to do with your kids.
I got this idea from a fellow engineer mom of mine. I saw the activities she was doing with her grade school kids, and I asked her what it was. When the subscription box was on sale, I decided to try one out. I needed a quiet way to keep my oldest son busy while his baby brothers napped. He’s a super active kid, and TV just doesn’t cut it for him. When we tried the subscription box, he loved it so much, I decided to buy him a year subscription for Christmas. Now, each month he anxiously awaits the next box, and as soon as it arrives he wants to tear into it. But I always make him wait still Saturday afternoon when the babies are sleeping. I assumed he loved the boxes because they were fun (well, that was one reason). I realized this was the only time when every other minute I wasn’t needing to change a diaper or fill a sippy cup. Completing the activities was the one time during the week he was getting one on one attention from me.
Answer their questions.
Ok, so this one seems obvious, but kids ask A LOT of questions. Some really random questions too. But as someone in a technical field, we have an advantage here. Most of us are naturally inquisitive, which is why we chose a technical path to begin with. We, ourselves, want to know why things are they way they are. Kids are exactly the same way! And since we spent 4 or more years learning why things are the way they are, all we have to do is answer them. If we don’t know the answer, our technical degrees also taught us how to figure out the answer. Teach your kids how to find answers themselves by including them in the discovery process as well!
Take a trip to your Alma Mater.
Family trips are always a great way to connect. Kids are also curious about mommy and daddy’s past. So taking them on a trip to the school you spent four or more years at to get your degree would be amazing to them. Show them where you hung out. Take them to the places you ate. Show them your dorm. Anything to make them feel a part of this part of your past. Don’t wait til they’re in high school to peak their interest about a degree in tech. Show them how fun it is when they’re young!