Surprisingly STEM

With coding and robotics being all the rage, it can be easy to forget that STEM stretches far beyond the “T” for technology. Science, engineering, and math are diverse fields in and of themselves. And just like technology, exploring these fields can be seen as preparing kids for high demand jobs. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that through 2026, mathematician and statistician jobs will experience a similar or faster growth rate than software development jobs with a similar median pay.

And while building content knowledge is important, the transferable skills kids learn though STEM subjects are even more critical. As stated by the U.S. Department of Education, “success is driven not only by what you know, but by what you can do with what you know.”

Ok, so how do we explore STEM and build critical thinking skills with young kids? It’s easier than you might think. Here are some ideas along with just a few of the awesome books you can find on our shelves to explore the science, engineering, and math of STEM.

Problem Solving and Resilience: Allow kids to play, build, experiment, and make! If something goes wrong, resist the urge to fix it and instead ask your child questions that could lead to a solution. Why did the block tower or blanket fort fall over? How could we build it differently? Let kids try ideas even when you know they won’t work. You can be there to support and encourage them through that failure. For more structured activities with older kids, the library has crafting and experimenting books, along with online crafting classes through Creativebug, which offer fun ideas that also open the door for kids to problem solve and work through small failures.

Gathering and Evaluating Evidence: Explore a bunch of different resources on the same topic, including books, videos, apps, etc. and talk about it! Help kids connect what they read with life experiences. Ask questions and share your own wonderings. Was there anything that surprised you? Notice when one resource says one thing and another resource says something different. Who do you believe? As the adult, you don’t have to have all the answers. It’s more important to show kids how to look for and think about information.

Make Sense of Information: Start reading nonfiction books together while your child is young! Kids love animals, nature, people, and the world around them. Read about it! Along with exciting pictures and information, these books expose kids to vocabulary and text structures they won’t find in narrative stories. And this writing style makes it easy to read a bit, set the book aside, and come back to it later. The library has been adding more and more awesome nonfiction books written for younger kids to our collections. And don’t worry if your child doesn’t completely understand a concept. Hearing about it early will provide context for future learning.

Baby Animals with Their Families

Around the world, baby animals grow up in all kinds of families. Whether it’s albatrosses raising babies in big colonies or sibling pairs of polar bears, baby animals with their families are not only adorable–they can teach us about animal behavior, too.

Built for Speed

Readers will love catching up with the world’s fastest animals–on land, in the water, and in the air–all in the pages of this book.

Crash! Boom! : A Math Tale

How do these blocks stack up? Gentle math concepts go down easy in this fun and accessible story for very young children.

Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building

A collection of concrete poetry, illustrations, and photographs that shows how young children’s constructions, created as they play, are reflected in notable works of architecture from around the world. Includes biographies of the architects, quotations, and sources.

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars

This book explores our world through big, enormous, gigantic, humongous, incredible, constantly changing numbers, from a billion trillion stars in space to thirty-seven billion rabbits on Earth.

Look Look Outside!

A baby looks outside the window and sees all sorts of interesting things, in a book with high-contrast black-and-white illustrations.

Mapping Sam

An adventurous cat named Sam explores her neighborhood at night in this engaging, character-driven story about how maps work.


Movement is a key part of many inventions. In this book, readers will discover the science behind movement by building their own carousel, speedboat, and solar-powered fan. They will find out how different types of energy work and which forces affect moving objects. They will also learn about some of history’s coolest moving inventions.

Name that Reptile!

If you saw a reptile’s scales up close, could you guess what animal they belonged to? What about sharp teeth or long claws? In this uniquely laid out book, readers learn the characteristics of reptiles and then are introduced to several different kinds.

Stack the Cats

Cats of all shapes and sizes scamper, stretch and yawn across the pages of this adorable counting book. And every now and then, they find themselves in the purrfect fluffy stack! You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eBook on Hoopla.