(StatePoint) 3M Sponsored Content.

The past year has revealed many things, and among them is the extent to which we rely on science to solve problems that impact our everyday lives. Scientists everywhere are making science cool and are an inspiration to kids. Children represent the future and are tomorrow’s scientists, so it’s in all our interests that they develop a love of science.

As kids continue to learn virtually, however, the lack of connection to their teachers and peers can make it challenging for parents to find new and exciting ways to keep kids engaged.

These challenges come at a time when it’s never been more important to encourage kids to lean-in to science. According to an independent research study, the 3M State of Science Index, 74% of people are more inclined to believe that the world needs more people to pursue STEM-related careers to benefit our future society.

To get there, kids need a strong STEM foundation. Here are five tips to help you inspire initial interest in science in your children that can bloom right in your own home:

1. Emphasize the impact science has on the world.

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Encourage kids to observe real-world problems and actively think about how STEM skills can address the issues they care most about, whether in their school, community or globally. As they observe, help your child understand the numerous ways STEM already impacts their lives.

2. Connect science to their interests.

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We often think of science as existing in a silo, but it can be connected to just about anything! Kids are much more likely to find a “way-in” to science if they can match it to their interests. For example, a love of cooking can easily lead to an interest in food science. A love of cars can inspire the pursuit of automotive engineering. Helping draw these connections will attract kids to pursue STEM by making it relevant to their hobbies.

3. Make science social.

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STEM exploration is inherently social. It helps kids develop practical skills like communication, collaboration, and decision-making, all while fostering great friendships. Parents can get their kids engaged by enrolling them in science camps and encouraging them to join competitions.

4. Make science accessible and fun.

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You don’t need a lab to be a scientist – STEM is all around us, even at home! Through youngscientistlab.com, kids can explore free resources offering science project ideas and directions for grades K-8. With experimentation and exploration, it’s simple to make scientific principles more relatable for young minds.

5. Expand your child’s world with STEM.

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STEM is not only found everywhere, but it’s also for everyone. Our new virtual normal makes it easy to connect with others to learn, share and problem solve – no matter where you live. STEM exploration also opens up opportunities for kids to learn about and work with peer groups from different backgrounds and cultures, offering an inclusive environment where success is achieved by working toward a shared goal.

One opportunity on the horizon is the 3M Young Scientist Challenge, held in partnership with Discovery Education, a premier national science competition for grades 5 through 8 that asks students to identify a problem impacting their school, community, or worldwide, and come up with a unique innovation to solve it. Young inventors have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work one-on-one with a 3M scientist, compete for $25,000, and earn the title of “America’s Top Young Scientist.”

Last year’s winner, Anika Chebrolu, 14, collaborated with nine other finalists to solve problems collectively in a series of fun, group challenges as part of the competition. Anika’s individual innovation used molecular research to show how science could reduce the invasion and spread of COVID-19 in the body.

Encourage your budding scientist to get involved and start exploring! To learn more about this year’s competition or to enter, visit www.youngscientistlab.com.

The next big invention or discovery could be anywhere. Ignite that spark of passion for science and unleash your child’s curiosity.

Photo 1 Credit: (c) m-gucci / iStock via Getty Images Plus

Photo 2 Credit: (c) Mladen Zivkovic / iStock via Getty Images Plus

Photo 3 Credit: (c) 3M

Photo 4 Credit: (c) ijeab / iStock via Getty Images Plus

Photo 5 Credit: (c) 3M

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