Activity Design Principles that Support Family-Based Engineering Learning in Early Childhood 

Pattison, S. A., Svarovsky, G. N., Ramos Montañez, S., Wagner, C., Corbett, A., Perdomo, M. E., López Burgos, V., & De Los Santos, S

Paper presented at the NARST 2022 Annual International Conference, Vancouver, British Columbia.


Introducing young children to STEM is critical for cultivating early interests and understanding that ultimately contribute to broader participation in the STEM fields. However, while there is substantial research around early childhood mathematics and a growing body of literature related to early childhood science, early childhood engineering continues to be the focus of only a few studies. To address this need, we conducted a design-based research (DBR) study focused on both (b) iteratively developing and improving home-based, engineering design activities for families with preschool-age children and (b) advancing theory about strategies that support engineering design engagement for children and adult family members. Based on the analysis of videos and interviews, three overarching design principles for home-based engineering activities for young children and their families emerged: (1) present design challenges that leverage the ways families naturally orient to play and engagement with the materials, (2) include narrative contexts and supports that motivate engagement in engineering practices, including user-centered design, and (3) align the choices of narrative context, design materials, and design challenges to create an open, accessible, age-appropriate solution space.