Expert Articles

STEM Exploration for Infants and Toddlers: Sound

Author: Ms Ruoyu Wen,
Lecturer at Yew Chung College of Early Childhood Education

Many teachers and parents believe that STEM education for infants and toddlers aged 0-3years old is too abstract, thinking it is an advanced skill level for young children. However, this misconception is based on a misunderstanding of STEM education for young children.  STEM education for infants and toddlers is not about programming, machines, or artificial intelligence, but about using everyday materials to solve real-life problems. For infants and toddlers in the sensorimotor phase, their daily “work” consists of exploring the materials, tools; and objects in their environment to discover causal relationships.

What can infants and toddlers learn from exploring sounds?

We often observe that babies and toddlers like to tap and explore sounds, e.g., squeezing foam paper, repeatedly tapping bowls with a spoon, or stepping on fallen leaves. What can babies and toddlers learn by tapping and exploring sounds?

  1. By exploring sounds, babies and toddlers can learn how to combine or separate objects to create different sounds.
  2. They can begin to perceive causal relationships, e.g. “When I tap on different containers with a stick, they make different sounds.”
  3. Tools are the means we use to achieve our goals. In early exploration, infants and toddlers use their bodies as tools to make sounds and achieve their “goals” This also contributes to the development of their fine and gross motor skills.
  4. While handling objects and making sounds, infants and toddlers can also explore the concept of “space” For example, how do they move a snare drum? How far away is the drumstick from the drum? Can they place a cup in a container?
How can parents explore sounds with infants and toddlers?

1. 0-12 months old infants

  • Place objects that produce sounds within reach of the child, where they can crawl or move to, attract their attention.
  • Encourage infants to touch different objects with their hands or tools to explore different sounds.
  • Incorporate the child’s name into nursery rhymes and sing to them.
  • Be patient when the child keeps tapping and join in with the sound-making activities!

2. 12-24 months old toddlers

  • Provide a variety of objects made from different materials, e.g., metal, wooden, or plastic spoons, for toddlers to explore and make different sounds.
  • Guide toddlers to listen and differentiate between sounds in terms of intensity, and pitch.
  • Take toddlers outdoors frequently to discover “sounds in nature.”

24-36 months old preschoolers

  • Provide preschoolers with various paper tubes or pipes and let them experiment by talking into the tubes to observe the sound changes. 
  • Play music with strong rhythms and different genres to develop their sense of rhythm and melody.
  • Make homemade “shakers” out of different materials that make sounds.
  • Encourage preschoolers to make different sounds with their bodies.
What is the connection between sound exploring sound and STEM?

S (Science) – Preliminary understanding that sounds are produced by vibrations and that different materials produce different sounds.

T (Technology) – Using the body as a tool (low technology) to create sounds.

E (Engineering) – Repeated experimentation on how to create specific sounds.

M (Mathematics) – Classification, comparison, and understanding of positional words.


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STEM Exploration for Infants and Toddlers: Sound