As an actress, author, neuroscientist, and mom of two, Mayim Bialik has spoken out on a variety out hot-button topics, from mental health awareness to spanking and vaccination. She has also used the spotlight to champion a variety of causes, and one that's particularly close to her heart is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education. So, it makes perfect sense that she recently partnered with toy brand Little Tikes, serving as an Ambassador for the brand to launch Little Tikes “STEM Jr. Week” initiative (which ran the week of August 13-17) and to celebrate the brand's newest product: Little Tikes STEM Jr. Wonder Lab.
The Wonder Lab, which includes 20 hands-on STEM experiments (using common household ingredients) is the first STEM line targeted towards preschoolers. It comes with 20 lab accessories, such as test tubes and lab goggles.
Mayim spoke with Parents.com about her partnership with Little Tikes, the importance of early STEM ed, and other hot-button topics like vaccination and screen time.
Parents.com: What inspired you in particular about Little Tikes' “STEM Jr. Week,” and what do you hope to bring to the campaign as an Ambassador?
Mayim Bialik: Well, it's such a natural connection for me! I love the idea that kids can see what being a real scientist is like with this adorable and functional lab! STEM for kids is not just about learning facts and figures; it's about teaching what a life as a scientist can look like. Starting before kindergarten is brilliant, because they are ready to learn, experiment, and play while getting to experience being a real life scientist. I wish this WonderLab had been around when I had kids, so I hope everyone buys one for their little tykes honestly! I think many people think about STEM for elementary, middle, or high school kids, but the sooner we get kids interested the better!
Parents.com: Why do you think it's so important for today's kids to start learning about STEM early on? What are some fun ways your own kids have learned about STEM subjects?
Mayim Bialik: We know that the sooner we introduce these concepts and this vocabulary, the more likely kids will feel confident and inspired to pursue careers in STEM. My sons are 10 and almost 13, and at the age WonderLab is made for, I was improvising experiments and exploration like the WonderLab provides. My kids love water play, pushing buttons, and making things bubble.
Parents.com: What do you believe parents/educators can be doing to take STEM ed to the next level?
Mayim Bialik: Educating ourselves, using the resources in libraries and online to find new ways to understand our world. Also, encouraging all kids to love math and science, of course!
Parents.com: What do you believe government should be doing to promote/support STEM in our education system. What do you think about concerns that policymakers are emphasizing STEM education over the arts/history/English?
Mayim Bialik: I think our government should continue to support people from all backgrounds in pursuing what they love and what powers our world. Some of the fastest growing careers require a background in STEM, and we all know that. I hope we can continue to have balance between the arts and the STEM subjects; it takes some effort but I believe we can do it.
Parents.com: You've been vocal on a variety of parenting topics, encouraging conversation among other parents all over the internet. One of the most controversial, science-related topics you've touched on in the past is vaccination, advocating that every parent do their own research and make the decision that's best for their family. Would you say that's reflective of your thoughts on it today?
Mayim Bialik: My kids are vaccinated, as I have mentioned many times. Many people delay vaccines for all sorts of reasons. There's nothing more to talk about here!
Parents.com: It seems like every day, new recommendations come out advising parents to reduce the number of hours their kids spend on recreational screen time. How do you handle this in your house? Do you feel like devices can be educational/how do you steer your kids toward using them for learning?
Mayim Bialik: Ha! This is a struggle for sure! I tend to be pretty old fashioned and find most learning still happens by reading, discussing and writing. Of course technology can be helpful and kids need literacy in tech, but I also think a lot of learning still happens with human interaction. My boys love their video games, but we do absolutely limit the time and the content. And my rule is if I can't troubleshoot a tech problem, put it away, and ask your father when he picks you up!