September 2022 Newsletter – Early Engineering: The Engineering Design Process for Children

The Engineering Design Process for Children

After reading the steps of the engineering design process, you may see opportunities to adapt it for use with the children in your care. Before doing so, do a bit of your own research. Over the next few days, observe children engaged in free play and notice how many of the steps they are using naturally in their play. You may see evidence of the engineering design process in the block area, manipulatives table, and art center. This makes sense because building, tinkering, and drawing are very closely tied together. It’s one of the reasons that experts advocate for incorporating art into STEM initiatives, leading to the acronym STEAM.

Once you have more information about how your children are already behaving like smaller versions of engineers, you can make decisions about which steps of the formal process may be beneficial to your group.

Depending on the abilities of the children in your group, you may start with a simplified version of the engineering design process that contains 5 steps:

  • Ask – What is the problem that needs to be solved?
  • Imagine – What are the possible solutions?
  • Plan – What will the solution look like?
  • Create – How does it work?
  • Improve – How can we make it better?

This simplified list of steps makes it easy to see the cyclical nature of the engineering design process. When children reach the last step (Improve), they can be encouraged to start at the beginning (Ask) to determine if any other problems need to be addressed in their design or final product.

This simple process could be taught directly to children. Teachers can also incorporate this language into their interactions with children as they explore.

As children become better at using the engineering design process, you may choose to add more steps, such as encouraging children to do some research into potential solutions.

Another option is to add the communication step from the full version of the engineering design process. This step asks children to share or present the results of their project with others.

When making these decisions, be sure to be mindful of children’s interests and abilities. Forcing children to conduct an oral presentation may be too much to ask of young children. But they could draw pictures, or capture their experiments on video for others to watch.

They could also conduct a demonstration or test of their product for the other children.


For the main article Early Engineering, CLICK HERE

For the article The Engineering Design Process, CLICK HERE

For the article Recommendations for Engineering Activities, CLICK HERE

For the article Why is Engineering Important in Early Learning?, CLICK HERE