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Today’s guest is Stephanie Ryan

We go deep talking about:

  • How children learn
  • How we can support our kids in the learning process
  • Practicing patience with our kids
  • Allowing our kids to know that it’s okay to be wrong instead of condemning them
  • The fear of learning new things as a parent when you’re used to knowing the answers
  • How we can get back to the things we loved growing up and sharing that with our kids
  • Outsourcing the things you don’t want to do but that are valuable for your kids, even within your own family
  • Becoming curious as a dad and allowing our kids to have the same curiosity

Dr. Stephanie Ryan, Ph.D. is a chemist, a boy mom, and a social media influencer who enjoys using her background to create superior educational products and content. 

Although an academic at heart, Dr. Stephanie is passionate about learning through play. She can be found helping young kids explore the fascinating world around them.

Dr. Stephanie earned her Ph.D. in the Learning Sciences and her M.S. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her B.S. in Chemistry from Saint Mary’s College.

For great learning activities in the sciences, book recommendations, and more, follow Dr. Stephanie on Instagram at @letslearnaboutscience.

Find Stephanie online at:

Instagram: Stephanie Ryan
Facebook: @letslearnaboutscience

Curt Storring 0:00

Welcome to the Dad.Work podcast. My name is Curt Storring, your host and founder of Dad.Work. This is episode number 53 how kids learn and why it matters and becoming a better dad with Dr. Stephanie Ryan. We go deep today talking about how children learn how we can support our kids in the learning process, practicing patience with our kids, allowing our kids to know that it's okay to be wrong instead of condemning them. The fear of learning new things is apparent when you're used to knowing the answers, how we can get back to the things we loved growing up and sharing that with our kids. Outsourcing the things that you don't want to do but that are valuable for your kids, even within your own family and becoming curious as a dad and allowing our kids to have the same curiosity. Dr. Stephanie Ryan, PhD is a chemist, a boy mom and a social media influencer, who enjoys using her background to create superior educational products and content. Although an academic at heart Dr. Stephanie is passionate about learning through plight, she can be found helping young kids explore the fascinating world around them. Dr. Stephanie earned her PhD in the learning sciences and her MS in analytical chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her BS in chemistry from St. Mary's College, for great learning activities in the sciences, book recommendations, and more, follow Dr. Stephanie on Instagram You can also find her online on her website, let' She's got a book out there as well, if you're interested, you can find everything about her on her website, let's This was such an interesting conversation I loved having an expert on in just how children learn. And to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised because my assumptions and my judgment was that Stephanie would come in with a very academic mindset. And me being someone who doesn't necessarily value learning for learning sake in the school system. For my kids, I think it's much more important for them to be resilient and have practical skills and to learn how to communicate and to learn how to build and grow relationships. And I don't care as much about their academics to be quite honest, I was worried that you know, she would be all about things that I don't value. And I wanted to have her on anyway, because it's such an interesting topic, how people actually learn. And I was just so pleasantly surprised that we actually got along on so many things. We talked about the importance of play and learning. And it was just so much less academic than I thought it would be. And I'm just so grateful that Stephanie was able to break this down for us in a way that makes it easy to understand and apply in our own lives. I learned a lot in this, I think it's vital that we learn how to teach our kids well and how our kids learn so that we don't get angry at them so that we don't push on them the things that we think they need to learn so that we don't shame them for being wrong. And for dads and a lot of parents, it's so hard to admit that we don't know. And this is in fact, one of the most important things we can teach our kids. So I want you to listen to this one and get some ideas on how you can best support your children and yourself in learning new things. So let's dive into Episode 53. With Stephanie Ryan.

Stephanie Ryan, thank you so much for joining me on the Dad.Work Podcast. I'm very excited for this because this is like going to be what I hope is an actionable conversation on how dads can help their kids to learn, and especially targeted around a few specific things that I'm excited to get into. So first of all, thank you for joining me, this is fantastic.

Stephanie Ryan 3:06

Yeah, thanks for having me. I love talking to dads.

Curt Storring 3:10

Amazing, ya know, the first thing I wanted to touch because this is sort of your expertise if I'm not mistaken, your your PhD is in? Could you just give me the exact title of that. So I don't butcher it.

Stephanie Ryan 3:22

I have a PhD in the learning sciences. And it focuses on how people learn. And I focused on how people learn chemistry specifically. But a lot of that translates into other domains as well. So just how people learn in general.

Curt Storring 3:36

Right, okay, that's exactly what I want to start with is like, how do people learn specifically kids, obviously, but we'll get into adults after that. And I'm just interested, like, how can I, as a father, help my kids to learn whatever they're interested in whatever maybe I want to teach them but like, what are the basic structures of learning in a child's mind?

Stephanie Ryan 3:58

They learn through play. And so in experiences, so one of the things that I always have to remind myself is that my son is a blank slate, something I might find simple or boring might actually be really exciting to him. So for me, an example I like to use is baking seven vinegar. If you do that in a bowl, I could do that once and be like, oh, cool, look, it fizzes and I'd be done with it. My son could do that over and over and over and over for hours, and he loves it. And it never gets boring for him. It's always fun and busy. And so what he's doing is he's just building that model in his head like, Okay, I added this much this time. They're little scientists, and it's not formal that they do it. They don't have their data table with their different trials they're running. But if you pay really close attention to them, that's what they're doing. Sometimes they'll do a whole squirt full of baking or vinegar, or sometimes they'll do Just a little bit of baking soda did that change. And he's building that in his head. And that is the part that I think we leave out a lot, especially now that school is kind of coming earlier and earlier. So my son's in pre K, and they do a lot of really educational things. But luckily, they still play. Because that's just a really good component for them to one model, what adults are doing. That's a big part of it, and then building their own models in their heads.

Curt Storring 5:33

Okay, excellent. So play experiences. And the question that comes up for me on that, or just with what you said about schooling is, is there like an ideal balance between school and doing this at home? Or like on their own versus play? Like, how much structure should they have in this sort of school situation versus just play?

Stephanie Ryan 5:55

That's a hard question. Lots of kids have different ways that they learn better, like, my son really likes structure, but he likes to be able to pick out the topic ahead of time. So it'll say, Mommy, can we learn about bugs sometime? Will you find some books, and so I'll find activities we can do around that. So he still gets the structure he craves. But then it's the topic he chose? I think school it's moving in that direction a little bit into the more not playing necessarily, but learning how to answer a question. So science in the US, we have the Next Generation Science Standards. And they are phenomena based. And it is it's using content to explain something rather than the way I when I was in school, it was just memorizing facts. And I can't use any of them. But now a child can see something cool and be like, Huh, why does that work? And they can figure it out and learn how to answer it. So it's not so much play. But I'd say lab is kind of like play, right. So you're able to test things out on your own a little bit. But one of the things in school is often we do it or cookbook labs. They're just like a recipe that the kid follows. And all they do is get what we wanted them to get out of it. Where if we let them design their own experiment with some boundaries, you know, like, Hey, have your teacher double check this, so something doesn't explode, you know? But like that, that actually is the better skill, being able to set up a testable question to do the experiment, not changing too many variables at the same time, or at the end of Did that answer your question? What's your evidence? So those skills, too, we don't think of those as scientists that have been a scientist. But that's most of what scientists do is they're communicating their results to people, you can't just say, like, whatever they want, they have to show with evidence of what they've been doing. And they have to show that this variable changed, because I did this here. And if you change too many things at once, you can't say that. So I think those are important as well. And that's kind of what they get at school in sort of structured not structure.

Curt Storring 8:16

Yeah, that's great. Thank you for that. The things that are coming up for me, or the difficulty that we have, at least some of us have in like letting our kids fail. And the patience that is required to let them lead. Because like, for me, personally, patients has been something that I have struggled with, and as part of my work to allow them now to like, make their own mistakes, and not be the one who cuts in. And I think we'll talk about this a little bit later. But like, how can we actually support our kids in this? Are there frameworks are there like just personal things that we as parents should be working on? How can we support this for that for our kids to learn?

Stephanie Ryan 8:52

I'm going to use my own personal experience with this. The pandemic, I started teaching pre K, which was not my background, with my son, and he wouldn't do anything for me. He wouldn't write his letters he wouldn't. I was being too formal, and he just was not having it. He missed the way his teacher did it. And so I asked his teacher, I called her and I said, I don't know what I'm doing. I was like, we're planting a garden. And he's doing that and he's having a great time. But when I tried to teach him his letters, he's not and she's like, You're forgetting that these are all skills that I would be teaching him in preschool, like pouring water and cups, helping you measure things, helping fold laundry, those are life skills. We have a life skill center, and she reminded me of that, that it doesn't have to be this formal thing that like Hello, we are going to do an experiment today and these are the things we are going to address like it's not like that. And it's not really like in school either where you've got the bullet point of what you hope they took away from it. At this age. He can take away from it, whatever he takes away from it. And it's really, it's difficult as a parent to take the step back and let them do that. And one of the times that I like to use as an example is we're making popsicles one summer, during the pandemic. I say that because now there have been several summers. We, he wanted to make the popsicles and we had the Phillies ready for them. And he's I asked him, Well, what do we do to make a popsicle? The liquids here, what do we do next? And he was like, I don't know, maybe we put it outside. And I wanted to look at him and be like, What? No, and I wanted to correct him. And it would have been faster, it would have been so fast to do that, like no freezer, let's move on. But that would have killed his curiosity. And it wouldn't have helped him build a mental model, he would have just he would have connected that kind of popsicle with a freezer, not the fact that things go from liquid to solid by being cooled, like he wouldn't have got that. So the patience that you mentioned was very key. And luckily, we had all the time in the world. But I had an ice cube tray, is there wasting our food, I kept that refrigerated. But I let him fill an ice cube tray. We tested it, set it outside on a hot day in Indiana, and it evaporated and it blew his mind. He was like, where did it go? And I wanted to be like, obviously, it didn't disappear. But he thinks it did. So we need to we need to work within what he's thinking. And so then I was like, Okay, let's try the oven, you know, and he wanted to try the refrigerator. And he noticed that in the refrigerator, it felt cooler, maybe we should put it in the freezer, freeze your popsicle, it's in the name. But like I wanted to tell him, but in the end, it really helped him because now when he knows something needs to get colder, he knows it's going to become a solid liquids go to solids. Or like if it's one day it was sleeping on our way home, it was raining, and then it kind of turned into ice. He was like, Look, mommy, it's a liquid turning into solid cuz it got cold. And I was like, yes. And so like his mental model then can be applied to other things. And so it's kind of a shift from being the authority, which as parents, that's kind of our role in our child's life or their authority figure. And it's taking a step back and letting your kid know, sometimes I don't know the answer. Or if I do know the answer, I'm not going to tell you, I'm going to let you work it out on your own. And it's okay to be wrong. Because they could be wrong for a month, like this mental model could work for them in all these situations until they come to this one time it doesn't. And that's okay. Like, it's, it's better for them to go through it that way. Because then it was their information that they pulled in instead of you telling them shutting them down making it so they don't want to ask questions or try things anymore. And it comes out as a more positive experience.

Curt Storring 13:08

This is so so good. I love this. And I think that it's it's almost giving permission to parents to just like lay off. And we all have such a hard time with this, especially now I don't know what it is about the culture necessarily. But it's like we have to get kids performing, there has to be an outcome, they have to be better than their peers, otherwise, they're not going to get into whatever schools we have in mind for them. And what I'm hearing is just like, lay off, let your child develop. And maybe you can speak to like the developmental part of this or even comment on what I just said, because maybe just like, give parents the permission again to like, understand where their kids even are like, when they're four, they're not ready to learn all these letters necessarily. They want to do stuff. So can you have any comments on that?

Stephanie Ryan 13:50

Yeah, um, so the in terms of their developmental, so for letters, that was something that you know, ABCD you just go through it, and it's memorizing, but he did a lot better when it was hearing words that began with things. And there's, I think it's Montessori that does it, where they've got the objects in little bins that start with that letter. So there's a and their physical objects that they touch, and they talk and they do that, that really worked for my son. And it was just like, Okay, well, what if we do things themed around stuff he likes? And so like, we he loves space at the time. And so we did out letters that way, like astronaut going through like that. And if if you tie it to things that they're liking, you can do anything developmental and that's the thing that I think as parents, the lay off a little component that you mentioned, I fell into that as well. Like I wanted to do like really formal, fancy experiments and a lot of parents who are not scientists. Think of science as a lab. You need fancy chemicals, you need your lab coat and all of that. But you really don't. You've got a lot of science stuff in your house, you've got yeast, you've got water, you've got sugar. And if you have a balloon, you've got an experiment, or you've got baking soda and vinegar, like there's so many things you can do with very little materials to really get it lots of science topics. And that's the thing I want to give parents permission is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are kids out there that do have stuff like that. So let's say you do have a child who's like really geeked out about chemistry, and then they just love it. There's Mel science, they send a full kit with the fancy chemical for you and your child. And there's a list of what you need to do as the adult, and how to answer questions for your kid. So, and there are people like me all over Tik Tok and Instagram, where we help parents explained things like this is the kind of question you could ask your child, you don't need to do it all yourself. And that is something that I know I struggle with personally, is I want it to be from scratch mine. But you know, that's why why do we do that to ourselves?

Curt Storring 16:13

Yeah, no, exactly. There's, um, there's a lot to be said about that. And I've struggled with that as well actually just in like, do I hire a coach for this, or if I do it myself, it'll feel better. And it'll be like my thing now, and I'll get to take all the credit. But then like, you're much more much less likely to succeed if you do it all yourself. So I love the idea of

Stephanie Ryan 16:30

doing minutes is not fun. So one of the things that I noticed in the pandemic was I cannot stand to bake with my child. It's messy. I do not enjoy a single second of it. And I am not really fun to be around. But if I purchased the cookies, premade and we, we just decorate them. We have a great time. And it took out the step that like why am I doing a step that we all hate. And it's not fun. And it's because Pinterest or Instagram kind of told me I needed to use those. This I hate this phrase life hack, but use the life hacks like they're there for a reason, like use the things like if you know this about yourself, don't Don't torture yourself with it, like find something that works for you.

Curt Storring 17:24

Yeah, no, absolutely. And what I'm interested in what you've seen be like the result in a lifetime of having had this basis of learning as a kid, like, have you noticed any outcomes in people who are allowed to learn this way rather than, you know, memorization and being forced upon from up high as it were, um,

Stephanie Ryan 17:44

I've got my own personal experience of a student going through that. I know that I used to just know equations. And I was really good. I got straight A's for many years, and I was really proud of myself. And one time while I was dating my now husband, he, he asked me a question about air and tires, and why on a cold day the pressure changes. Now I was like, ah, because PV equals nRT. And he just looked at me like I was like, Yo, okay, so the equation told you but why? And I'm like, I don't I don't actually know. So like, I had to think like at the molecular level, which no one ever made me do and all of that schooling. And it wasn't until I was a teacher, or working in education, helping other kids learn this stuff that I actually got at the molecular level, at the electron and proton level to help explain why the periodic table does what it does, like, my mind gets blown on, like, I would say, a weekly basis where I learned something. And I'm like, No way. I wish I had learned it that way. Where I feel like kids now, especially if they started in preschool, because preschool is so important. If they've started in preschool, and then they have the NGSS standards through school, I think that these kids are going to be rock stars when they're in college. Like they are going to be thinking about problems at a different level than we thought about problems. And I don't have the evidence yet for that. But I do make predictions with my colleagues who teach college I'm like, You just wait till these kids get there. And you're going to have to change what you do because it's not going to be the same.

Curt Storring 19:33

Yeah, that's amazing. I love that it's it seems to be the the thread underlying all of this is that rather than teach a specific outcome or like this equation, like you said, it's giving them an ability to to put this and understand the underlying idea behind it so that more of the world is opened up. Rather than knowing like a very specific thing about a very specific outcome. It's like okay, now I've got this underlying foundational knowledge and from that, it just, it It stands to reason I think that you would be better able to make decisions moving forward, you would have less a fear almost about unknowns, because you can then check, you know what mental model I can apply to this. And actually, do you have any thoughts about that? Like, what, what does it look like maybe in your own experience, and I can talk to this too, because I was the same sort of straight A's just knew all the things, but didn't actually like know anything. Like, is there? Or have you witnessed or observed or felt any, like fear about learning new things as an adult or a parent, when you're so used to just knowing the answers?

Stephanie Ryan 20:34

Yes. And that's something I noticed a big difference between myself and my five year old. And that is something that always just like, it smacks me in the face when that happens. Because I used to, I mean, our teachers just answered the question, even if they didn't know, and sometimes you got a wrong answer, because they didn't have a chance to go to the encyclopedia and look this up, you know, and it might take a while for a misconception to come to light, because they just answered the way they thought, because back then you couldn't say I don't know. It means you less of an authority, I feel. And now, I don't know is what you should say. I'm much more comfortable saying it now. But I mean, on a daily basis, I look things up. Like, I don't know everything, why would I know everything? That's insane to think I couldn't know everything. So kids are so much more able to ask questions and not know the answer. So my son will say, Oh, you don't know, let's us Siri. Can we look on YouTube, maybe there's a video. And it's like, that's amazing. And so like, they're trying things like my husband and I pointed out like, there's like Home Improvement kind of things that you would never have tried back in the day yourself. But now you're like, Oh, I just saw a video and it showed me exactly what to do. And I felt comfortable attempting this, if it's safe, obviously. But I just think there's definitely a difference between that is that there's that as a parent, especially that authority figure you don't want to say like, I don't know, but I mean, who there are not instruction manuals for kids. And I, I often do not know.

Curt Storring 22:22

Yeah, oh, that's such a good metaphor, too. Because like one of the things that we tell the dads who work with us or follow us, is that like, you've never done this before. Like, just get clear on the fact that you've never done this before. How could you possibly know what to do? And so whether it's like a very specific or serious parenting thing, or some question that like your kid has asked you that you've never even heard of, like, Don't pretend you know the answer, what are you gaining there, other than like leading them down this path of like, false sense of surety, and one of my favorite quotes, and I can never remember the attribution, we'll try and get in the show notes is that as the island of knowledge grows, so to to the shores of ignorance, and I just think that's so important to remember, like, yes, the more you learn, the better, you'll sort of like feel, and the more you'll have, you know, whatever the ego kick is behind knowing a lot of stuff, but you got to understand that that just opens up the fact that you know, less and less about what there is to know. And so like, maybe we can transition into us as parents learning alongside our kids. And whether that's simply like how adults learn and would love to know that. And also just like how to maintain that humility that we've just been talking about through the process.

Stephanie Ryan 23:31

I think the first thing is to accept that you don't know an answer. And that's okay. And I think that that's super important to model for your kid. Because they need to see how to handle a failure. I wouldn't call things not knowing an answer a failure, but some people would see that. They need to see what that looks like and how you handle it. So if you get frustrated, and I don't know, I'm like trying to talk it away, then that's what they're going to do when they get older. But if you want them to persevere and keep going after things that they're interested in, model it and it's not easy to do. If it takes a lot of practice. There are times I have to stop myself and be like, Okay, I don't really have time to do this right now. But I can it's five minute video, we can talk about it. And then highlighting that wow, mommy learned something today or Debbie learned something today. And it's it's just really important to keep your children knowing that you are still learning. And that learning doesn't just stop that you're not. You're not filling your brain vessel as far as it goes, and then you're done. But that I mean, when I make dinner, I learned new things. I learned how to dredge meat one day and I was like, This is crazy. How did I not know what this is? And so where I make mistakes, when I burn something, I talk about it and I'm like, wow, I really burned this. I learned a lesson though. Here's the lesson I learned and I'll try not to do that next time. So highlighting Your own process or something you found interesting in it. So, for example, we live in an age right now, that's amazing where we get to see all of these SpaceX launches in all of their prototyping. And so we're able to watch space launches all time. So we will watch that with my son and my husband is learning alongside and like, because he's so interested in it. And then the two of them kind of share that. And so it's, it's not like, I have to do this because my dad wants to, it's the look, look, we're learning together, we're seeing what happens. And sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes the engine fails, and then they can talk about that's why they did a prototype, and there are no people out there. Um, and things like that. So I think that's the big one.

Curt Storring 25:53

Yeah, no, that's, that's awesome. Latest, like this lifelong learning, which is sort of this growth mindset versus a scarcity mindset, like knowing that you can always get better. And that's part of the show. And this podcast, and this project, for me is like just giving people hope, that they can always do better, like, I read something on Instagram, from Aubrey Marcus today, which is like you couldn't have done better, but you can do better. And and it's just this understanding that like, you can always keep growing. And I like this idea of, like, when you feel failure as a parent, when you feel like you don't know the answer. So many people take that to be like, something about themselves as though they themselves are not good enough. If they don't know all the answers. And this is, we talked about this, we go pretty deep on the show in terms of like, you know, childhood wounding and perceived traumas and all that kind of stuff. But this is actually a place for a lot of men who are struggling with this to look like why are you feeling this way? Why can't you be wrong? And if this is one of those things that you're listening, you're like, oh, yeah, I would never tell my kid I don't know. Like, why. So this is just like a little reframe for you listening. Ask yourself why, like, what is it about you being wrong that you can't accept? Do you have any any thoughts on that yourself? Like, I, I've, I go through that. So maybe you have as well? Well,

Stephanie Ryan 27:08

um, I think that that is something I mean, yeah, I did have that as a as a mom's like, where at first I felt like saying, I don't know is Oh, wow, he's gonna think I'm an idiot, you know, like, why would he ever listen to me. But I do wonder if that is a little more prevalent for dads, given that their role is sometimes different, or their protein. So I know, back when I was a kid, my dad was involved, but not as involved as dads are now. But he was considered a very involved dad when I was younger. And so just the shift in that have seen like how involved dads are now and but the world, they still work with people who are in that older generation, you're kind of like, what are you doing? And so you get that from both sides. So I can see how maybe dads would experience that more, just given that that positioning they're in.

Curt Storring 28:06

Yeah, and one of the things you mentioned about like finding, like the SpaceX launches, for example, it sounded like you can find things that you're genuinely interested in, and then just like, share them with your kids. Is there a way to, like, get into an understanding of what you're actually interested in? Because for so many of us, it's like, oh, well, you know, I haven't played sports. I haven't done that hobby I loved I haven't checked out that book that I would have read everyday as a kid like my kid right now, my oldest son is reading like encyclopedias on history. Like he can't get enough but history, Revolutionary War, World War Two stuff. And so like, when he's older, will he remember that? Like, we actually love learning about that? Or will it be like, I'm just too busy? So do you have any thoughts on like, how we can get back to what we might have loved as a kid or just that we're interested in to share with our kids?

Stephanie Ryan 28:53

I think the first place to start is kind of asking your kid like what they're interested in. And so like, hey, what do you want to learn about what's something cool that you're thinking about? You know, and I like my son, right now loves dinosaurs. One of the things during the pandemic that he really liked learning about was the human body. And I was like, what? I got him a human body puzzle. And he was like, knowing what all the organs do and everything, and he would love to just start drawing human bodies, and it got a little creepy for a minute there because skeletons and muscles, but like he just he loves it. He just likes knowing what all the parts do and how they work together. And it's like, Oh, my goodness, I never would have offered that up for him. But because he liked it, I just kept building on it. And so I incorporate like, I like doing puzzles. So I get puzzles of that with him. I like to read with him. So we are very focused on books. Whenever there is a topic we want to address. We have a book that we talked with him about like that. So I tried to incorporate that. But then I also outsource things I don't like so like baking, like, not my not my jam. So my mom does that with him. But there are things you know, like my husband likes to do home improvement and things like that. So what we do is let my son help. He has his own little hammer his own little stuff, you know, like he can try or help hold something, and then he's part of it. So just showing that you're interested in what you're doing. And it's not a hassle or a chore? Because they pick up on that too. Is that the dishwasher? I don't want to do that. But I think that by highlighting that it is interesting to you, but you don't want to build it up too much. Because then they might not want to do it. Because if you're interested. There's the fine line.

Curt Storring 30:55

Right? Yeah, just it almost sounds like being generally have a positive disposition. And then just like inviting them to be around you.

Stephanie Ryan 31:03

Yeah. Or like, if there's something you need to do, like, let's say you, you do need to get some work done at your laptop, while you're right there, find an iPad game, that they can do this educational, like an Osmo game or plays Shi Fu, they both have really good ones. And they can do their work, like next to you or they have their chore and you have yours. And it's like you're still having that time together. And then they feel like they're part of it. Because that's a lot of it is they just want to be near you. And I know my son, I don't know if this is the same for little girls, because I don't remember that age, but my son just wants to be like his dad, like he just wants to do everything exactly. Like I'm like, he likes wearing the same jacket as him just smaller, like, I'm Daddy. So I think that you just remember that, that like you're the only person who can fill that role for your kid like, you're a little superhero to them. And there are ways to pull in both of your interests. And it doesn't have to cost anything, there are things around your house. So you can do together. Just try to incorporate stuff you like or remove things you don't like,

Curt Storring 32:12

Yeah, that's so good in the one of the things that I'm remembering right now is that like being open to their interests, and also then expressing my own has worked for me in the past as well. My oldest for a while was like very into Pokemon cards. And I was like, I don't really want to play Pokemon cards, like it's not something that I find fun. And then my like my men's group, actually, which is why it's so important for the guys listening to explore men's group or group of community of men in your life. We're like, Well, why don't you just play with him? Like, what does it matter? If he's interested in that? And like, why does he have to be interested in what you're interested in? I played with him. And it was just like, you know, this is outside of the realm of learning, necessarily, but I just went there, and he was so happy with it. And when I'm now doing things like exercise, or you know, stretching, or I'm talking about business, like he's more interested, and it's just like, it's a two way street. And I just I like that part of it as well. And the last thing that I want to comment on just to like underscore is this, you said outsourcing stuff. And this is so hard for so many people, either it's like, oh, I would never pay for that. Or like you mentioned your your mother, I think and so like it doesn't have to be something you pay for. But even if it is what you need to pay for, like outsourcing makes everything so much better, because then you can focus on your genius. So do you have any like thoughts about that I know you've mentioned at least twice now. So maybe just like give us the overview of how you consider outsourcing.

Stephanie Ryan 33:33

Um, I think and like I said where it is, I don't like making a huge mess in the kitchen when we cook together. But I just buy premade cookies. We decorate them we do the fun bit. Or I will find a craft that is fully thought out. And it's not a from scratch craft like but it's a kit. So I love kits kits are the best. They come with all the pieces you need, the direction you need. And that's it like and then you you're done with it, and then you can determine a grandparent to give it to because you don't need to keep it in your house. Because I'm not a huge craft person. I'm not very crafty and my son loves them. And so like that's just something I go to JoAnn Fabric on their day after Christmas and I pick up their crafts for like 70% off and he doesn't care what holiday it is. He could just do it with them. And then he remembers that and like you said it's something that it's almost like you're building rapport even though you don't need to because you already have your kid. You're in their life. But one of the things we like to show my son is like he likes the game uno, not a huge fan of UNO probably because I played it so much when I was a kid but I'm just over it, but it's his favorite and he will not play anything else. And I'll say like, Oh, I'll play a game of UNO and then can we play something Mommy wants to play? And like we talk about You don't always do what you want to do. Like, I just played this with you and we had fun. But it wasn't my favorite. This one's I like Sorry, sorry, is my favorite? Can we do something for both of us, and that does teach empathy. And it teaches those emotional intelligence skills. So when you said something earlier about not really a learning opportunity, I totally disagree. That is a learning opportunity to see like of how to behave like it's an emotional learning, your son learned that you did something that wasn't in your like natural wheelhouse, and you still have fun. And that's what being a dad means. And so like, he'll apply that later in life. And I think that that kind of learning is also important. We shouldn't just go over it too quickly.

Curt Storring 35:53

Yeah, thank you for for saying that, and almost calling me out in a sense. And like my, to be quite honest, my judgment here is like, Oh, I gotta like, keep it really academic and all this kind of stuff. And you're coming at me with like, a lot more of the empathetic sort of underlying structures that I typically talk about. And I'm finding myself like feeling weird about that, to be quite honest. And this is a great opportunity. No, no, no, not at all. It's my, it's my issue, because I'm like, showing up in a way that doesn't necessarily feel as authentic as I could. And I love that this is now like part of this because we've got like the meta lesson, we've got a learning lesson, we've got the actual like science bits. And now we're just like, riffing, as it were. And I think that's actually the most important part of this whole episode, which is just like, look, I'm being vulnerable by right now, because I was not doing a great job. And I like wasn't thinking about how to connect because I was worried about something. And then you're just like being authentic and disagreeing, and like calling me out on where I missed an opportunity to, like be seen and to connect with my kids. I love that. Like, I love that this is such a weird meta lesson that's coming up now. But I'm so grateful for that reflection. So thank you very much.

Stephanie Ryan 37:01

Yeah, one of the things I like to tell parents is give yourself more credit that you're giving. Because if you look at what you're doing through your child's eyes, you're doing a lot. And you may feel like you missed some check marks on your own list for today. But your child is healthy, they're happy that you fed them today. They're their clothes, like the basics are met, you're doing a great job. And give yourself credit like that. Things are hard, and you are moving forward. So that's something I always like to point out, give yourself the credit where it's due.

Curt Storring 37:39

Yeah, totally. Yeah, it's the first you've never done this before. It's really hard. That's one thing we talked about. A couple weeks ago, in a men's group, it's just like, it's hard guys. Like being a dad being a parent. It's just hard. Of course, it is like cut yourself some slack. So yeah, I'm glad that that's part of the conversation as well. Because like, you can, the way I approach this as I'm like, a little bit scared of the science aspect, cuz it's like, oh, this is all about getting things, right. And that's not it at all. It's about like, almost failing on on purpose. And I know we talked about, or you mentioned failure before, it's not failure. It's like learning. But for me, I had a hard hard time doing anything that I was perceiving that was going to be a potential failure. Because in my mind, I thought that if I failed, my veneer of like perfection, would be seen through. And perfection for me was this like defense mechanism to just like, have people assume something about me that I was not and have people like me and love me and like, not leave me. And so like all of this to say, like me, and my learning style was actually influenced by something much, much deeper. And it wasn't until I like intentionally leaned into a failure in my life, actually, just this last year, that I was able to start going like, yeah, I don't know, I don't know, here's my failure, like, I'm willing to fail now, because I've realized it's not so crushing. It's not as bad as I thought, and nobody hates me. Nobody thinks I'm a loser. So just like I wanted to share that, because I think that's something that comes up for dads, which is like, I can't be seen to be wrong, which is going back to our first sort of part of this conversation is just like, what is that underlying thing that you can't say, I don't know. You can't say I'm wrong. You can't like try something and fail, because that's what our kids are doing when they're learning. Right? Yeah.

Stephanie Ryan 39:17

And I think that along with that, I don't know is that I don't want to sometimes as well. So my husband and I were just talking about this. My Facebook feed is filled with moms doing all the Christmas stuff. Like in the area, I live in there, like 100 different light shows there. Santa is all over the place. Like there's so many things you could do. And I feel like the moms look exhausted, like because they're trying to do them all. And we were talking about like, where did this come from? And I think some of it was because there used to be a tradition that you would choose you pick one, like my family does the light show your family might go to a farm, but we each do one thing But with the evolution of social media now we feel like we have to do at all. And it was like this week, instead of buying advance tickets, we didn't for anything. And it just naturally came about like, Would you like to go to the light show this week? Yeah, that sounds fun. Let's do that. Let's find a Santa that's available, you know, unlike just seeing it as a comes instead of buying these advanced tickets, because we felt like we had to, and then nobody wants to, and then everybody goes, it's just like these forced experiences. And I think that that's a lot like learning. So we don't want to force these experiences on them. It needs to be something that's more playful or less obvious that it's learning. And then it's fun for the dad, the mom, the Son, the daughter, like for everybody in just a different way. Hmm,

Curt Storring 40:52

yeah, that's such a mindful reflection and such a good thing for people to think about in their own lives, like, where are they just doing things because they feel they have to, and not actually honoring the I don't want to do that. And then it allows for these organic experiences, like you're saying, we're like, you probably actually enjoyed doing the things you chose to do much more.

Stephanie Ryan 41:10

Oh, exactly. And our presence are mapped. And it's we feel good about where we're at, and nobody's tired, like, and it was all very purposeful, and we don't feel worn out by the holiday, which I feel like some people when they get out of Christmas are exhausted. It's like, No, we just we approached it differently this year. And last year, my dad had a health event two years ago, and ever since then, we've been being more thoughtful of how we celebrate things. And so you're right, it was definitely an internal monologue of like, how, what are the shoulds? And what we want to do? And so whenever I think in my head, like, I should do this, I stopped myself like, why should i Who says I should? And like, is it something I think I should do? Because if yes, then we'll do it. But and so I think that this is a good piece of advice for anybody.

Curt Storring 42:06

Yeah, yeah, that's, that brings up this like the shoulds. And this is like, totally another tangent. Totally unrelated. But I just It reminds me of when I read Sapiens by I think Yuval Noah Harare, it really like it brought back all these shoulds to being like societal cultural stories that we tell just to get along. And so if there's any shoulds in your life that you just like, don't feel aligned with maybe read the book, if you're listening, I'll put it in the show notes. But it really helped me go like, there's no shoulds like, these are all just cultural things that we've sort of done in this event. And like, if you go back far enough, none of these should make any sense. And so you just have to pick what's valuable to you, like, where do your values lie. And then like, those are your shoulds, I should be true to myself, I should like, honor my own emotional needs right now. I should honor my energetic needs right now. And that's just like so much more healthy. Overall,

Stephanie Ryan 42:58

I think that can be applied to learning as well. So that's the the shoulds. So as a person, like I've helped write textbooks, and there's just a normal progression that you teach content, you start with this, you go through this, and the book always goes in this order. And that's why most books all look similar for textbooks, but you don't have to teach it that way. Like if your kid really liked baking soda and vinegar experiments, you can teach a lot of chemistry with baking soda and vinegar, you could teach stoichiometry, you could teach reaction rate, like you could teach so many things with just these two things in your kitchen. And it doesn't have to be this formal thing that we the way we experienced it. So I think by going with what your kids are interested in, you can scour the web of like, ways people have taught this, can I teach this using this? Or alphabet activities that involve dinosaurs? Or like just to get both of those together? Um, that's definitely that's how I approached it during the pandemic when it was foreign to me.

Curt Storring 44:09

Yeah, no, that's awesome. And those are great. Just like Google it. Just Google it, see what's out there. I wanted to talk about STEM in the home. Because I know this is something that you've sort of been involved with. How should we think about this because like, personally, and this is just like, how we think about it. I don't want my kids to be on like iPads all the time. I don't want them to be like, totally screen focused. There's a balance between like living in the modern world, but also like not loving the necessary consequences of some of this. So is there like a balance where we can learn these important tools to be like modern and advanced things and just be like, super interesting because they're awesome. And, like, be mindful about how we approach this. Like, What's your general thoughts on that? Am I you know, totally barking up the wrong tree or where do we go from

Stephanie Ryan 45:01

So I used to be of the mindset of the less screen time is better. And then in the pandemic, it became a little bit more necessary to get a minute to myself. It was like, Okay, I need a minute, like, I need something that I can put him independent because he was three, and three year olds are not very independent yet. So. So I found that there are these games out there that are totally educational, but they don't tell the kids that they're educational, all. And there was this game with lasers, where you would reflect the lasers to like, find clues. And so not only were you reasoning through clues, but you were learning about refraction of laser. So my son has no idea that he understands that, but if you had him hold a flashlight, he would know what way it would bend around the corner because of this game. And I think that there are definitely some, I mean, kids need to know how to use stuff like this coding is gonna be more important. There are a lot of coding games that kids can do, where they're like mochi is a book that it has a book that it reads, and you can code where mochi goes on the mat. So he is a stuffed animal on like a little robot, and you are coding him up to move around to match the story. And so like it's pulling in all of these facets, so I wouldn't say that the Tech has to be a necessary evil, because there's definitely some garbage out there. Like there's definitely some stuff that's not worth. But I think as long as you're being intentional about what you're choosing, and then how you talk about it afterward. So like even watching a Pixar movie, like, what's the name of that inside out? And what we did was we talked about emotions, like if today, would you map out your day? What colors would you have used? Would you say that was a good day or a bad day? Do you ever feel angry like that and like talking through the things so I there's definitely like this like fine line with tech. But for doing the other kinds of stuff in your house, you can do lots of stuff in your kitchen. So most of cooking and baking is chemistry, you could grow a garden with your kids. You could buy like a lamp to like in our basement last summer or last winter, we put a lamp with seeds, and we went to seeds grow and into plants that we planted them in the garden and then picked the vegetables. And then we turned what's left in compost. So my son got to see the full cycle. Just stuff like that like that you might have already been doing just include, include them let them help.

Curt Storring 47:51

Yeah, no, this is so good. Like, that's what we do to like we it's all about, a lot of this stuff is like natural world stuff. I like to bake a lot. So I'm also hesitant to invite them in because like I've really loved order. And the chaos that comes from children baking is very difficult. It's just like it. Yeah, no, thank you for the for the candidness. Because a lot of people just want like admit that, and then get the help. They need to make sure that someone else can help them their kids with that. That's what I actually love most about this like outsourcing talk you're giving, it's just like you're respecting yourself in this and you're not hurting your kid by doing that by setting the boundaries for yourself. It's just like this what I need. And then you find other ways to do it by outsourcing it. And then

Stephanie Ryan 48:33

they get the best version of you instead of the like, Oh, I hate this version.

Curt Storring 48:39

That's so important to just like guarding your own energy as a parent, you know, a mother or a father it just so that when you do show up fully, it's just like, it's not necessarily mostly good. But it's intentional, as you mentioned, and it's like your best self. And that goes so far. And like the just the the feel just as body feel of being around someone who's like kind of annoyed because they're doing something they don't want is you just like you know this as an adult like it's just it's so much different. It changes the desire to be around that person and for your kids. I think that's super important. Obviously. I'm curious to know if there's any like, what are the final thoughts on teaching our kids on our kids learning on? Like, I know, we've talked about a whole bunch of stuff and correcting mental models without correcting them and giving them the choice to like put their ice cube tray out in the sun instead of the freezer. That's awesome. But like, Are there anything that we missed? Are there any very fundamental pieces that you'd like to share with the dads listening?

Stephanie Ryan 49:34

I just say it doesn't have to be formal, and it doesn't have to be with fancy anything unless you want it to like let's say you really you dig science experiments like that's cool. Or you like building engineering things. I know my husband really likes doing engineering things with my son. There are kits. You can buy a kit that will help you make like a mechanical arm to pick up toys weighs and stuff like that. Like it's all out there. And instead of getting a plastic toy, that is something that will be a fleeting moment, like build something with them. Like it's, it's something you can do at home. But even still, it doesn't have to cost anything, you can do things a home, let them play, ask them questions. So like with baking soda and vinegar, you'd let them pour it, and then you what's happening? Do you think that's still baking soda? Do you think that's still vinegar was that a solid, a liquid or a gas, like breaking it down to help them notice change around them will really help them down the road?

Curt Storring 50:42

Great, man, this is so great that I was not expecting to be quite honest, I was thinking it's gonna be like super academic, like, get them in school, like, just do all these like fancy science things. And what I'm getting like very gratefully, is this just like pay attention to them, bring them alongside, like, do some self care things, slow down, let them figure things out, let them make mistakes. And like this is a way more rounded conversation about learning and like developing our kids that I I don't even know if we need to call it just learning. It's like life, just like how to be a parent like these are all very applicable to all of parenting.

Stephanie Ryan 51:19

Well, and that's something to that, like I a big focus of mine is getting people to recognize the science around them. And I agree, science is life. Life is learning. Like it's all together. And so if we're starting to approach it as how can I answer this question about the status, like how do you spiders spin webs? That's weird. What other animals do that? Like? Can we make some comparisons, you know, and just like to be able to figure stuff out and like to have that, that curiosity? I just, that's, that's so important. And if we teach science in that way, instead of chapter 12, page seven, you're gonna get further and your kids going to be more interested. And again, more curious.

Curt Storring 52:08

Yeah, one of the things that about curiosity that I love and just try to make sure that I never forced my kids out of this is that in one of the Leonardo da Vinci biographies, I read, he was renowned for his curiosity and his attention to the things he was curious about. And one of the things that he did was he he paid such close attention to the wing movement of bird, that he understood that it wasn't simply an up and down, it was a sort of forward motion, and then they like swooped backwards motion. And just like imagine the amount of curiosity that must have been there to like, pay so much attention to a birdwing. Like who does that. And it's a very childish trait, and it's something that we lose. And so I love that you said curiosity. And maybe that's that'll be the final thing to leave the dads like, just you become curious and let your kids be curious to

Stephanie Ryan 52:55

yeah, definitely let them build, like, we use Magna tiles, and we'll let my son just build it, he'll be like, Look, when I created it, he'll come on show us that, like, my superhero can pop right out, go in the car. And it's just like this thing that it's not on the box. It didn't tell him that he used his own creativity. And he was so proud of himself that he did it. And I think that's so important. So definitely that curiosity. We've got to keep that going.

Curt Storring 53:24

Yeah, all right, Stephanie, this has been so much fun. And I have learned a lot actually about how kids learn how we learn and how we can help our kids to grow and learn along the way. So where can people find more about you?

Stephanie Ryan 53:36

So let's learn about science is my Instagram and Tiktok handle, we have a lot of content on there. And then my website is let's learn about

Curt Storring 53:48

Brilliant, okay, and what are some of the things that you offer? I know you've got a book, what are some of the ways that people can work with you?

Stephanie Ryan 53:55

Yeah, so I have a book for small children called let's learn about chemistry, where they play a game of which of these is not like the other to learn about chemistry using their toys, which is really fun. And then I provide content for parents, like your kid likes to learn about firemen, here is a whole week's worth of material you can do with them. I've done the work to find it for you. Here are the books I recommend here some experiments like that. And then we just do a lot of experiments and share science toys because I know that there's a lot of junk out there that says stem on it, but it's not really a good product. And so I like to share things that I actually really do record.

Curt Storring 54:41

Nice. That's so helpful. Yeah, we've bought some stuff and it's just like, What is this? Like? It's got, you know, it's got the letters on it, but it's certainly not legit. So that's very cool to hear. All right, Stephanie, thank you so much again for taking the time to share your expertise and your wisdom. I have really enjoyed this.

Stephanie Ryan 54:55

Thanks for having me. I had fun too.

Curt Storring 55:04

That's it for this episode thank you so much for listening it means the world to find out more about everything that we talked about in the episode today, including Show Notes resources and links to subscribe leave a review work with us go to, that's DAD.WORK/POD type that into your browser just like a normal URL, To find everything there you need to become a better man, a better partner and a better father. Thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next time.

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