Children are natural scientists and explorers. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning can happen anywhere as children make observations, ask questions, and explore problems.
As you think about STEM activities for your child, consider the following points:
- The skills and attributes children gain through STEM activities are usually more important than the project itself. Children’s ability to ask questions, carefully observe, explore possibilities, think critically, and solve problems will benefit them for years to come.
- STEM activities present themselves in everyday moments. Listen to your child’s questions. Cultivate curiosity in yourself. Read interesting books on science-related topics. Ask, “I wonder?”
Below is a roundup of a few simple STEM activities you can do at home with materials you may already have lying around the house.
Harvest a pizza. Grow a tomato plant, along with basil and pepper plants. All three have similar growing needs – rich soil, plenty of sunlight, and consistent moisture. In small spaces, choose “determinate” tomato plants, which are smaller and more compact than indeterminate varieties. By mid-summer, you’ll have most of the ingredients for a delicious pizza.
Build a structure. Offer small pieces of cardboard and plastic cups. Ask your child: “What can you build? Why do some structures stand up better than others?” Make ramps for toy cars. Place the ramp at different angles, and notice together that the cars go faster when the ramp has a deeper incline.
Keep adventure supplies on hand. Keep a backpack stocked with everything you need for exploration – child-friendly binoculars, a magnifying glass, a notebook, a small field guide, wipes, sunscreen, and snacks. Whether exploring a nearby pond or taking a longer hike, you’re ready. Your adventure supplies might include a few good reference books or basic science or craft supplies, depending on your family’s interests.
Explore properties of matter. Pour cream in a bowl and you have a liquid. Toss it in an ice cream maker with some sugar, and it transforms—first becoming a viscous liquid and later, a solid. Heat water in a teapot and watch the steam come from the spout. Make a batch of cookies together. Point out that the dough is soft and pliable. After baking, the cookies are still soft, but as they cool, they become hard.
Learn about chemical reactions. Combine yeast with sugar and warm water and let it sit for 20 minutes. Ask: “What changes do you see? What does the yeast smell like?” Make a simple pancake batter with your child. While the pancakes are cooking, point out how they rise.
- Hone observation skills. Here’s a fun game for school-age children: take a small notebook on a family walk. Ask your child to identify and draw a plant while you look away, and then try to find the plant. Together, explore the various colors, textures, and shapes of plants. Count the number of petals or leaves on a flower or stem.
STEM activities don’t require a lot of planning. By seeing the opportunities in everyday activities, you instantly boost your child’s learning.
DIY STEM Activity: Building Ramps
The Kindergarten Prep classroom at Bright Horizons at the Hingham Shipyard learned about the effect of ramp height on speed with Ron the Armadillo, exploring engineering concepts, as well as cause and effect.