STEM Activities For Curious Kids
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths, and here at Kabode we love doing STEM activities with our kids! These four educational focus areas crossover and intertwine a lot, so supporting your child to develop their knowledge and interest in one area will enrich their foundation for learning about another. Plus, STEM activities are a lot of fun! What could be cooler than science experiments, building rocket ships, making cars go fast or solving seemingly impossible puzzles?
The great news is you don’t need to be a super scientist or maths wizard to support a child to explore STEM, in fact you can have the most fun trying things and figuring out how things work - or don’t work - together. We’ve pulled together a list of some great STEM activity ideas for different age groups below that you can try at home. If you do, let us know how it goes via our Instagram page!
STEM activities for babies
OK, so 0-12 month olds aren’t quite ready to hypothesise the outcome of a chemical reaction or explain pythagoras theorem, but you can support their own experiments into physics, nature, gravity, textures, quantities and more by setting up activities that allow them to explore in their own way and start learning how things work. Here are some ideas;
Create a sensory basket
Gather items from the toy box and around the house that have a variety of different textures for baby to explore. Grabbing hands will be fascinated by the different feelings of a wooden spoon, a metal bracelet, a flower etc.
Discover temperatures together
Let little ones feel differences in temperature by offering them bowls of cold and lukewarm water, letting them cuddle a warm hot water bottle, or handing them items straight from the fridge whilst explaining what is hot and what is cold… Naturally, take care not to expose them to temperatures too hot or cold for their delicate skin, limit the time they are holding items above or below room temperature and stop if they show any sign of discomfort.
Feel the force
Next time you’re changing a nappy could you let baby kick some things over? Show them different items - a bottle of lotion, a pile of cotton wool, a book standing on end, and let them kick them. This will help them to explore physics, discovering how much force is required to push different things, and how to control and direct their feet. And it might just hold their attention long enough for you to change their nappy without fuss, win win!
STEM activities for toddlers
Before they start school, the everyday activities that preschoolers enjoy provide them with building blocks that will become the core of their interest in STEM later in life. At this age their curiosity knows no limits and they love to be involved in anything their parents are doing.
Make a volcano
Create a chemical reaction at home by pouring white vinegar into bicarbonate of soda. It will fizz and spread in a fascinating way. Put the bicarbonate of soda into a narrow necked water bottle, add a few drops of red food colouring and shape a volcano around the outside with play-doh. When you add the vinegar (or allow your toddler to pour it in) it will create a fab volcano effect that your child can watch and even get their hands into if they want to, learning how two different things can mix together to create something else though a chemical reaction.
Weigh it up
If you have, or can borrow, an old fashioned weighing scale your toddler can have lots of fun finding items around the house to see how their weights compare to each other. Understanding weights and measures is a fundamental maths skill, so they are learning while they play. If you don’t have a balancing scale you could create one using a coat hanger - tie a string to each end and hang a bucket or cup from each string. Hang the coat hanger from a door handle or other toddler height place and let them weigh things all afternoon. You can join in by finding different things for them to weigh - especially fun if they get to try things they don’t usually get to play with such as Dad's toothbrush or the dog’s lead.
STEM Activities for children
Once children start school they will have a rocket put under their imagination and understanding of STEM. Suddenly they will unlock new skills and knowledge that will answer questions they have about the world, and prompt whole new questions and areas of wonder. It’s a lot of fun seeing life through a school child’s eyes and wondering along with them.
Egg drop challenge
A classic experiment in physics, exploring forces, motion and resistance. The aim is to protect an egg that is dropped from a height, by making a parachute, protective structure or cushion for it. The whole family can get involved here, each thinking up their own egg protection system, working on creating it, and finally holding the big egg drop competition to see whose design does the best job of minimising the impact on their egg.
Launch a bottle rocket
Using the same vinegar and bicarbonate of soda reaction as the volcano above, you can turn it upside down and make an explosive bottle rocket that launches high into the air! Firstly, your child will need to build a launch pad that can hold the upside down bottle in place - this could be made from lego, lolly sticks and tape, card… let them plan it and figure out the best design using what you have at home. In an outdoor area such as a large garden or field, put a couple of cups of vinegar into the bottle. Now put a heaped tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda into a twist of paper towel, put it in the neck of the bottle and plug the bottle with a cork. Moving quickly, turn the bottle upside down, place it in the launchpad and step back. After a couple of seconds the vinegar will reach the bicarbonate of soda, the fizzing will cause pressure to build up the bottle will fire up into the air - it can go a few metres and at great speed!
Supersize your toothpaste
For some fantastic inspiration, check out the Youtube channel of NASA Engineer Mark Rober. A hero of STEM, he creates family friendly videos once a month that go to great lengths to demonstrate STEM in action. He holds the Guiness World Record for making elephant toothpaste, having filled an entire back yard and swimming pool with it - see how he did it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kou7ur5xt_4