10 Fun STEM Projects You Can Do at Home
Keep kids’ minds active this summer
Need help with your new smartphone? Call a kid! Young kids learn quickly how to navigate a tablet, and by grade school are wanting their own social media account. With summer approaching, how can parents tap into these tech skills without increasing screen time? Diverting their attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning, under the guise of age-appropriate play, not only provides stimulating brain activity, it might help children through college and into their careers.
The need for STEM learning
In our information-centered world, being technologically fluent is a necessity. You might find it surprising that only 16 percent of high school seniors show an interest in STEM according to the Department of Education, and less than half go on to pursue careers in the field. This might be why the U.S. ranks dismally among industrialized nations for math (39th) and science (25th).
The job outlook in these fields, however, is outstanding. For example, mathematical science occupations are growing at a rate of 28.2 percent, compared with the average projected growth for all occupations of 6.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Getting youth involved in STEM
Introducing STEM activities to youth early is crucial to develop their ability to innovate, be technologically fluent and understand how and why things work together. But traditional educational resources often are lacking. Parents can step in and provide easy and inexpensive STEM activities for kids at each stage of development.
Here are 10 activities for kiddos as young as pre-school that are so fun, they won’t even know they are preparing for the future.
10 Simple STEM activities for kids
1. Crystal Names: Chemistry
This experiment allows kids to make a crystalized rendition of their name—and who doesn’t love that? It’s so much fun you might want to jump in and make your own. But don’t forget to explain the chemical reaction that creates crystals.
2. Oil spill activity: Engineering/Science
Create an activity you can tie into real life environmental news. In this simple activity, you combine oil and water, add feathers and give kids tools to clean up the “oil spill.” Let kids determine the effectiveness of various clean up materials, such as a spoon, sponge, paper towels. The challenge is to not remove too much water. The activity is a good basis to discuss impacts of oil spills on wildlife and the environment, clean-up methods and engineers that work on environmental disasters.
3. Lego activities: STEAM
If you haven’t checked in with the Lego company lately, they are definitely hip on STEAM learning (adding the “A” for art into STEM). Lego has an education portion of their website, with activities targeted at different age groups. One new product getting a lot of attention is SPIKE Prime, a learning solution combining building a robot with LEGO bricks, coding it setting up a programmable multi-port Hub.
Check out the Lego education website here.
4. Coding a Lego maze: Technology
There are also many blogs that incorporate Legos into STEM learning. Folks from Research Parent have come up with a coding activity using Legos they say can be “played” by kids as young as kindergarten. Though kids likely won’t be aware they are taking the first steps toward coding, the basic building blocks are there—putting themselves in the shoes of the user to line up codes (instructions) to move their Lego character through the maze.
5. Easter egg addition – Math
This is so easy, but an effective and fun way teach math skills. Take those leftover plastic eggs from Easter, and on one half write an equation. On the other half, write the solution. Then mix up the egg bottoms and tops by connecting different halves together. Kids match up the problem to solution.
6. Pipe cleaner counting- Math
Visual cues for students learning to count are helpful. What we like about this activity is its simplicity. Kids stack beads onto marked pipe cleaners while counting aloud. The activity can be done again and again.
Get information and optional activities here.
For older kids
7. Bottle Rockets- Chemistry and Engineering
Just mention rockets and explosions, and your budding STEM kids will be all over this project! Gather a few simple items—an empty 32-ounce. plastic soda bottle, baking soda, paper towels, a cork and a jug of vinegar. The engineering part comes in by having kids design and build a platform to hold the “rocket.” This can be done with tinker toys, Legos or similar building blocks.
8. Magnetic slime- Science
Any junior scientist can make slime, but this version is magically magnetic. The only uncommon ingredient is a rare earth magnet, which you can order on Amazon for a few bucks. Not only will kids get to combine ingredients for gooey slime, but it will move and slither when attracted to neodymium. This gives you an opportunity to discuss neodymium and other rare earth elements too! Note: a neodymium battery is necessary—others will not be strong enough.
9. Pumpkin Chunkin: Engineering
Don’t worry, your kids won’t be hurling full size squash over the neighbor’s fence (yet), but they’ll still get excited about engineering by building a homemade catapult. This one uses jumbo popsicle sticks and rubber-bands, hurling candy pumpkins (or any round candy). They can experiment by seeing what size candy sails farther. Who knows? They may be interested in building a full-size trebuchet at some point. Better start growing the pumpkin patch!
10. Stop-motion animation video: Technology
A hand-crafted animated video is the basis for this creative STEM learning. Stop motion animation is the precursor to computer animation. It involves taking a picture of a scene of objects, then moving elements slightly, taking another image, and so on. With just a few objects, a smartphone or iPad and a stop-motion app, your kids can learn about the technology behind movie-making and create a video unique to their own likes and interests.
If screen time is a must for your kiddos, direct them to these STEM apps from Parents Magazine. Whether hands-on or through an app, keep those young brains active and interested in science, technology, engineering and math this summer.