Within recent years, technology and science have been on the fast-track. New innovations, medicines, and advances have appeared and influenced our way of life. There has also been a push for engaging children in these fields. One avenue to expose children to these areas is through STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, activities. Through STEM, children not only learn more about science and technology, but they develop life skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and collaboration. In return, children want to learn more and explore these fields, pursue careers in them, and help maintain our country’s future growth and stability, as we continue to become more technological.
There is no correct age to introduce your child to STEM and you don’t have to start with a big exercise. In fact, your child may already be doing something STEM- related, such as building structures with LEGOS or playing with slime. A common thread with the activities is that they are all hands-on, interactive, and can hold a child’s attention. Looking for a good place to begin? Try these STEM activities at home.
Activities for Kids under Five
Young children can still reap the benefits of STEM through everyday actions. Be sure to ask questions and try different ways to conduct these experiments. The more you can explore, the more learning that will take place. For example, by
- Creating ramps and buildings with household items and toys;
- Water play and seeing what items will float or sink;
- Experimenting with shadows and their effects;
- Blowing bubbles;
- Discovering their own five senses through the Apple Activity. In this experiment, you will need: 5 different varieties of apples, paper plates for each, a knife for cutting, paper for reflections, and a marker. Place each apple on a paper plate and label the plate with its type. Let your child observe each apple’s differences with their five senses. What does it look like (color and shape)? What does it smell like? What does it feel like? Have them make notes on their senses on the paper. Then, cut the apples into slices and give your kid another opportunity to analyze the apple slices with his or her five senses, this time adding in the sense of taste. What does the apple taste like? Does it crunch? These simple questions can lead into big observations and developmental skills.
Turn Milk into Plastic Experiment
(Suggested Age – Elementary and Middle School)
As a child grows older, more complicated and integral STEM investigations can take place, such as the Turn Milk into Plastic Experiment.
1 Cup milk
4 Teaspoons white vinegar
Stove or microwave
Molds for shaping
- In a pot, heat the milk on the stove or in a microwave until it starts steaming. Remove from heat.
- Pour the white vinegar into the milk and mix together, stirring gently for about one minute. The milk will begin to curdle.
- Using a strainer, drain the remaining liquid from the curdle. You may also need to pat the curdles dry with a paper towel.
- Place the curds in a bowl or jar and soak with more vinegar. Let sit for about an hour. Repeat the drying process from step 3 again. This step is completely optional and your end results will not be affected if you chose to skip over this step. However, the extra soaking time helps prevent crumbles and gives a smoother texture for shaping.
- Using your molds or by hand, shape your mixture. You can flatten it or make 3D structures.
- Place aside to dry for about two days. If you are using a mold, you can remove the object after 24 hours.
- Decorate your creation however you choose with paints, beads, etc.
(Activities for Middle and High School Students)
For middle and high school students, some examples of projects to explore are:
- Dissecting a strawberry’s DNA;
- Creating a stop-motion animation;
- Building a catapult;
- Designing miniature robots;
- Constructing a volcano.
Instructions and suggestions for how to complete these activities can be found through a quick online search.
STEM is all around us. It is something that can be easily added to each day and can have an immense impact on children. Many ideas are out there as to how you can include STEM in your family’s routine. Don’t be afraid to research, investigate, and experiment with your child. Not only will skills and lessons be learned, but memories will also be made.