10 Simple STEM Activities for Kids That Will Stimulate Young Minds
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects are vital pieces of our children’s education and lives. But according to the Department of Education, fewer than 16 percent of high school seniors show an interest in STEM, and only half of those studying go on to pursue careers in the field.
This poses a national problem. Our nation is falling behind, ranking 29th in math and 22nd in science among industrialized nations. As parents and educators, you know that STEM activities need to be introduced early on because in today’s age of information, the ability to innovate, be technologically fluent and understand how and why things work together is so important.
However, finding easy and inexpensive STEM activities for kids is not always easy. So we’ve taken the guesswork out for you. We compiled a list of 10 simple and inexpensive STEM activities for kids so that you can start introducing STEM to your kiddos or students as early as preschool.
10 Simple STEM activities for kids
Check out these 10 simple and inexpensive STEM activities for kids and start your child or student on the path to success!
1. Magnetic slime
For this activity, you’ll need a few special ingredients so be sure to plan ahead. When you’re finished, your kiddos will get to experience an ooey-gooey slime that seems to magically move when exposed to neodymium (rare earth) magnets.
2. Homemade catapults
In this activity, you’ll help your children get excited about engineering by building a homemade catapult with jumbo popsicle sticks and rubber-bands. You can even incorporate some science in as well by hypothesizing which objects will fling farther and then following through with the experiment.
3. Oil spill activity
Why not try an activity that will connect back to real issues? In this activity, you simply mix oil and water in a large container and add a few feathers to the mix. Then pass out materials that might help the kids remove the oil from the water, such as sponges, paper towels or little spoons. Have the kids try to remove the oil without removing too much water. You can use this activity to show how oil spills can affect the environment, by helping them see how the oil affected the feathers and how difficult it was to remove it from the water. You can also use this activity to talk about the type of engineers that work to handle environmental issues.
4. Coding a Lego maze
In this activity, your child or student (as early as kindergarten) can begin to learn the basics of coding. With the free printables provided, including different mazes and instruction cards, your child will get to put themselves in the shoes of the “user” (Lego person) and start to line up different codes (instructions) in order to guide their Lego person through the maze.
5. Hot Ice
This activity will take a little longer, so prepare the kiddos to wait out the process by telling them it’s worth it. In the end, they will get to see an “ice” crystal appear nearly out of thin air, and you’ll help them get a glimpse into the scientific process of nucleation. The great part? This project only needs two common household ingredients: vinegar and baking soda.
6. Lego addition
For your kiddos who love Legos, incorporate some simple math into their play. Create additions cards for young ones (e.g., 3 red + 2 yellow) and more difficult math challenges for the older kids (e.g., 2 x 2 blue). Then let them build towers to find and display their answers.
7. Easter egg addition
In a slight modification of this activity, all you need are some plastic Easter eggs and a sharpie. On one half of the Easter egg, write the math problem and on an opposite half write the problem’s solution. Then mix up the problems and solutions by connecting different halves together. Have your child or student unscramble the eggs, matching each problem with its correct answer. You can even make it an egg hunt to add another element of fun!
8. Jellybean building
All you’ll need is a pile of jellybeans and toothpicks for you student or child to start learning about structures. By connecting toothpicks with jellybeans, encourage your child to see which shapes hold together well, which shapes stack well and which shapes are most interesting to look at. This activity can help them start to understand the thought, design and technology behind structural engineering.
9. Pipe cleaner counting
For the student or child just learning to count, understanding that numbers increase in size can be confusing. With just pipe cleaners and beads, you can help your child learn to count while also getting a visual of how numbers increase in size. Simply take small pieces of paper and label each pipe cleaner with a number. Then, have your child order the pipe cleaners from smallest to greatest and start stringing on the correct number of beads while counting aloud.
10. Stop-motion animation video
Here’s an excellent option for creative STEM learning. We’ve all seen the fun stop-motion videos online, but you probably never thought of creating one yourself or, better yet, with your kids. 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.
The importance of ECE
Now that you have some simple and inexpensive STEM activities for kids, you might be wondering how to share your passion for ECE with others in your life. If so, you’ll want to check out our article, “4 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Importance of Early Childhood Education.”