STEM activities (Science Technology Engineering and Math) are all the buzz in education. Kids love finding out how things work through fun, hands-on projects and parents love knowing that they are preparing kids for their techy future.
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 incredibly important.
Despite the insatiable interest so many kids have in science, technology, engineering and math, that enthusiasm tends to fade as they get older. But with STEM careers making up a huge part of today’s (and likely the future’s) economy, it’s clearly not a bad idea to keep feeding that fire.
Finding STEM projects for kids the parents can facilitate is not always easy. Our Quantum Space, Learning and Innovation Hub team have been working hard to take care of the guesswork for parents and compiled a list of simple STEM activities that you can do with your kids at home.
Simple STEM activities for kids
These simple STEM activities for kids will help reinforce important life skills and help to potentially spark a lifetime interest in this crucial field.
- Juice-Pouch Stomp Rocket
This rocket uses the power of compressed air to launch into the sky. (Budding engineers take note: This is called pneumatics!)
Requirements: Empty juice pouch, one flexible straw (that comes with the pouch), one standard straw, coloured cardstock and modeling clay.
What To Do
1. Snip off the end of the flexible straw at an angle.
2. Insert the pointed end of the straw into the straw hole of the juice pouch.
3. Cut the second straw in half. This will be your rocket.
4. Make three trapezoids from cardstock, in the following dimensions: 3 inches (base) x 1 inch (height) x 3/4 inches (top). Set two aside to be full fins. Cut the last one in half vertically.
5. Tape the full fins on each side of the straw. Don’t flatten the straw.
6. Tape one half-fin perpendicularly to each full fin as shown.
7. Roll a small bit of clay into a ball. Add this to the top to seal the straw completely.
8. To launch the rocket, inflate the pouch by blowing into the flexible straw. Bend the flexible straw to aim and place the rocket straw over the end. Stomp down hard for liftoff!
Note: If after some use, one of the straws cracks, simply replace it with a new one.
- Pom-Pom Catapult
This simple machine uses stored energy (the tension in the rubber bands) to release a projectile (called the payload). Play around with the position of the stopper to get the maximum angle and distance for your launch and have fun with colours and decorations.
Requirements: Hole punch, rectangular box, three unsharpened pencils, a few strong rubber bands, masking tape or glue, jar lid and a paper clip.
What To Do
1. Punch a hole in a long side of the box, 3 inches from a short side. Punch a matching hole on the other side. The holes should be large enough for a pencil to rotate easily. Punch a third hole on the opposite short side; it should be centered and near the bottom.
2. Assemble the catapult arm: Join 2 pencils together perpendicularly to make an inverted lowercase t; secure them with rubber bands.
3. Tape or glue a small jar lid to the longer end of the arm as shown.
4. Wrap another rubber band around the shorter end of the arm using a slip knot (a knot that can be undone by a pull).
5. Place the ends of the horizontal pencil in the side holes. Thread the tail of the slipknot (from Step 4) through the remaining hole, and knot a paper clip around the end to hold it in place.
6. Create a “stopper” for the catapult arm with the third pencil. Place it across the top of the box just in front of the arm; secure it in place by wrapping a large rubber band around one end of the pencil, under the box, and up and around the other end.
7. Load it up…and let it fly.
- Lemon Meyer Geysers
A little mashing and a lot of fizz makes a mini volcano in this STEM experiment! The citric acid of the lemon juice reacts with the baking soda to release carbon dioxide gas, fizz, and foam.
Requirements: 2 lemons, 1 tbsp baking soda, one drop dish soap, food colouring (optional), plate, knife, fork, and cup.
What To Do
1. Slice a bit off the bottom of the first lemon (so it will sit flat) and remove a core from the top.
2. Halve and juice the second lemon, and set it aside.
3. Set the cored lemon on a plate, and mush the inside with a fork. Make sure to keep all the lemon juice in the lemon; it’s important for the reaction.
4. Squeeze a few drops of food colouring and a few drops of dish soap into the lemon (these are not critical ingredients but make the bubbles colourful and sudsy).
5. Add a spoonful of baking soda into the lemon (it should start to fizz), and mush with the fork – it should start foaming and bubbling!
6. Keep the reaction going by adding more baking soda, dish soap, and reserved lemon juice.
- Jellybean Building
Requirements: a pile of jellybeans and toothpicks
What To Do
All you will need is a pile of jellybeans (or large marshmallows) and toothpicks for your kid to start learning about structures and shapes. By connecting toothpicks with jellybeans, encourage your kid to see which shapes hold together well, which shapes stack well and which shapes are most interesting to look at.
This activity can help kids start to understand the thought, design and technology behind structural engineering. Try challenging them to create a house or a specific structure. This is loads of fun for adults as well.
- Stop-Motion Animation Video
Requirements: a smartphone or iPad and a stop-motion app
What To Do
Here’s an excellent option for creative STEM learning. We have 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.
Now that you have some simple and inexpensive STEM activities for kids, you are well-equipped to help them explore the exciting foundations of science, technology, engineering and math. You can also have fun together with them!
“The world is in constant change; thus, though a critical STEAM education, students can learn how to adapt to new and different situations. We are preparing students for jobs and environments that might not exist right now.” Marilupe Hren