Teaching kids about science and technology is one of the best things you can do to further their education and prepare them for good careers. STEM activities are also a great way to make learning fun for your children. Here are some of the top STEM activities for kids that parents and educators can use to help children develop an active interest in science and technology.
STEM Activities for Kids
Oil Spill Cleanup
When teaching kids about environmental science, it can be helpful to relate real-world issues to simple experiments. To show kids how hard it can be to remove spilled oil from water, mix the two together and add some feathers to the mixture. Then, let the kids use sponges, towels, and other media to try to remove the oil. This activity will help them understand how ocean oil spills can pollute water and affect birds. For a more advanced lesson, you can also use a common surfactant, such as dish soap to remove the oil from the feathers.
Create a 3D Printable Design
3D printing is an emerging technology that will be crucial to engineers, industrial designers, and other STEM professionals in the coming years. Using a simple design program like Tinkercad, you can help kids design their own objects to be made with a 3D printer. If you have access to one through a library or local maker space, you can then print the designs so the kids can see how they turn out. This is one of the few STEM activities for kids that allows them to see the entire process of designing, refining, and creating a product on an end-to-end basis.
Make Plastic From Milk
A fun and surprising science experiment for kids of all ages is the process of creating casein plastic from milk. To do this, heat 1 cup of milk until steaming on the stove. Pour the milk into a mug or bowl containing four teaspoons of white vinegar. The resulting reaction will cause casein molecules in the milk to bind together into polymers, producing curds of soft, simple plastic. You can end the experiment here or mold and color the plastic for additional fun.
Build a Simple Computer
To teach kids about the basics of computer science, you can let them build their own computer using a child-friendly set like the Kano Computer Kit. This kit uses a Raspberry Pi as the computer’s processor and allows kids to build the computer around it. From there, they can engage in a variety of coding exercises. While a bit more advanced and requiring a somewhat expensive kit, this activity is a great way for kids to learn about computer hardware and software and how they interact with each other.
Play Coding Games
Learning to code will be essential for future generations of engineers, scientists, and STEM specialists. Like learning a foreign language, kids are able to easily pick up the basics of programming languages that are much harder to learn as adults. Playing coding games with your kids is a simple, fun, and effective way to help them develop the skills they’ll need to function in an increasingly digital world.
Easy STEM Activities for Kids
Test for Magnetism
One of the easiest STEM activities is testing various metal objects for magnetic properties. For this, all you’ll need is a magnet and an assortment of common metal objects. Let the kids try to pick each object up with the magnet. In this simple experiment, they’ll learn that some metals are magnetic while others aren’t. Once they’ve tested the metal objects you offered initially, let them try the magnet on other items to expand the lesson.
Make Edible Sugar Crystals
Another extremely simple activity is to make colored sugar crystals. For this, you’ll need 6 cups of sugar to dissolve into 2 cups of boiling water. Pour the solution into mason jars and add the food coloring of your choice. Suspend a string from a popsicle stick into the liquid to get crystals to form in the center. Allow the jars to sit for a week so that the crystals have time to harden. The result is colored rock candy, which your kids can safely eat.
Shine Pennies With a Lemon
Copper pennies oxidize with age, causing them to take on a greenish patina. A very easy chemistry experiment to perform with your kids is to squeeze the juice from a lemon into a container and place a dull penny into the juice. Let it rest for about 5 minutes, then remove it. The acid in the juice will react with the oxidized copper on the penny’s surface, leaving it shinier than before.
Seasonal STEM Activities for Kids
Winter STEM Activities for Kids
Make Frozen Bubbles
Frozen bubbles are a fun, and beautiful science experiment kids can do in the wintertime. The bubbles used in this experiment are made from water, sugar, corn syrup, and dish soap, allowing them to remain stable while freezing. This experiment may take several tries to get right, so remember to be patient. Check out this Popular Science article for full ingredients, measurements, and instructions.
Instant Ice Tower
A classic winter STEM experiment, the instant ice tower involves pouring water that is just above the freezing point onto solid ice, resulting in instant freezing and the formation of a momentary tower of ice. To do this, place bottles of water in the freezer and wait for ice crystals to begin forming within the bottle. This could take anywhere from 30-90 minutes, depending on your freezer. Remove the bottle and pour the liquid water onto a bowl of ice cubes. The sudden drop in temperature will take the liquid water past the freezing point, causing it to solidify. You can also chill several bottles to repeat the experiment.
Spring STEM Activities for Kids
Common mealworms, available as food for reptiles at most pet stores, are actually a type of beetle larvae. An easy way to teach kids about life cycles in the animal kingdom is to buy a handful of mealworms, keep them in plastic containers, provide them with a food supply and watch them undergo metamorphosis into their adult forms. Apples and carrots work well for the food supply, providing the mealworms with enough nutrients to fuel their growth into beetles.
Egg Durability Test
As we all know, eggshells are surprisingly strong. One of the easiest STEM activities for kids in the springtime is to take two cartons of eggs, open them up and allow the kids to stand on top of them. You can take this opportunity to explain that the arched shape of the eggs distributes the weight, allowing them to hold up a child with little difficulty.
Summer STEM Activities for Kids
Coloring Flowers Experiment
During the summer, much of North America has access to a flowering plant commonly called Queen Anne’s lace. This plant produces large flowers that are white to pale yellow in color. This coloration makes them perfect for teaching kids about how flowers “drink” via capillary action. To perform this experiment, harvest some Queen Anne’s lace flowers and place them in water dyed with food coloring. As the flowers take up water, they will begin to take on the color of the dye. If you can’t find Queen Anne’s lace, use white carnations or daisies as a replacement.
Mentos and Diet Coke
The most classic of all everyday chemistry experiments, this one is perfect for summertime because it must be performed outside to avoid a sticky mess. Use a paper tube to funnel your Mentos into an open bottle of diet Coke and wait for the explosive result! This is one of the most exciting STEM activities for kids because of its rapid and entertaining nature.
Fall STEM Activities for Kids
Explore Chromatography With Fall Leaves
Autumn leaves turn a variety of beautiful different colors, and they also offer a great introduction to the science of chromatography. For this experiment, cut and crush leaves of the same color as finely as you can and place them in mason jars. Cover the leaves with rubbing alcohol, then briefly put the jars in a pot of boiling water to accelerate the release of the pigments. Store overnight in a dark place, then suspend strips of chromatography paper into the jars. Allow the paper to dry completely, and you’ll see the pigments that were released from the leaves. The results can be surprising, as many red and orange leaves will still yield a great deal of green pigment.
Build a Pumpkin Clock
One of the most classic STEM activities for kids is building a potato clock. This type of clock uses copper and zinc strips pushed into a potato to generate electricity and power a simple clock circuit. For a fall twist, use a potato clock kit on a pumpkin. The results are surprisingly similar, with the pumpkin acting as a natural battery.
Holiday STEM Activities for Kids
Thanksgiving STEM Activities for Kids
A fun and simple activity, making butter requires only heavy whipping cream and a mason jar. Fill the jar about halfway, put the lid on tightly and let your kids shake the jar vigorously. This takes some time, but the shaking will cause the fat solids in the cream to clump together, eventually producing butter that can be served on the Thanksgiving table.
Build With Cranberries
Cranberries are a staple at Thanksgiving, but when paired with toothpicks they can also be used for a simple engineering activity. Kids can build structures by connecting cranberries with toothpicks. Cubes, pyramids, towers, bridges, and other structures are all very easy to build with a combination of round focal points and straight, thin connectors.
Christmas STEM Activities for Kids
Dissolving Candy Canes
Around Christmas, candy canes are everywhere. To turn them into a fun learning experience, place candy canes in containers of different liquids and observe how they dissolve. Use room temperature water as a control. You can then observe how fast candy canes dissolve in cold water, hot water, fruit juice, soda, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and any other household liquid you can think of.
Make Flashing Christmas Lights With an Arduino
Arduino is a microcontroller that can be programmed for a variety of tasks. With a breadboard, some wire, and a few LEDs, an Arduino can be used to create a basic flashing Christmas light display. Check out this article from Make Use Of for full instructions, parts list, and sample code. This activity is great for older kids who are interested in learning about electrical engineering or computer programming.
Earth Day STEM Activities for Kids
A simple way to instill a love of plants and nature in kids is to help them grow their own plants from seed. For this activity, you’ll need potting soil, egg cartons, seeds, and a spray bottle. Plant the seeds in the individual egg cells filled with soil, then lightly dampen them using the spray bottle. Have your kids water the seeds regularly as directed on the seed package. When the seedlings are big enough, replant them in pots so that your kids can enjoy them and watch them continue to grow.
Build a Terrarium
You can also create a miniature ecosystem in a jar by building a terrarium with your kids. For this, you’ll need a glass jar or bowl, pebbles, soil, and an assortment of different plants. Place the pebbles in the bottom of the container for drainage, then add a layer of soil and arrange the plants as desired. Your kids can also put decorative toys, stones, or other items in the terrariums to personalize them.