Today Alice is chatting with us about STEM activities for preschool & early primary years. With the school holidays upon us in Australia (and NZ next week), this is perfect timing! Over to Alice…
Written by Alice Zsembery | Author “Real Kids, Real Play“
STEM learning has become a buzz word in education over the last decade, but what exactly is it?
What does STEM mean?
The acronym, standing for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, is used to describe a way of thinking in a more integrated and holistic way across disciplines. In the early years, it is often used to describe an inquisitive approach to discovering the world around us and creating critical and innovative thinkers.
Young children are naturally inquisitive and are often more likely to undertake STEM activities without even realising it as they process the world around them through questioning, observing and communicating.
Research suggests that this approach helps build capabilities in our children to meet the challenges of the 21st century through innovation, inquisition and critical thinking.
To help promote STEM learning, we have provided a list of five (5) quick and easy STEM activities for children, using nothing but what you have around the home!
All you need are some blocks and paper and you have yourself a bridge activity.
Test out different structural designs (see image for inspiration) and try to predict which one is strongest under a load of pompoms or cotton wool balls.
This has got to be my children’s favourite experiment. All you need is some baking soda in a bottle, tip in some vinegar over the top and you have yourself a foaming masterpiece.
A handy tip is to add in a drop of dishwashing liquid and food colouring to the baking soda for maximum impact.
It can also be fun to combine this with a natural play scene; place the baking soda in an empty spice jar, build a sandy mountain around the jar in the sandpit and place dinosaurs/animals all around and twigs and leaves for bushes.
3. Gravity and Force
Such a simple activity, but such a winner.
Simply place a large piece of cardboard at an angle and roll down cars down it. Discuss why items are pulled towards the ground.
Then explore other questions such as:
- Does the shape matter? What happens with other objects such as round items vs. other shapes (dolls, blocks etc.)
- What happens if you change the size or weight of the car?
- What happens with more of a push (force) at the start?
- What happens if we put the ramp on a steeper slope? A shallower slope?
- What do you think would happen to humans if there was no gravity? What would happen to water that came out of the tap with no gravity? To toothpaste that we squeezed out of a tube?!
4. Water Life Cycle
Mark up a ziplock bag as demonstrated in the picture. Now, warm up some water until steam starts to rise, add in some blue food colouring (optional) and put it in the ziplock bag. Then stick it on a window (preferably one in direct light) and watch the process.
This is a great activity on a warm day to demonstrate that water can exist in 3 states; solid (like ice), liquid (like the water from the tap) and gas (like air). The way it changes between these different types is through heating and cooling.
5. Flower Food
Add water and a drop or two of food colouring to each vase (or cup). Add one white flower to each vase (roses work really well or you can also use celery), and let nature take its course Make sure that the stem of the flower is freshly cut to allow faster water uptake.
Such a pretty activity that demonstrates that plants need water to survive and that they ‘drink’ their water from the ground, not from the petals/head of flower.
As a final note…
When undertaking the activities, please remember that it is important to encourage inquiry within your child. Instead of ‘telling’ them what is happening, try to learn alongside them by asking questions like ‘what do you think would happen if we…’ or ‘why do you think that happened’.
Also, explore ways to extend the experiment such as ‘what do you think would happen if we … [change one variable only at a time]’.
Other posts written by Alice
8 (free) energetic activities to keep your kids occupied at home – view here
How to go on holidays with kids without having to pack a million toys – view here
12 good old fashioned outdoor play activities – view here
About the Author
Alice is the founder of Jack and Lu’s: a company created with a simple dream of bringing back real childhood; where the toys were simpler, the items were fewer and the imaginations were greater. She is a busy working mum of 2 preschool aged children and has just released her new book Real Kids, Real Play – 150 activities to do around the home using household items. It aims to remind us of the copious educational and fun activities that our children can do around the home using everyday items – without you having to spend lots of money, time or effort. It is written by an exhausted Mum, for an exhausted Mum. And Dad. And Grandparent, And Carer. You can contact Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook or Instagram