With winter weather here and kiddos spending more time indoors, this is the perfect time to introduce STEM activities to your preschooler. STEM is the acronym for science, technology, engineering and math. Below are some STEM projects that are fun, easy to set up, and sure to be a hit with your preschool child.
1. Body Shadows
Using shadows for science play is easy and a great way to get kids moving and excited about learning. You can play shadow games outside on a nice day or indoors with a flashlight. You can start by calling out various shapes or animals and letting your child use their body to create. Next try movements like standing on one foot, reaching up to touch the sky, the ground. What about dancing with your shadow to the song, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, or If You're Happy and You Know It? All these shadow games are fun and help your child develop body awareness.
2. Water Bottle Fountain
This activity allows children to see that air takes up room and is always there, even if we can't see it. For this experiment you'll need an empty water bottle, balloon, straw, blu-sticky tac, food coloring, and a sink or bathtub.
You'll begin by blowing up the balloon and asking your child what's in the balloon. Maybe let go of the balloon and talk about what happens. Next, take the empty water bottle and ask your child what's in the bottle. Blow up the balloon again and place the opening of the balloon over the mouth of the water bottle without letting much air escape. Why isn't the balloon going down? Explain to your child that there's air in the balloon AND plastic bottle.
Now to make the fountain, very carefully (this part should be done by an adult) poke a hole in the side of the empty water bottle just big enough for a straw to fit through and seal around the straw with sticky tac. Make sure your straw is pointed upright inside the bottle or the water will start to stream out before filling the water bottle up. Next, pour colored water into the water bottle, filling it higher than the level of the hole. When you're ready to watch the air push the water out through the straw, blow up the balloon again and place it over the mouth of the bottle. Watch the fountain come alive as the air pushes the water out the straw.
3. Shape Hunt
This is an easy math inspired activity that will hands-on teach your child about shapes. This activity is best for children ages 4-6, but the littles can certainly learn from this game as well.
To start out, you'll need stock paper or a manila folder, scissors, a box cutter and a sharpie or pen. Trace several shapes- circle, oval, square, isosceles triangle, equilateral triangle, right triangle, rectangle, diamond, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, and octagon- or just choose a couple, onto the paper or folder, then cut them out with the box cutter. You can also outline and label each shape with a sharpie so it's easier for little eyes to see.
Now the fun begins. You can either look for 2-D shapes around your house, or head out on a walk if the weather is nice. Take out your shape finder and try to use it to identify all the different shapes around you. Some of these shapes might be hard to find so look on lights around the house, furniture pieces, tableware, and toys.
4. Beans Activity
This was a favorite of my children when they were younger and will keep your child busy, learning and having fun. You'll just need a sheet, several large bags of dry beans, toy cars or construction vehicles, measuring cups, scoops, Duplo or other building blocks, cardboard tubes and boxes, and the list goes on.
Dump the bags of beans onto the sheet and let your children use the beans to fill, dump, scoop and more. Ladle the beans into a bucket or box, watch them slip down a cardboard tube, or make roads with toy cars. Let your child's imagination go wild!
5. Fridge Door Marble Run
This fun STEM activity uses easy to find items from your house, and kids can easily make these on their own. You'll need toilet paper, paper towel, or foil cardboard rolls in multiple sizes is great! You'll also need tiny pom balls or marbles, scissors, magnets, hot glue gun, and decorative tape.
For your first step, using the glue gun, glue magnets INSIDE the paper rolls. Remember to choose magnets that are strong so that the rolls can withstand the weight of the marbles, however if you're using small pom poms, you can probably get away with craft glue instead. Now's the time to decorate your cardboard rolls and let your child's imagination run wild with this part of the project.
Are you ready to put your marble run to action? Place your marble run rolls on the fridge at different angles and watch the marble go from roll to roll. You can use as many or as few cardboard tubes as you want, changing them up and asking your child questions like, how many can be added in one go (zig zagging the rolls)? Using a stopwatch, can you time the running marble? Is it possible to make the marble go slower or faster depending on the length or design of the track? Using her imagination, have your child try many different "runs" for her marbles.
With the above easy activities, you are on your way to helping your little ones explore the exciting foundations of science, technology, engineering and math.