Whether you’re a teacher or parent, we’ve all been made aware of the need to get kids interested in the stem (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects from an early age.
The stem subjects are vital to enhancing our society, whether it’s through designing buildings, researching a vaccine, or building artificial intelligence.
How kids view subjects like science and maths when they’re young will undoubtedly shape their perceptions of the subject later in life, and whether or not they choose to study such subjects in college.
In the US, only 19% of students study STEM subjects, which is why we must encourage more kids to take an interest in these important subjects.
Stem activities are a quick and easy way to teach your children fundamental scientific processes or to encourage them to become creative in problem-solving.
We’ve put together a list of some of the most fun and inspiring stem activities out there…
This activity involves recreating an oil spill in order to get children thinking about environmental issues taking place in the real world.
Simply fill a large container with water and add some oil and feathers into the mix. Next set your kids a challenge: can they remove the oil from the water and the feathers, without removing too much water?
You can hand out sponges, paper towels, or teaspoons for the children to use.
Afterwards, why not have a discussion? Ask your children how difficult it was to remove the oil from the water, and how the feathers were affected.
This activity uses a simple process of mixing oil and water to demonstrate the devastating impact oil spills can have on the environment.
Set your kids the challenge of constructing an egg-protecting device to prevent an egg from cracking when it’s dropped from a high window.
You can set certain guidelines for the task to make it more challenging, for example, restricting the maximum dimensions of the device, and providing a list of materials the egg carrier can be made from.
Many teachers will provide a list including materials such as cardboard, glue, straws, tape, cotton balls, and paper clips.
Allow the kids a certain amount of time to research and design their protector, as well as an allocated amount of time to create it.
You can adapt this challenge depending on the age group of your children: for example, for younger kids, you can broaden the list of materials or reduce the height the egg is dropped from, and for older children, you can give them a more limited list of materials and more restrictive guidelines.
This game is great for younger kids who are still grappling with numbers and how they work.
Math activities can be notoriously monotonous and some children will try to memorize patterns rather than understanding the concept of counting and recognizing them.
For this game, you’ll need a piece of paper, some sticky notes, tape, and a marker pen.
Tape the paper to the wall and write numbers on the sticky notes. Then hide the sticky notes around a room and let the children find them and match them to the specific number of dots on the piece of paper.
This game can be modified for younger children by limiting numbers to 1-5, whereas the range of numbers can be increased for older children.
If your kids are creative, there’s no reason why they can’t excel in stem subjects, too. Why not challenge them to make a stop-motion video?
This video can be about anything and works perfectly with their favorite figurines. All they’ll need is a smartphone or iPad with a stop-motion app, and whatever objects they want to film.
This will keep kids occupied for hours and will teach them the basics behind stop-motion animation. Who knows, it may even get them interested in filming or video editing.
Growing crystals with salt is a fascinating process for children and adults alike, and did you know that using Epsom salt can speed up the process, so you can have a crystal garden overnight?
You’ll need a 1:1 ratio of Epsom salt and warm water, and a jar to contain your crystal mixture. You can also add food coloring to up the fun factor.
You’ll need to add some sand or rock for the crystals to grow on, and then simply pop the mixture into the fridge overnight and discover your homemade crystal garden the next morning!
Crystals grow differently, so why not make several crystal gardens to compare the different shapes that form?
How many different (and stable) structures can your kids make with some basic craft materials, such as colored sticks, wooden cubes, and small plastic cups?
But there’s one catch: they have to have one wooden cube as the base.
Your kids will have loads of fun trying out different structures and will be surprised how many buildings they can make with such a narrow base.
You can change-up the challenge to keep things interesting, asking who can make the tallest structure, balance an item on their building in the most interesting way, or can use the most cups in their structure?
Be creative with your challenges, and this will inspire your kids to be equally open-minded!
As we’ve demonstrated in this article, stem activities don’t have to take hours of time or tonnes of equipment, and they certainly don't have to be boring.
There’s a myriad of tasks out there that can ease your children into the complex world of science, math, and technology. These activities will develop your children’s problem-solving skills and may even help them form a special interest in one of the stem subjects.
Children are naturally curious, and who knows, if you nurture that curiosity from a young age, you may see them grow up to design buildings or the latest smartphone, create new vaccines, or solve real-world issues relating to climate change.