Did you know that the most critical period of childhood brain development happens from birth to age five? In fact, during this time period, children are developing over 700 neural connections per second. This means it is critical to engage your child in STEM activities during in order to set them up for success in the future.
What are STEM activities? STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” The number of jobs in STEM fields is growing faster than almost all other fields. Why not set your child up for success during this critical period?
There are plenty of activities children can do on their own, like math apps. Things are more tricky when you want to help your child explore STEM activities in real life.
Not sure what to do? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This list of stem activities for kids is sure to please even the most discerning of children.
Read on to learn more!
1. Magnetic Slime
This simple activity is great for rainy days at home with the kids.
- liquid starch
- Elmer’s glue
- iron oxide powder
- disposable bowls
- craft sticks
- neodymium (rare earth) magnets
Note that regular magnets won’t be strong enough, but rare earth magnets are pretty easy to find and cheap to purchase online.
Pour 1/4 cup of liquid starch into the bowl and add 2 tablespoons of iron powder. Stir until mixed. Then add 1/4 cup of white school glue and mix. Keep stirring until it becomes a slime-like consistency.
Remove slime from the bowl and squish until well mixed. Be sure to wash hands right away to prevent the iron from staining them! Pat the slime dry, then break out the magnets and play!
2. Balloon Rocket
This activity helps children understand the laws of physics! Just tape a cut out of a bird or another winged animal onto the balloon and watch them fly!
- picture of a bird
Cut out the picture of a bird. Then cut a straw and place the string through the straw — don’t cut the string yet! Set up two chairs on either side of the room and tie the string to them, or tie the string to two doorknobs.
Blow up the balloon and close it with the clothespin. Tape the balloon to the straw, which should easily move across the string. Tape the bird to the side of the balloon.
Place the balloon at one side of the string, and then release the clothespin to watch it fly across the room!
3. Gumdrop Structures
This activity helps children learn math, engineering, and design. They also are working on dexterity, coordination, and other fine motor skills. Bonus: the kids can eat the gumdrops when they’re done!
All you need for this activity is gumdrops and toothpicks. Simply use the toothpicks for the structure and the gumdrops as the base and to connect the structure.
Encourage your kids to try a variety of designs. They can do anything from a simple tower to towers that lean (but don’t fall over), or anything their heart desires!
Fun and easy!
4. Glow in the Dark Flowers
All you need for this fun experiment is a blacklight, two B vitamins high in Thiamine (at least 3,000% RDV), warm water, and white flowers like carnations, daisies, or mums.
Soak the flowers upside down in the glow water for about two hours. Then take them out, flip them over, and turn on your blacklight. The Thiamine in the vitamins responds to the blacklight and makes it look like the flowers are glowing.
For extra fun, set them stem side down in the glow water overnight and look at the stems in the blacklight the next morning to see where the water has traveled. You may have to split open the stems to see this.
5. Grow Your Own Geodes
This one takes some patience, but you’ll end up with beautiful geodes.
- 3 Tbsp Borax
- 1 Cup boiling water
- food coloring
- pipe cleaners
- large jar or pitcher
- fishing line
Your geodes will turn out to be the color of the pipe cleaner unless they are white. If you have white pipe cleaners, use food coloring in the water. Look for metallic pipe cleaners as they work best.
Shape the pipe cleaners into a flat circle about the size of a dime and thread string through the side. Tie the string to your skewer and set aside.
Boil water, then add borax and, if necessary, the food coloring. Make sure the borax is completely dissolved. Pour the mixture in a glass, then hang your pipe cleaner in the glass, careful not to let it touch the edges.
Cover with a dishcloth and let it sit overnight.
In the morning you’ll have a beautiful geode!
6. Homemade Catapults
- a plastic spoon
- jumbo rubber bands
- a hard cardboard tube
- craft tape
- something to fling, like small plastic toys about the size of a marble
Use the rubber bands to secure the handle end of the spoon to the cardboard tube, make sure the fit is snug so it doesn’t slide out. Then use the craft tape to secure the tube to the counter.
Add the toy to the spoon, pull back, and watch the toy fly!
7. Water Cycle in a Bag
- a Ziploc sandwich bag
- black Sharpie pen
- 1/4 cup of water with four drops of blue food coloring
Draw a sun in the upper left-hand corner, a cloud in the right-hand corner, and a line for the water on the bottom. Pour the water in the bag and make sure it is sealed tight.
Use strong tape to tape the bag to the window. Then sit back and watch. Sunlight will evaporate the water into vapor, which then cools, condenses, and falls like rain back into the bottom of the bag. Just like the water cycle on Earth!
8. Sandbox Volcano
- a sandbox with sand
- baking soda
- 16 oz water bottle
- food coloring
Fill the water bottle about a third of the way full and add food coloring. Add 5 teaspoons of baking soda and put the cap on.
Set the bottle in the sandbox and build sand around it, careful to not cover the top. Remove the cap and pour vinegar into the bottle.
9. Rainbow in a Jar
This fun experiment teaches children about density! Since different liquids have different densities, the layers just sit on top of each other and form a rainbow.
- a tall mason jar
- light corn syrup
- dish soap (blue Dawn or green Palmolive)
- olive oil
- rubbing alcohol
- food coloring
- a dropper
Start with the honey, don’t let any of the liquids touch the sides! Next is the corn syrup, colored with purple food coloring. Then add the dish soap. Then the water, colored green or blue, the opposite of what the dish soap.
Then add in a thick layer of olive oil. Last, add in a layer of rubbing alcohol colored red with food coloring. Be very careful with the rubbing alcohol, use a dropper and drop it along the inner side of the container so it doesn’t break through the oil layer.
Be careful not to shake the jar. Hold it up to the light and see all the beautiful colors!
10. Homemade Slime
- 1/2 cup of Elmers Washable School Glue
- 1/2 cup of water
- About 1/3 cup of liquid starch
- food coloring or glitter
Add water and glue to bowl and mix, then add food coloring or glitter and mix together. Last, add the liquid starch and knead it into slime!
11. Oil Spill Activity
- scrub brushes and sponges
Mix the oil and water together in a large container, then add feathers to the mixture. Give your kids tools to clean the oil off the feathers like sponges or paper towels. The goal is to get the oil off without losing too much water.
This will teach them about real life environmental issues like oil spills and how it harms wildlife.
12. Rainbow Fan
For this activity, you’ll need an old fan and paint in rainbow colors.
Remove the face of the fan and paint each of the blades a different color. Be sure to paint them in the order: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet to help them learn about the color wheel.
Replace the cover and turn the fan on once it’s dry. Then they can see the rainbow in the fan!
13. Soap Explosion
This is a great sensory experiment for younger children.
- several bars of Ivory soap, flaked or crushed
- a large plastic bin
- warm water.
Add the crushed soap to the water in the bin, and whisk together. With time it’ll become a mound of soap foam! Allow kids to play with toys and sponges in the foam to get an idea for the feel and texture.
14. Grow Plants from Seeds
This is a great way to teach kids about how plants grow!
- several tall plastic containers
- paper towels
- cotton balls
- spray bottle
Allow your kids to pick three seeds for each container. Fold a paper towel in half, place three dots of glue on the towel and place the seeds on the glue. Once the glue is dry, place the paper towels in the plastic containers (seed side out) and mist with water. Add moistened cotton balls to the container.
Place lid on the container, label each seed with the name and planting date. Watch over time as the seeds sprout and grow!
15. Pipe Cleaner Counting
This is a very simple activity for young children who need some help mastering counting. All you need is pipe cleaners and beads.
Label the pipe cleaners with a number from one to ten by affixing a piece of paper to them. Have your child place them in order from lowest to highest. Then have them add the corresponding amount of beads to the pipe cleaner and count out loud as they do it.
They’ll have numbers mastered in no time!
16. Hot Ice
- 4 cups of white vinegar
- 4 tbsp baking soda
- a pot
- a mason jar
- a pie dish
- a spoon
Pour 4 cups of vinegar into a pot. Add the 4 tablespoons of baking soda to the pot, one at a time and very slowly. If you add all four at once you’ll have an explosion!
Stir the mixture together until it stops fizzing. Place the pot on the stove and boil it over medium-low heat for about an hour. At this point, you should have 3/4 of a cup or 1 cup of solution.
Pour the solution into your mason jar and place in fridge and scrape any crystals formed in the boiling process into your pie dish.
After 30-45 minutes the solution will be cool enough to put into the dish. Be careful not to bump it while removing it from the fridge.
Slowly pour the solution over the crystals in the pie dish and watch it crystallize! You can build this up — the slower you pour, the taller your tower will be.
The tower will look like ice, but be hot to the touch!
Loved This List of STEM Activities for Kids? Check Out Our Blog for More!
Early STEM activities set children up for success in school and help them satisfy their natural curiosities about the world. On top of that, they make for great bonding experience between parents and children or children and their siblings.
Go out and make the world your child’s science lab!