STEM Activities at Home

Playful STEM at Home 

“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein

The importance of play for children cannot be underestimated. Play is a naturally engaging way of learning for children of all ages. Indeed, for adults too! It is a great way to interact with your children and help build meaningful relationships. In recent years, importance has also been placed on the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) skills in education. Proficiency in these skills is critical for our future workforce. In recent times, a lack of resilience in children has become a cause of concern for some parents. By encouraging play and STEM activities, children develop curiosity, perseverance and coping strategies.

This might sound challenging for the typical, busy parent who is just trying to keep their children fed, entertained and happy. But offering worthwhile, playful learning opportunities does not have to be complicated! You have everything you need at home already; all you need are some ideas.

Toys for STEM

Think about the toys that your children have at home already. My favourites for STEM are Lego and wooden building blocks. Given the right materials, young children will naturally start to play and create. They do not often need much encouragement or direction. Older children may need an idea or a starting point to get the creative juices flowing.

Lego can be found in most homes and is a classic toy for developing creativity, problem-solving, reasoning, perseverance, and fine motor skills. Most Lego now comes in sets with instructions for a specific structure, but that does not mean that they cannot be used for other creations! Challenge your children to make their name from Lego, make their favourite animal, a marble maze, a bridge, an igloo, a rocket or a zipline.

Wooden building blocks are another classic toy that can be found in many homes. These are often intended for toddlers but have great potential for older children too! Jenga blocks also work brilliantly for building. Challenge the children to build the tallest tower possible, a house, an animal enclosure, a chain reaction, a staircase, or a multi-story carpark.

Other commonly found children’s toys that are great for enriching STEM skills are Dominoes, Lego Duplo, Megablocks, Play-Dough, Playing Cards and Train Sets.

Should you be interested in buying some toys that are suitable for STEM play, have a look for some of the following:

· K’nex · Meccano · Magformers, Geomag, Magna-Tiles · Plus-Plus · Kinetic Sand · Kappla Blocks · Brain Flakes · Grimm’s Wooden Toys

You can find my favourite STEM toys here.

Many common household materials are also very useful for STEM projects. Have a look around your house for the following:

· paper or plastic cups · newspaper · pegs · lollipop sticks · cocktail sticks · mini marshmallows · paper plates · straws · string · elastic bands · paper clips · pipe cleaners

Junk Art

Your recycling bin is a goldmine, trust me! The process of designing and making something new out of rubbish is not only a lot of fun, but helps to develop planning, creativity, imagination, and many other practical problem-solving skills.

Again, younger children usually find it quite easy to use their imaginations and can come up with some marvellously imaginative creations. These may be 2-dimensional or 3-D dimensional. Very young children often enjoy simply cutting pictures out of magazines or supermarket brochures and sticking them onto another page. Do not underestimate their abilities though! I’ve seen 5-year- old children come up with amazing robots, pirate ships and dollhouses!

Older children may need a bit of direction. Maybe they could create something useful, like a pencil holder or a moneybox. You can give a specific task while still leaving room for imaginative skills, for example, make a robot using just plastic bottles and bottle tops. They may also enjoy searching Pinterest for inspiration. Photos and ideas seen on the internet do not necessarily limit the imagination; more often they are just a starting point that leads to something new and wonderful.

So what are you waiting for? Start gathering junk! Here’s a list of some useful items for junk art:

· Toilet rolls & kitchen rolls · Egg cartons · Milk cartons · Cereal boxes · Shoeboxes · Scrap paper · Supermarket leaflets · Holiday Brochures · Toy catalogues · Bubble Wrap · Foiled or shiny paper (chocolate and sweet wrappers, wrapping paper) · Gift bags · Empty yoghurt cartons · Ribbon · Bottle tops · Straws · Buttons · Scraps of material

Playful Classroom’s Top 10 Easy STEM Projects

I will finish up with my Top 10 Easy STEM projects – suitable for children of all ages.

Have fun!

1. Build your name in 3D.

2. Build an animal enclosure for one of your teddies or toy animals.

3. Make a boat that can float.

4. Build a house of cards

5. Make a chain reaction.

6. Make a marble maze.

7. Build a bridge that can hold some toy cars.

8. Make a robot from recycled materials.

9. Build a tower as tall as yourself!

10. Make a paper aeroplane that can fly at least 2 metres.

You can find FREE printable task cards for these challenges in my here. You can also find my follow-on pack of 20 STEM Challenges and supporting materials here.

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