Building Up STEAM
35 Easy Tips to Try This Weekend

STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Math) has grown in popularity in recent years, and the future will include STEAM-related jobs. Foster a love of STEAM at home this winter with these fun and easy ideas. In honor of National STEM/STEAM Day on November 8th, here is 35 ideas to step up your kid’s STEAM learning!

Science

Children are naturally inquisitive, and curiosity is the backbone of science discovery. Inspire kids to dive into science with these ideas:

Give children a scientific start. Use scientific words and make exploring a part of everyday life. 

Welcome questions like “Why is the sky blue? “Questioning is the first step of the Scientific Method.

Encourage household problem-solving. Bread dough that doesn’t rise, an inside door that sticks, an insect infestation in the garden are gateways to hypotheses, experiments and answers. 

Create a kitchen science lab. Make homemade ice cream in a Ziploc bag, make butter out of heavy cream in a mason jar or grow geodes in eggshells.

Have a blast — literally! Many safe experiments involve eruptions. Make a paper mache baking soda and vinegar volcano. Go outside and drop a pack of Mentos in a 2-liter soda or launch a bottle rocket. Discuss the science behind the blast.

Grow a garden. Start seedlings from kitchen vegetable seeds or trimmings.

Relate science to hobbies. Learn the physics behind the fastball or how the gymnast balances on the beam.

Technology

Future jobs will require technology. Embrace screen benefits that build technology skills.

Make the computer your friend. Teach your child how to do research, make brochures for school projects and use spreadsheets for chores and allowance. In anticipation of future trips, let your child research destinations.

Start coding. Check out code.org for fun ways kids can code online or without technology. Other coding sites to try are Codeacademy, Kodable, Lightbot, Scratch and Tynker.

Introduce Raspberry Pi. Kids can use this card-sized single board computer for basic programming.

Let them make a stop-motion video. Apps to try: Lego Movie Maker, Stop Motion Studio, Lapse It, iStopMotion and Clayframes.

Engineering

Does your child love Lego blocks or Minecraft? Does she want to take apart the toaster or fix the cell phone when it breaks? Here are ways to encourage a budding engineer.

Teach kids the Engineering Design Process
(Check out a kid-friendly version at www.teachengineering.com)

Let them join a Lego Robotics Club.

Stock building supplies. Try Legos, wooden blocks, K’nex, Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and Duplo bricks. Also keep recyclables like cardboard, paper towel tubes and cereal boxes. There are even edible options like cheese, grapes and marshmallows. Pair one of these with toothpicks or pretzels for building.

Encourage children to complete tower building challenges. One fun and easy way to do this is with notecards or old playing cards and no other materials. Kids can only fold the cards, no ripping or cutting.

Create Catapults. Some materials to try: Popsicle sticks, spoons, drink lids, rubber bands and pom poms.

Build a Rube Goldberg machine out of household materials. This machine is intentionally designed to perform a simple task through a series of complex chain reactions. To learn more, visit rubegoldberg.com. 

Join a radio control club. Planes, helicopters and boats often inspire children. Building their own involves creativity and problem-solving skills.

Build a miniature roller coaster. Give your child materials like pipe insulation, marbles, cups and duct tape. Watch them take their creativity for a ride.

Arts

Children can be artists by painting, drawing, sculpting, singing, playing an instrument, dancing or writing. Take note of inclinations in these areas and foster a love of the arts.

Inspire creativity. Immerse your home in different types of art. Listen to music, collect art or art books or check them out from the library. 

Be positive. Even if you don’t think you’re good at art, try some art mediums along with your child. He or she will be more willing to try, too.

Stock up on art supplies. Water colors, finger paints, acrylic, crayons, colored pencils, pastels, construction paper, sketch books and origami paper are some examples.

Experiment with evaporation art. Mix salt with water and paint. Have your child predict what will happen to the salt and water. 

Order a how-to-draw book or check out videos on YouTube. Step by step directions will give your child more confidence.

Sculpt with air-dry clay. Your child doesn’t need a pottery wheel to create with clay. After the clay dries, it can be painted.

Listen to a variety of music genres. This will open your child’s mind to different artists and styles of music.

Sign your child up for a virtual creative writing class. 

Read poetry books.

Math

There are many ways to make math relevant and interesting. Research shows that most children can succeed at math.

Teach number sense. Mentally work through problem-solving logic with your child. “Bedtime Math: A Fun Excuse to Stay Up Late” by Laura Overdeck is a good book for promoting math discussions.

Check out Texas Instruments’ “STEM Behind Cool Careers” (https://education.ti.com/en/activities/stem/gen-stem) for videos connecting algebra, geometry and physics to jobs like fashion design, flying jets and more.

Cook or bake together. Measuring, equivalent fractions and conversions are all part of recipe building.

Measure the miles. When going on family outings, find the distance with your child. Calculate the miles and time it will take to get there and how much gas will cost.

Assign chores and give an allowance. They’ll be asking for ice cream and movie money anyway, so why not teach practical budgeting skills in the process? 

STEAM Stories: 

Picture Books that support STEAM

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert

B is for Bulldozer: A Construction ABC by June Sobel

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros

11 Experiments that Failed by Jenny Offill

Mechanimals by Chris Tougas

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen 

If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen

If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen

Awesome Engineering Activities for Kids: 50+ Exciting STEAM Projects to Design and Build by Christina Schul

How a House is Built by Gail Gibbons   

 

STEAM Supplies – Keep these materials on hand for experiments and STEAM projects.

Cardboard

Paper towel and toilet paper tubes 

Straws

Aluminum foil

Empty water bottles

Plastic lids beakers or jars with lids

Funnels

Tongs

Epsom salt

Rock salt

Alum baking soda

Vinegar

Food coloring

Marbles

Potting soil

Janeen Lewis is a writer and a teacher with a degree in journalism and a Master’s Degree in Education. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country.

Boston Parents Magazine is in no way compensated for any book or web links included in this article.