Early childhood is the perfect time to introduce kids to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). At this age, students are naturally curious and eager to explore how the world works. STEM provides the kind of experience that helps young children develop the skills and mindset that lays the foundation for a lifetime of learning.
Whether you’re an early childhood educator or a parent, the following four activities offer ideas for some fun and engaging ways to help students translate that curiosity into active and purposeful discovery.
Science: Non-Newtonian Fluids
In a bowl, mix a box of cornstarch (2lb) with 2 cups of room-temperature water. Let your child use their hands to combine the ingredients (add up to ½ cup more water if needed). When the consistency is such that your child can grab a piece and it flows slowly back into the bowl, they’ve made oobleck! Like all non-Newtonian fluids, oobleck behaves as both a viscous liquid and a loose solid. Let your preschooler experiment with pouring the oobleck into different shaped containers, or onto a flat surface, and ask them to predict what will happen.
Technology: Stop-Motion Movie
Ask your kid to come up with a one-minute story, then gather Legos or other building blocks that they can use to bring the story alive with stop-motion animation. Help them put the pieces together to make the characters and setting. Pose the figures and let your child take a picture with your smartphone. Work together to figure out how to move the pieces slightly and take another picture to create a seamless narrative. Keep going until you have between 60 and 120 images. Upload the photos to a computer and scroll through them rapidly to watch the movie, or if you have movie-editing software, edit them together, and add music and dialogue!
Engineering: Wind-Speed Indicator
Cut a square, six inches on a side, from a solid piece of colored paper, and fold it at the corners twice, forming a triangle. Unfold and cut down the seams, leaving a small square in the center. Stick a pin through the center and then tape the back of the pin onto a bendy straw. Bend the straw over and place it outside. As wind speed increases, the wheel will spin faster. Experiment by placing the indicator in different places—behind trees, on top of hills, etc.—and ask your child to guess what effect the location will have on the movement of the wheel.
Math: Shape Search
A great activity for kids in preschool and up, trace a series of shapes into an opened manila folder: square, triangles of different types, ovals and circles, octagons, diamonds, etc. Label each and then cut them out, leaving different shaped holes. Challenge your kid to explore around the house or in the yard, or go for a walk with them, and see how many different shapes they can find. It is a great way to help them recognize how geometry works in the world, and it can be lots of fun, too!