STEM is an acronym which many parents will be familiar with. For the unfamiliar, it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and refers to the corresponding fields which interested high school students and graduates tend to orient their studies and careers towards. And for good reason - jobs in the STEM field tend to be some of the most well-paying and esteemed positions in the market. It’s for this reason that many parents try to foster an interest in STEM subjects from an early age by encouraging different STEM activities for kids to participate in.
It’s worth starting early too. While 48 percent of high school graduates expressed a desire to work towards a career in a STEM field, only 26 percent passed the benchmark test which indicates whether or not a student is well-prepared for the demanding courses - such as calculus, biology and physics - required to excel in STEM-related fields.
Getting your children involved in STEM projects for kids early on is a great way to determine whether or not their interests lie in this direction. Even if you’re not thinking long-term, encouraging children to take part in STEM activities for kids teaches and nurtures important skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and the ability to be technologically literate. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at some easy and effective STEM projects for kids which will encourage by fun and learning.
Constructing a homemade catapult is fun and relatively simple STEM activity for kids which will explore concepts of basic engineering, mathematics as well as principles of aerodynamics, momentum and mechanical advantage. We’re not talking about building a trebuchet which will be used to place your neighbour’s garden under siege, but rather a simple device built from popsicle sticks and rubber bands. To start you’ll need:
- 10 popsicle sticks
- Rubber bands
- A plastic spoon
- Ordnance (pencil erasers or many gummy bears)
Once you’ve gathered all of your supplies and a crowd of willing catapult-builders, follow this link for comprehensive instructions on how to bring your miniature artillery to life!
Train track design
Another engineering-centric task, designing different train tracks is a great STEM activity for kids that tests their creativity and design prowess. One of the benefits of this activity is that it’s suitable for kids of all ages. Simply limit or increase the number of building supplies available depending on your child’s age and see what kind of track designs they come up with. For example, a basic railway set such as the ‘My First Railway’ Starter Pack is great for toddlers, whereas something more complex like the Smart Tech Engine with Action Tunnels set is good for older kids. You can also buy expansion packs as your children create ever more intricate designs to ensure that they always have room to grow and expand their locomotive creations.
Stop-motion video creation
Children are bound to be affected by technology at some point, so it’s a good idea to introduce them to it at an early age. Creating stop-motion videos is a fun STEM project for kids that will teach them skills with regards to photography and content creation, while also teaching them how to use mobile devices such as cameras or tablets. Creating a stop-motion video consists of setting up a scene, taking a photo of it, rearranging the scene slightly, taking another photo, and then stitching these photos together to give the illusion of motion. Many films such as Wallace and Gromit or the Nightmare Before Christmas have used this technique to great effect.
To start you’ll need a plain backdrop, a collection of items you wish to animate, a camera (an iPad or smartphone will do just fine), a tripod to keep your camera still, and some sort of post-production editing app such as Stop Motion Studio.
After this the process is pretty simple: create a narrative and arrange the items you selected in a way which tells your story, take a photo, alter the scene slightly, and repeat until you have all the images you need. After that, stitch all of the images together in the app and watch the finished the product. This is a great project because the only limitations is your child’s imagination (and patience).
Lego should be the one toy that every parent has in their arsenal if they’re interested in creating fun and stimulating STEM activities for kids. Essentially Minecraft in real life, Lego consists of a series of building blocks that come in all shapes and sizes which can be built together or taken apart effortlessly to create almost anything. It’s an incredibly versatile toy and tool which kids of all ages can find benefit in, and the number of STEM projects for kids which can be created using Lego is pretty exhaustive. Some of our favourites include building dams to explore the flow of water, as well as creating a zip line. For a more comprehensive list of STEM projects you can build from Lego, follow this link.