STEAM (Science, Technology Engineering, Arts and Math) has grown in popularity in recent years as a way to educate children for the 21st Century. STEAM programs have been adopted in many schools, and the future will include STEAM-related jobs. Foster a love of STEAM at home with these fun and easy ideas.
Children are naturally inquisitive, and curiosity is the backbone of science discovery. Here are some easy ways to inspire kids to dive into science.
- 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 in winter or an insect infestation in the garden are gateways to hypotheses, experiments and answers.
- Create a kitchen science lab with common ingredients. 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 things that erupt. 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 discuss how a gymnast balances on a beam.
Most parents set screen time boundaries. But kids love devices, and future jobs will require skills in 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. When you take a family trip, let your child research places to visit.
- Start coding early. 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.
- Use digital tools to help with schoolwork. Try Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com, khanacademy.com. Explore study aid apps such as Tinycards and use apps myHomework and My GradeBook.
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 some ways to encourage a budding engineer.
- Teach kids the Engineering Design Process (Check out a kid-friendly version at teachengineering .com)
- Let them join a Lego Robotics Club.
- Keep building supplies on hand. 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.
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, 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.
- Borrow a how-to-draw book from the library. 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 creative writing class.
- Read poetry books.
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.
- Try grocery store math. Have kids weigh enough produce without going over a dollar amount, compare prices for the best buys and stay within a weekly budget.
- 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?
Keep these materials on hand for experiments and STEAM projects.
paper towel and toilet paper tubes
empty water bottles
beakers or jars with lids
Janeen Lewis is a writer, teacher and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country.