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Children of all ages benefit from exploring freely and finding items that help feed their curiosity. Research shows that early childhood experiences in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) help to support a child’s social and academic success.
Young children and infants can explore STEM activities by simply engaging with objects encouraging curiosity, problem-solving, and experimentation. Below we’ve curated a list of easy STEM activities using items found around the house!
Turn your kitchen into a science lab by experimenting with natural and organic materials. Experiment with cornstarch and water by filling a mixing bowl with a cup of cornstarch and grabbing a spray bottle with water.
Add food colouring for extra fun. Grab some Cheerios, Play-Doh, and spaghetti. Stand the spaghetti in a rolled-up piece of Play-doh and thread the Cheerios on the upright pasta stick. Get creative together and see where the exploration takes you.
Magna-Tiles are colourful, magnetic tiles that allow children to experiment and play through creative problem-solving and exploration. If you have some Magna-Tiles around the house, gather them up and enjoy a fun afternoon of STEM creativity.
The tiles are also an excellent way to support open-ended play, which introduces objects without any objective, rules, or guidelines (if your Magna-Tiles come with building instructions, you can play without them for open-ended playtime).
Sensory bins are all the rage, and for good reason too. Creating a sensory bin with items around your home is easy.
Fill your sensory bin with coloured rice, beans, and homemade Play-Doh, and create a fun theme with little toys. For example, a gardening-themed sensory bin may include dried black beans, small smooth rocks, veggies from the play kitchen, and a little shovel to dig. Add as many or as few items as you’d like!
Why not challenge your kiddo to build a tower? Your little one can experiment with different pieces around the house using their problem-solving skills. You can use pillows and cushions, plastic cups, or stones found in the garden — it doesn't have to be complicated. If you have stackers around your home, like these stackers from Peeka & Co., you can experiment with layering the pieces differently and see what happens.
Have your mini engineer create an invention using toothpicks and marshmallows (mini marshmallows work great too). This activity will encourage your child to use their imagination while also strengthening critical thinking and reasoning skills. You can even try spelling out their name using just these two items. Work together as a team and see what creation you can come up with!
For kiddos who love to explore with their hands, why not create a tinker box that you can return to again and again? Grab an unused box from the house, and gather household items to put inside the box.
Some items you might want to add to your tinker box include: buttons, string, glue, different types of tape, feathers, pompoms, construction paper, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, stickers, wooden dowels and pegs, and recycled materials such as food pouch caps.
Putting together your tinker box is also a fun and creative activity to get your kids involved. Perhaps they’ll find something useful in the house that you wouldn’t have thought of!
Now that you have some ideas, it’s time to gather up your items and have a fun afternoon exploring with your little one.
As always, make sure you supervise your kids during free play — particularly around small items. Please keep all choking hazards away from little ones three and under.
Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based out of Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including Scary Mommy, The Penny Hoarder, and The Globe & Mail.
Brianna's budget-savvy ways have attracted media attention and led to newspaper coverage in The Globe & Mail and The Guelph Mercury. In April 2016 Brianna will be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less, alongside co-writer Brooke Burke. You can find Brianna's website at Brianna Bell Writes.
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