10 Simple STEM Activities To Do With Your Kids
When you encourage your child to do science experiments at home, like this classic activity to make oobleck, it will help foster their love for science. These easy STEM activities for kids (STEM=Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are great for summer or any time of year. And, they use everyday household items you probably already have on hand –and they just might keep the whole family entertained.
And here’s the great part: science is everywhere. Every time your child rides their bike, moves their arm or turns a doorknob they are experiencing science in action. A curious child who wants to know what and why things move the way they do or what makes objects fall can discover the answers with these simple science experiments for kids.
If you are looking for a great summer science or homeschool activity, make a gyrocopter. A gyrocopter is a helicopter without a motor that uses a combination of air resistance, gravity, and lift to spin its wings. Build different size gyrocopters with your kids to test how size impacts it as it falls. Here is a hint – the bigger the gyrocopter, the slower it will fall!
- Divide the length of a sheet of paper into six equal sections and the width of the paper into three equal sections to create a grid on the paper consisting of 18 squares.
- Cut the paper along the inside grid lines horizontally separating the three equal sections Do not cut through the top row of squares.
- Attach a small paper clip to the bottom of the center strip of paper. Fold the right-side strip of paper up toward the uncut section then flip the paper over and fold the other strip up in the same manner to create wings.
- Draw designs or color your gyrocopter with crayons and markers. Your gyrocopter is ready to fly so throw it up in the air or drop it while standing on a sturdy stool or chair.
2. Merry-Go-Round Spinner
This STEM activity will teach your child all about centripetal force (the same force they experience when riding on a merry-go-round at the playground).
- Drill a small hole through the length of a cork, thread one end of a three-foot piece of string through the hole in the cork and tie a big knot above the top of the cork so the string can’t fall off.
- Thread the opposite end of the string through an empty thread spool and tie the end of the string to a small weight like a wood block.
- Hold the spool in one hand and begin slowly whirling the cork around in a circle. Increase the speed of the cork spinning it faster and faster.
Watch what happens to the weight. The cork is trying to fly off in a straight line and as you speed up the whirling motion the centripetal force needed to keep it moving in a circle increase. The opposing forces cause tension in the string which in turn pulls the weight up. Therefore, the faster they spin the cork the higher the weight will move up.
3. Diver Dude
Why do some objects float and some sink? This science experiment will let kids see how changing an object’s density makes it float or sink.
- With a sharpie marker on an aluminum pie plate draw the shape of a person with legs spread apart measuring approximately 2 ½” tall by ¾” wide. The figure should be small enough for it to fit through the neck of a two-liter pop bottle. Cut out the figure.
- Cut off the bendable section of a plastic straw and slide the open ends onto both sides of a large paper clip. Slide the straw and paper clip between the person’s legs and up onto the body. The bent part of the straw should now be behind the person’s head to look like a diver’s air tank.
- Add some putty to the feet to give your diver some weight.
- Completely fill a plastic two-liter bottle with water, place the diver into the bottle, then screw on the cap. The diver should be floating at the top of the bottle.
- Squeeze the bottle and watch the diver sink to the bottom. When you release the squeezing pressure, the diver should float back to the top.
When the bottle is squeezed water is forced into the straw, compressing the air inside making the diver denser causing him to sink. Release pressure on the bottle and air that is trapped inside the straw pushes the water back out making the diver float since he is less dense than the water. Can you make your diver float at different depths? It’s also fun to try this experiment with one of the many Lego mini figs your child likely has.
4. Topple The Tater
How long can you balance on one foot without falling? Gravity is a strong force that can make balancing difficult. Doing these science experiments at home will encourage your child to explore balance and center of gravity.
- First, try to balance a large (uncooked) potato on the tip of your finger.
- Next push two metal forks into the potato at an angle on each side of the potato. Try to balance the potato now. What happens?
- Take the metal forks out and replace them with plastic forks.
When the metal forks are inserted into the potato the mass of the forks moves the potato’s center of gravity lower making it easier to balance. Plastic forks do not have enough mass to lower the potato’s center of gravity making it harder to balance the potato on your finger.
5. Parachute Pete
Why do some things fall faster than other objects? Air resistance is the answer to this question. Parachutes work by creating a lot of air resistance as air is trapped underneath the parachute pushing it up. Do this experiment to learn how a parachute slows down a falling object.
- Cut out a 12″ square from a plastic grocery bag, punch a hole in each corner, thread a 16″ piece of string through each hole tying it securely to each corner.
- Wrap a paper clip around a Lego mini figure to create a harness and tie the four pieces of string to the paperclip.
- From a safe height, drop the parachute and watch how long it takes to fall.
6. Walking Water Rainbow
Kids will have so much fun making a walking water rainbow it won’t feel like school or learning! The science behind this experiment helps them understand capillary action, absorption, and color theory.
- Place six clear cups in line. Fill the first, third, and fifth cups with ½ cup of water. Leave the other cups empty. Add 10 drops of red food coloring to the first cup, yellow to the third cup, and blue to the fifth cup.
- Fold five pieces of paper towel into long strips. Put one end in the first cup of red-colored water and the other end into the empty cup next to it. Repeat this step with the remaining paper towels for the rest of the cups making sure the ends of the paper towel are touching the bottom of the cup.
- Watch closely as the walking rainbow comes to life.
Capillary action carries water through the fibers of the paper towels from one full cup of water to the empty cups.
7. Magic Milky Way
Learning about surface tension is fun with this easy STEM experiment.
- Pour a cup of whole milk into a pie plate. Add a few drops of various colors of food coloring in the milk around the dish.
- Dip the end of a toothpick into dish soap then poke the tip into one of the food coloring drops. Repeat and watch the colors swirl.
The reaction of the soap disrupting the surface tension of the milk causes the colors to radiate away from the toothpick. Try experimenting with different types of milk also to see how the effects change with milks containing different fat content.
8. Rain Cloud in a Jar
Is your child into weather? Teach kids about the weather system and how as clouds gather moisture they become oversaturated and produce rain.
- Fill a clear jar ⅔ of the way with water then squirt white shaving cream on the surface so it resembles a cloud. Let it settle for a few minutes.
- In a bowl mix ¼ cup of water with several drops of blue food coloring. Fill a dropper with the blue water and squeeze it out on top of the shaving cream.
The shaving cream represents the cloud, and the food coloring represents the water vapor accumulating in the clouds. (The water in the glass is there purely to hold up the shaving cream.)
9. Lava lamp
This cool science experiment is sure to wow your kids. Let them discover how water and oil don’t mix and how Alka Seltzer reacts with water to make bubbles of carbon dioxide.
- Fill a tall clear glass ¾ full with vegetable oil. Mix ½ cup of water with several drops of food coloring. Pour the colored water into the glass with the oil until the liquid is about 1-2 inches from the top.
- Break up an Alka-Seltzer tab into small pieces then drop one piece at a time into the glass and watch the bubbles work their magic.
This experiment demonstrates the various densities of water and oil–and how gas interacts with them.
10. Amazing Water Bag
Sometimes the simplest experiment can be the most fascinating. A plastic bag is the star of this experiment.
- Fill a gallon size Ziploc plastic bag half full with water.
- Poke sharpened pencils straight through the bag and water and out the other side.
The plastic bag is made of polymers. Learn how polymers, which are long flexible chains of molecules, react when the molecules are spread apart and seal themselves around a pencil.
Encourage your child to explore and discover the fascinating world around them through STEM activities and science experiments and educational toys at home. Educational activities, like these science experiments, can have a big impact on your child’s education and their future. A variety of science-based activities, STEM puzzles and toys can help kids learn about the world around them and what type of professions they may be interested in as they grow.