STEM seems to be a topic that more and more parents are becoming aware of. It’s understandable given the high demand for people with STEM talent in the workforce. I’m sure I speak for many dads when I say that I would love for my child to graduate college and be in high demand. Finally all those years of dad nagging to study hard will make sense. If you’re looking to introduce your children to the world of STEM, I find it’s helpful to include fun STEM projects for kids when teaching to a younger child.
If you are new to the world of STEM don’t worry. You know the nerds have you covered! Check out our quick guide to STEM and why it’s something you should care about. Once you’re ready to take the next step the below projects are worthy of your consideration.
Why Teach With Projects?
Before we dive in let’s discuss why using projects is a great way to teach children.
STEM subjects can be tough to grasp and downright boring at times. Really, who finds matrix multiplication a good Saturday afternoon project? Not me.
By using projects kids are encouraged to learn in a manner that is fun. This makes the lessons stick as we tend to remember fun things more than boring things. Projects at home are also more open and freeing than class assignments. While messing a project at school results in low marks, messing up at home is simply a learning experience.
A few other reasons I like projects:
- Rapid feedback as you see the results in (mostly) real-time
- Improved learning performance since it is active learning (doing the project) and not passive (listening to a lecture)
- Projects can foster teamwork and competition which makes them that much more fun
I personally enjoy learning by doing projects. Whenever I set out to learn something new, such as a programming language, I like to jump right in and create something. I might consult documentation or StackOverflow, but it’s mostly trial by error. It’s fun and provides me with motivation to get better than I was the day before.
STEM Projects For Kids
Buckle up and get ready for some amazing STEM projects for kids that can easily be done at home. Many of these are fun for people of all ages. You might even teach an *old* dad new tricks.
First up we have slime. Who doesn’t love a good slime projects? Well, I don’t enjoy the clean up part so much. This project will have kids explore the world of science and chemistry when they create their own saline solution slime. Your kids can add in their favorite colors, sparkles, clay, glitter and any other number of items to make their own unique creation.
- Clear or white PVA glue (1/2 cup)
- Saline solution that contains boric acid and sodium borate (1 tablespoon)
- Water (1/2 cup)
- Baking soda (1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon)
- Extras: glitter, food coloring, etc.
- Mix the water and glue in a large bowl
- Add the food coloring, glitter, and any other mix-ins
- Stir in the baking soda to give the slim form and add some firmness
- Stir in the saline solution until the slim starts to form
- Get in there and kneed the slime
As you can tell this isn’t a long experiment, but it will introduce kids to states of matter, mixtures, and elasticity.
We’ve presented technology projects for kids before on Nerdy Dads. It’s kinda what we are passionate about. Today I’ll introduce you to a tech project kids and parents will love. I present to you the scrub brush robot. Fun for kids because it’s a robot. A joy for parents since it is educational and can clean small surfaces.
- Scrub brush (I prefer those that can stand on their own
- Motor (3 volt)
- AAA battery pack + wires
- Small weight (a clothespin will do)
- Hot glue gun
- Tape (Scotch or electrical will be fine)
- Needlenose pliers
For younger children parental supervision is recommended given the use of the hot glue gun and pliers.
- Set the motor-to-battery connection using the pliers to connect the wires to the electrical ports. Use tape if needed
- Insert AAA batteries into the battery pack
- The motor should be spinning at this point!
- Attach the clothespin or other small weight to the motor to make it vibrate
- Glue the motor and battery pack to the top of the scrub brush
- Watch your scrub brush go!
It isn’t a tough project for young children to complete and packs a bunch of education into a short time. If you have multiple children they can each create their own brush and race them. Bonus points if they use blocks to create a race track.
This next project is a twist on a party favorite. If you’ve ever done an egg race at a party this project should get you excited. Introducing the egg drop (not the soup).
The objective with this project is to create a contraption that will prevent an egg from breaking when dropped.
I don’t really have any recommendations on supplies for this project. My advice is to grab a few eggs from the fridge. Make breakfast and let the kids crack the eggs. If they have never done this before they will realize just how fragile the egg shell is.
Next, task your kids with finding supplies around the house to create a protective device for their egg. With the supplies gathered it’s time to employ some record keeping.
Each child, and the parents, should sketch out their design and then write down what they think will happen and why. If the egg won’t break, what is the reason?
With your sketches and predictions out of the way get to building. Use tape, glue, straws, and everything else you’ve found to create your egg protector.
Once everyone is done place the devices on the table. Each person should explain what they’ve built and why it will protect the egg. Everyone can then write down their own thoughts on what will happen. Make it fun by holding a secret vote on which device will be the best.
Now comes the moment the kids have been waiting for!
Hold the devices containing an egg out at chest height and drop them. If the egg breaks that device is eliminated from the event. If the egg doesn’t break that device moves to the next round. Drop the egg from a higher position. Keep going until one egg protector remains.
This is a fun experiment because who doesn’t like breaking eggs. More important is that kids learn about forming and testing hypothesis and getting creative with household supplies. They also learn how to evaluate their work. If their device failed on the first try, what could they do next time to make it better?
We couldn’t conclude a list of STEM projects for kids without including some math. Normally people don’t associate math with fun. Let’s change that!
A word of caution: this activity is fun, but isn’t for young children as it contains watermelon seeds.
- Watermelon with seeds
- Measuring tape
- Eat the watermelon and put the seeds to the side
- Head outside and draw a starting line on the pavement with the chalk
- Have the kids measure off distances in 50 inch increments using the measuring tape
- Spit the seeds and see who can go the furthest
Like I mentioned, young children who might swallow the seeds should sit this one out.
To incorporate math into this project you can do a few things:
- Measure and calculate the average distance per person
- Graph the distances of all the seeds
- Draw a target and calculate the probability of landing in certain zones
- Assess if the height and age of the person impacts how far a seed will travel
This is a fun outdoor activity that gets everyone out of the house. It also gets everyone eating watermelon which is a tasty and healthy snack. Combine outdoors, learning, and healthy food and I’d say you have a winner!
Get creative and I bet you can think of tons of fun STEM projects for kids. The important thing is finding a project that is educational and fun. This will help the lessons stick longer and will also give your kids something to talk about with their friends. You may just end up influencing more than your own child in a positive way.