Welcome to STEAM for Kids Week! For my regular readers, this week I am the host for the 12-week Summer Camp at Home series, hosted by Wunder Mom. For those joining from the Summer Camp series, welcome to the Playground Parkbench. This week I am sharing kids learning activities you can easily and inexpensively do at home, with simple household and craft supplies on a STEAM theme. Each day will cover one STEAM for kids area – science, technology, engineering, art and math… Grab the printable schedule and daily supply list to join us for an awesome STEAM Week Summer Camp At Home.
Why STEAM for Kids Matters
While all our kids may not grow up to be the next Steve Jobs or astrophysicist, STEAM still matters for all of our kids. Hands-on STEAM for kids activities help develop critical thinking, logic and problem solving skills your child can apply in all facets of their life. Building these technical skills helps build confidence, self-esteem, and that failure is often times just a stepping stone to greater learning.
And in today’s modern world, STEAM careers are the fastest growing and in highest demand. Graduates in STEAM fields have higher earning potential, and are equipped with the skillsets to truly transform the world around us.
… Especially for Girls
I’ve always loved math and science – and as a kid, I used to pour over the stock pages of my local newspaper. That passion eventually led to a degree in Finance and a career in the hedge fund industry. I didn’t realize how unique my passion was “for a girl,” until my junior year of college when my finance electives suddenly found me sitting in a room of 40, with only 3-4 other girls. The ranks were similar in my first job out of college on Wall Street, and even worse once I moved on to hedge funds – where I was often the only woman at the conference table. Nearly two decades later, women are still dramatically under-represented in finance and ALL STEAM fields.
As a mother to two daughters, I am still passionate about math, finance and science. And I am even more passionate in encouraging my daughter’s early interest in STEAM. The world needs more women in STEAM careers, and it starts by encouraging them as children.
Summer Camp at Home STEAM Week
Now that you understand the importance of (and my passion for!!!) encouraging STEAM for kids often and early, let’s get to the fun stuff. Each day this week, I am sharing activities representing each of the STEAM fields. All activities are easily doable at home with kids of all ages – where I have shared more than one activity, the first is targetted toward the toddler and preschool age group, while the second is for elementary-aged students.
Monday – Science Activities for Kids
Science for kids, especially at a young age, is truly magical. And let’s be honest – it’s still pretty cool for adults too. So use that awe and excitement to help instill a method for problem solving they can rely on for years to come. The scientific method is all about answering questions through trial and error, and documenting the results. All three of these science activities for kids do just that!
Science doesn’t get any simpler than this. Test your child’s fine motor skills and the surface tension of water. All you need is water, an eye dropper, and spare change. Visit the full post to learn how to use this simple preschool STEM activity to explain surface tension and download the FREE printable recording chart to count the drops!
Another easy science activity for kids, leveraging all kids’ favorite – bubbles – and whatever tools, utensils and common household objects you have around the house. It also organizes the activity into the key steps of the scientific method… in case you need a refresh from your school days!
BONUS: Mix a Rainbow – Color Science for Kids
This is probably the most requested science activity in our house – my daughter would do it everyday if she could (but I’ve never actually officially written about it because it is so easy. All you need is water, food coloring and containers for mixing. If you want to be fancy and use real science gear, we are big fans of the Learning Resource Science Kits.
Start with 3 containers of red, blue and yellow water and ask your child if they can mix the rest. How many colors can they make? You can find more awesome color science activities here.
Tuesday – Technology for Kids
Kids today have never lived in a world where technology wasn’t readily available. But this week’s technology for kids activity doesn’t involve screens or computers. Instead, it explores the history of technology – and introduces future programmers to the world’s very first computer programmer, a woman, Ada Lovelace, who lived a century before the first computer would even come to be.
Ada Lovelace was a woman far beyond her time. The daughter of a Lord Byron, the famous British poet and a mother, who was a wealthy heiress and mathematician in her own right, Ada was exposed to the best educational resources of her day.
She explored factories during the peak of the industrial revolution and worked with Charles Babbage on his early schematics for the first adding machine. The algorithms she created and punch cards they developed are now recognized as the first computer programs… long before modern day computers ever existed.
Check out this inspiring story for future computer programmers, Ada’s Ideas, and download the free Number punch cards to use in any number of preschool STEM activities and they make for a fun fine motor challenge for tiny hands too! There are also ABC punch cards available for $1.
To adapt this activity for older kids, you can give them blank cardstock and encourage them to punch their own patterns, codes or even work on sight words.
Wednesday – Engineering Challenge for Kids
Modern day engineering is highly technology driven. But the traditional building blocks of engineering – basic physics, simple machines, construction and problem solving is the place to start with young children. Our Architecture and Engineering for Kids series is among our most trafficked series to date – and this simple engineering challenge for kids is a fan favorite!
The girls and I fell in love with this book – Twenty-One Elephants and Still Standing, and it inspired this simple engineering science for kids challenge. The book itself is gorgeous enough to sit on your coffee table, but the story, told in rhyme, is engaging enough for the youngest of readers. It is a true story of the history of the Brooklyn Bridge.
When it first opened, people were afraid to cross it – to demonstrate it’s strength, PT Barnum walked his circus, including 21 elephants across the bridge.
Share the story with your kids, then offer them an assortment of recyclables (cardboard tubes, cups, straws) and craft supplies (large craft sticks, pipe cleaners). Challenge them to build a bridge to hold 21 small figures. You can find the small elephants and hippos we used in Learning Resources Jungle Animal Set.
This is a great fine motor and counting challenge for younger kids, while you can up the challenge for older children by 1)limiting construction materials, 2) forcing their bridge to span an expanse, or 3) testing different bridge formations.
Thursday – Awesome Process Art Activities for Kids
How does ART fit with the rest of STEM? You often hear people talk about STEM education, emphasizing the more technical content areas of science, technology, engineering and math. But more and more frequently, educators are incorporating the creative aspects of Art into STEM curriculum, or STEAM.
Why? Because think of Apple and the iPhone. Would it be as popular today if its aesthetics were less pleasing? From the graphic elements, to its sleek design, the artistic elements are as much a part of its success as its technical capabilities. In today’s modern world, art is more intertwined with technical fields than ever. And for kids, it’s important to encourage their creativity. Process art does exactly that – they don’t need to replicate a specific end result – the emphasis is on the process of creating.
This is a summer favorite in our house – and one that we repeat several times a summer. All you need is a large roll of craft paper and diluted paint in spray bottles.
Little fingers get a great fine motor work out squeezing to create their masterpiece… but older kids will find it just as fun!
For older kids up for a little more challenge, this is a super cool summer art activity, incorporating science, history and world culture too! The 200+ year old Japanese tradition of fish prints!
Using REAL fish or the sea creature of your choosing, you can create amazing prints… even wearable ones on t-shirts. Let your kids create their own wearable art – and what’s says summer more than fish shirts?!?
Friday – Math Activities for Kids
And last but not least, math – my personal favorite. I am a total numbers nerd, and always have been since I was a little kid. So I love sharing math and numbers activities with my kids, from as early an age as they could recognize patterns and start to count.
Sorting is one of the early building blocks for math. And the cool thing is that young children are hardwired to discern differences and similarities. So all you really have to do is encourage that innate ability and help them put vocabularly to what they are observing!
This makes sorting the easiest and earliest math activity you can do with your toddler or preschooler. And you can do it with just about any material, anywhere. For summer, we like to sort seashells! But you can use anything you have in your house – craft supplies, like pom poms, assorted toys, other natural elements, like rocks, leaves or flowers. Basically, anything that comes or you can make into different shapes, sizes and colors is sortable.
Encourage your child to sort by different features – and help them put words to their observations. If they sort by size, talk about small, medium and large. By shape, put names to the shapes. Do the same thing with colors. Check out the full Sorting Seashells post to see even more simple math extensions you can do with simple math manipulatives.
Once your child is comfortable with counting past 20 and counting objects – showing they truly understand one-to-one correspondence and are not just memorizing numbers like their singing the Alphabet song, you can introduce Place Value to help them begin to recognize patterns in our number system. There are LOTS of math manipulative sets out there build for this… but you can totally make your own too like we did with colored pasta and pipe cleaners.
Once you make place value – or Base Ten – manipulatives, pair them with our printable I Can Make Numbers Math Book for Kids. I love to print these, put them in sheet protectors in a binder, and let the kids revisit them with dry erase markers over the summer.
Notice a theme to these math activities? There is ZERO need to spend money on expensive math manipulatives – they are literally all over your house already. If I do spend money on them, it’s usually picking something up from the Dollar Spot at Target. Check out 50+ Affordable Math Manipulatives for more ideas to engage your kids with math, without breaking the bank.
Wow! That STEAM for Kids week flew by fast. I hope you had fun with us on our STEAM adventures this week, and more importantly, I hope you are now equipped with resources to share simple STEAM activities with your kids on a regular basis. What was your favorite activity of the week? Which one are your kids begging to do again already?
And sure to visit the Summer Camp At Home page to join in next week’s Nature fun, and join our Summer Camp At Home Facebook group to follow along daily, and share your Summer Camp at Home fun and photos with us!