Here are some easy STEM activities for kids to get involved in play-based learning. There are so many fantastic ideas about all of the things you can do. The activities chosen here are selected to meet my ‘mum’ requirements such that they are all:
STEM activities do not have to be expensive!
These 5 activities capture a range of interests and each of them costs less than $5. They are all hands-on activities to encourage engagement which will assist with learning and best of all, they are fun!
These lists assume that you will have sticky tape, scissors and paper on hand (and are not included in the $5 costing). If you want to try all of these activities then there is a handy shopping list of items at the bottom of the post. Many of these items are household supplies, but if you needed to buy it all from scratch the grand total is $20.79. Please note that all prices listed here are in Australian dollars and sourced from Australian stores.
Cheap and Easy STEM Activities for Kids
This is a perfect activity to do to practice building concepts, objects positioned in space (ie 2D versus 3D) and basic geometry of shapes. It can also be used to teach area and perimeter concepts. This activity has zero setup time. You just need to open the packets and go!
- Stick the toothpicks into the jubes to build shapes
- You can build 2D or 3D shapes and structures
This activity teaches aerodynamics, float and sink concepts and building abilities. It is great for little ones as they can get help making the boats and then play with them in a water play setup. It is even perfect for the bath!
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Alternative: You can source other items for the sail such as foam sheets or cardboard if your budget allows or you have some already at hand.
- Cut the pool noodle into slices for the bases of the boats.
- Place a skewer into the pool noodle slice.
- Cut out a design of a sail in paper. You can experiment with different shapes and decorate or colour as you want to.
- Position the sail onto the skewer by poking a hole at each end and threading it through once.
- Place the boat in a shallow tray/dish or bath of water. Be careful not to wet the sail as the paper will start to disintegrate.
- Use the straw to blow wind onto the sail and watch as it moves about in the water.
This activity teaches capillary action of the water being absorbed and transferred by the paper towel into the empty cup. It also is a great one for patience as results are not instant and kids will enjoy coming back to check on the progress throughout the experiment. If your budget allows, and you can get several coloured dyes then it can be used to teach colour mixing (see the alternative note at the bottom).
- Set up 3 empty plastic cups in row.
- Fill the 2 cups on the end with water until full.
- Add food colouring to one of the cups with water and stir.
- Roll a square of paper towel so that it is paced in the water of one cup, and into an empty cup next to it. Place another in the cup next to it too.
- Leave the setup and observe what happens. The empty cup will start filling up with water and will mix to form a lighter colour of the original.
Alternative: You can add several more cups with different coloured dye to observe the mixing of new colours. To do the rainbow shown here, you need yellow, red and blue dye and to arrange the cups in a complete circle alternating between empty and full cups to begin with.
This activity teaches aerodynamics, displacement, speed, velocity and building. Turn it into a game by having several setup and have rocket races!
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- Tie one end of a long string to a chair.
- Thread a straw onto the string and tie the other end of the string to another chair.
- Blow up a balloon and hold onto the end (don’t tie it off).
- Place the sticky tape over the straw and onto the balloon surface.
- Let go of the balloon and watch it rocket down the string.
This activity shows colour changing with dying the sugar and evaporation of liquids while you wait for it to dry. You can then add any type of STEM learning concept to actually play with the sugar. See the method for an idea to teach volume concepts.
Tip: This activity can get very messy! Place it in a large Tupperware container to try and contain the sugar if you need.
Tip: This is a great activity for younger children and is a really great sensory activity if you want to place other items in the sugar for them to find.
- Place ½ cup of sugar in a snap lock bag and add in several drops of food colouring.
- Close the bag and mix the sugar in with the dye by rubbing and moulding the bag. If there is not enough dye to cover all of the sugar after 30 seconds, add a few more drops and repeat.
- Place a baking sheet on a baking tray and empty the sugar onto the surface.
Allow to dry completely overnight.
Repeat with as many colours as you have. Ensure all of the dye is dried out before you give it to the kids to prevent their hands being coloured too.
- Add in any elements you have at home for the kids to play. We love placing marks on the cups so that the kids need to fill each cup to a certain level (ie 1/3 cup, ½ cup, ¾ cup).
Here are the items you need if you want to do all of the activities on the list. A lot of these are household items that you will already have at home. Check what you have already, to make these activities even cheaper to do with your kids.
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Here are 5 great and quick STEM activities you can do at home with your kids. They all come in at less than $5 each to do and will engage your kids in play based learning. Many of the items you will already have at home. Grab your shopping list and have a go.