If you were to build your dream house, what would you include? Maybe a new kitchen? Perhaps a backyard? I could come up with a few other reasonable things that I would love to include, however, I quickly found out that asking a group of young kids is far more interesting. STEM activities and challenges are a great way for kids to learn through play and explore various subject areas, such as science, technology, engineering, and math.
This STEM activity is a simple idea, using simple materials, however, the learning and creative thinking that happens during the activity is remarkable. Kids will love the hands-on play and freedom to create. Parents and teaching will love the screen-free activity that keeps kids creating and learning.
- Variety of Building Materials (Building blocks, wooden blocks, popsicle sticks, cups etc.)
- Wooden People (Optional)
That’s all you need! There are no special materials required for this STEM challenge. If you don’t have the materials that I used, you can just use what you have available to you. The exact materials is not what is important. You simply need to provide a variety of possible building materials.
This is also one of the great things about STEM activities is that they are typically inexpensive, low prep and you can use simple materials and supplies that you already have on hand.
I did this activity at school with 4 different groups of children. I started with my kindergarten class. I love doing STEM activities in kindergarten and from what I have seen, kids love being given the opportunity to do them! This STEM activity started during a building study where children learned all about different types of houses and structures.
This STEM challenge was a great way to not only see what children had learned during the unit, but also a great chance for kids to think outside of the box and create a house that they would love. Turns out I teach a lot of budding architects!
To start we talked about some of our favourite features of some different houses. I then challenged children to think about and create a house of their dreams using at least 3 of the building materials.
You don’t have to set restrictions of using at least 3 materials. The children that I did the challenge with have done a lot of STEM activities with me so I wanted to add an extra element of challenge.
I then showed everyone all of the building materials that were available to them to use. Anything you can build with works! I let children choose any material they wanted and then they got to build their dream home.
Encouraging this restriction of 3 materials also increased some of the house features that children were able to add to their homes. It was also a great way to get kids using and familiar with a bunch of different materials and using them in a hands-on way.
I started by giving each child a small wooden person. You don’t need to use the wooden people, but they are fun to have and the children loved playing with them as they created. The other nice thing about using a small toy person is that it helps children to create their house with some scale.
For example, if they make a bed, they tested their wooden person out on it. They used the wooden person to check if it fit in the house and through doorways etc.
The ideas that everyone came up with were amazing! I was so proud! Come of the creations ranged from indoor water parks to even a hockey arena!
Given the freedom and opportunity children were able to come up with ideas and structures that I never would have thought of. Everyone worked hard to manipulate and create using the materials they had. They were able to play around with the materials in order to find something that would work for each feature other their house.
I was also impressed with how well the children’s homes demonstrated their understanding of structures and the different features of houses. Many homes had a roof, walls and doors.
I did this activity in a 40 minute period, however, it could have gone much longer. Children started to link their home with others (to create castles). It worked well for the time that I had, but it would be interesting to see how far this could have taken them.
When I did this activity with an older group of children, I focused on an architecture aspect and have children draw and plan their home before creating. This challenged children to think ahead of time and then be creative with the building materials to then find a way to bring their drawing to life using the materials.
For younger children, you can simply give the materials and not have any restrictions for how many of the materials they need to use. With older children, a simple way to make the STEM activity more complicated is to give children restrictions as part of the challenge. Perhaps they have to use at least 5 different materials. Maybe they have to build using only materials they find outside.
As a teacher, I love when an activity incorporates a few different subject areas. In order to bring in some math, I have changed up this STEM activity to include some counting and numbers. I limited children with the building supplies that they could only use 100 pieces. This is a great way to get kids counting and thinking ahead as they build because they had a limited number of pieces.
Looking for More Hands-On Learning Activities?
If you enjoyed this STEM activity, you will find lots more on this blog. I love STEM challenges and share lots of ideas for challenges that I have done in my classroom, and at home with my own children. Another favourite activity, are escape rooms! They are really easy to set up and create in your own home. Try some new ideas out today!