Can you build a cage for your animal so that it can’t get out? This was the challenge that I gave to my kids. If you are looking for a creative activity to do with your kids at home or in a classroom, this STEM for kids activity will keep them busy, and learning.
STEM activities involve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math mixed into a hands-on learning activity. STEM activities for kids can create a love for science, creating and building.
STEM challenges have become very popular with kids and they are perfect for a hands-on activity that promotes creativity, trial and error, and perseverance.
As a teacher, I frequently try to incorporate a STEM activity into my units and lessons. As a parent, I love giving my kids activities that are open-ended and require them to use their imagination and build with their hands.
I have done a lot of STEM for kids activities. Every time I introduce one of these activities to children, they are excited and full of ideas. Since STEM activities don’t usually have only one solution, children will often approach STEM activities with confidence and a positive mind set.
- Popsicle Sticks, or Tongue Depressors
- Plastic Animal Figure
- Clothes Pins
The materials are simple, and beyond collecting them, there is no other prep involved. The more popsicle sticks and clothes pins you have, the better. Kids will use as much as you have.
Tongue depressors work best because they are bigger and hold better with the clothes pins. If you are doing this STEM activity with young children, tongue depressors are also better for little hands.
However, if you only have popsicle sticks, they do work too, and can add an extra challenge for older children. When I did the activity in class, I gave children both tongue depressors and popsicle sticks to build with.
If you don’t have an animal figure, you can simply use some other small toy to build a cage for. Technically you don’t really need an animal at all; however, I have done this activity without using an animal and kids tend to not be as engaged. They love having an actual figure/toy to be able to hold and build the cage around.
With this activity, children have the chance to become architects and engineers.
When I give STEM challenges I typically give very little direction/instruction to students. I try not to guide their creations. Children have the freedom to create anything they imagine, but the challenge is still structured because there is a goal/focus.
In this case, it is to build a home for their animal.
Challenge your children to create a structure/cage to keep an animal in. Sounds simple enough. But here’s the hard part. You can only use popsicle sticks and clothes pins and your animal (the plastic figure) must fit inside the home.
At first, children played around with the clothes pins to figure out exactly how they worked. Some groups simply stacked their pins and sticks to create a wall. Children then began to figure out that how to use the pins and pinch the tongue depressor inside the pin.
Children can work in small groups, or independently. When I did the activity, each small group was given a bin with only clothes pins, popsicle sticks and larger tongue depressors. Then I gave each group a small animal critter.
They had half an hour to complete their STEM challenge!
By pinching the clothes pin and holding the tongue depressor, children began to create small cages with the clothes pins looking like bars of a cage. Once they figured out that they could do this, they then really started to create.
The cages began to have roofs. They had separate rooms for the animals to move into. Children worked to figure out ways to secure the sides and attach them together.
The cages that my kids created were amazing! They were very focused and excited while they built. In the end, no two cages looked the same, but all children were successful in making their animal home.
I was very proud of all of the beginner architects!
One of my favourite things about STEM for kids is when I have the opportunity to talk to the children about what they have built. At first glance, each house, may simply look like a house; however, talking to the creators of the house you may find some details and features that you didn’t notice.
I discovered that some houses had two walls for extra protection. Some homes had a secret door for the animal to get in and out whenever they want. Some structures even had a second floor!
When preparing STEM for kids it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple materials can lead to some of the best challenges! Have fun creating!
Depending on time, I sometimes give students time to draw/plan what they are wanting to create before they start building. As children build, they explore the materials and find ways to make their structure stable.
For older children, you can have them work independently versus a small group. I love giving children a chance to work together and share ideas. There is a lot of learning and lessons that come from groups work.
However, if you have done STEM challenges before, allowing children to work on their own also allows them to create whatever their personal imagination comes up with.
I have done this STEM for kids at home and at school. With my own kids at home, they sat and built for hours on their own. I have found that if I leave the STEM activity open ended, like this one, my children will sit and create and keep expanding on their idea – if they are given the time to do so.
For More STEM and Hands-On Activities …
Looking for more simple STEM challenges? I have created a collection of over 45 STEM building challenges that you can try out today!
If you are looking for some extra hands-on activities your kids will love, check out some other activities I had done at home and in the classroom. They are all kid tested, and approved!