Children are naturally curious. They want to know and learn about the world around them and love to explore and create. STEM activities are a great way for children to play and create with simple materials. STEM for kids includes challenges, projects, lessons and activities that combine Science, Engineering, Technology and Math.
All STEM activities and STEM challenges are a great way to get kids excited about these subject skills in an engaging, easy and hands-on way.
STEM activities are a simple way to develop problem solving, thinking outside the box and growth mindset skills.
Over the years of teaching, STEM activities continue to be one of my favorite activities to do with students and with my own children. I have three main reasons for this. First, children love STEM activities. They are always engaged and excited to try a new STEM activity. Secondly, there is so much learning and important skills that are developed in every STEM activity. Finally, I love STEM for kids because it is hands-on learning and I feel this is the best way to learn!
Recently, the arts have been added to some STEM activities, making them STEAM activities. As many subject skills that can be mix together into an activity is a great learning opportunity for kids.
Although this activity is intended to focus more on engineering, the final product that children create could certainly be displayed and viewed as an art piece.
Materials for Your STEM Activity
One of my favorite things about this STEM activity is that the materials are simple and easy to get your hands on. Also, as a teacher I like that the materials are things that I typically already have in my classroom.
For this STEM activity for kids, you will need.
- Pipe Cleaners
- Tissue Paper (Optional)
If you have styrofoam pieces from something you’ve purchased or old straws, this is a great project to reuse them, instead of throwing them out.
I’ve accumulated a lot of materials for STEM activities over the years. The materials used for these activities can often be reused again and again. So it is beneficial to find a way to store and hang onto your materials.
I’ve included links to the products and items you need for this activity if you don’t already have them in your collection.
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Preparing Your STEM for Kids
Preparing your materials is quick. All you need to do is cut the straws into different sized pieces and cover the piece of styrofoam with a layer of tissue paper.
You don’t have to use the tissue paper, it simply creates a nicer looking base for your STEM project.
You can use any size of styrofoam for children to create on. This STEM for kids is also a great way to reuse foam instead of throwing it out.
Put the materials into containers for children to easily access as they build.
That’s all you need to do!
STEM for Kids – Building
One of the things that I love about STEM challenges and activities is that they are very child focused and driven. Avoid giving too many instructions or directions.
To start, place all of the materials out and ask children to start building and creating. Let the kids know that they can only use the materials given to them and nothing else.
There are a few ways that you can present this STEM activity to children. If you have a special theme or topic you are learning about, you can challenge children to build something to fit the theme, such as homes or cars.
The process of completing a STEM challenge is where the learning takes place. When children make decisions that don’t result in immediate success, they learn as they correct and improve upon their creation. Allow them to figure it out on their own.
STEM Activity Results
When I did this STEM for kids, I let the kids create anything they wanted. The only restriction was that they could only use the beads, straws and pipe cleaners and everything had to attach to the foam.
Children started by poking the pipe cleaners into the foam base and testing and figuring out what all they could do with it. As they noticed that they could stick the pipe cleaners in and they would stay, they began to build.
They created beautiful 3-D structures!
Children may stick pipe cleaners in to the sides. They may experiment with ways to make their structure really tall. This is where the straws are really helpful as they add strength to the pipe cleaners.
Make sure to take the time to ask children what they are creating, or what they created once they are done. What may simply look like a beautiful, colorful structure is often so much more!
When I did the activity, one child was able to tell me that they had created a rollercoaster theme park, complete with rides and water attractions. They could tell me what each pipe cleaner represented and what the name of the ride was that it showed.
STEM for Kids – Extension Ideas
This STEM activity can be used by individual children, small groups or even large groups. If you get a big piece of foam it could fill a desk and children could work together to create something huge!
These creations are also beautiful to display. Each project ends up looking like its own piece of art. With the use of different colors and materials, it creates something amazing.
You can also set up the materials to use as a learning center in the classroom for children to visit and create at. If you have the materials set out, children can add a few pieces and then another child can come by later and add more. It can become an ongoing project done my multiple children on multiple days.
I am excited to try this project with my new students in September. One of the best things about STEM activities is the incredible results that children come up with. Every time I do a STEM lesson, the children always come up with unique ideas beyond what I imagined.
There is no right or wrong way to complete a STEM activity. As long as children try and don’t give up, consider it a success.
STEM Activity Cards
If you are interested in encouraging a love of STEM activities in children, try this collection of over 100 STEM building challenges. The cards can be used with virtually any assortment of building materials. All you need to do is print them and children do the rest!
Ideal for home or classroom use.
Free STEAM Choice Board
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More Hands-On Teaching Ideas
If you are interested in more hands-on teaching ideas, below is a collection of our most popular and favorite learning activities for kids. Whether you are looking for something new to try in a classroom or at home, there is lots to keep kids busy, and learning.