Keeping children entertained is a fine art. Doing so while also helping them learn is the coup de gras. When children are learning through play, a parent has truly tapped into a best of both worlds scenario. However, even in this information age, it is extremely difficult to accomplish both at the same time. It’s not easy to find things to do. An educational museum is a great solution. You can also have children play museum, collecting their own “artifacts” and making displays. What else can be done to push young minds in the right direction? Home-grown STEM projects. Science has and always will be fun. It’s not because a science or math-related project always explodes with flash and dash ear and eye candy. No, it’s because everyone loves to learn. And learning through hands-on discovery is one of the best ways to absorb and reinforce fresh information. Here are some cool STEM projects you can do at home with your kids.
Making catapults is always one of the favorite things to do for children. A popular weapon during the middle ages, the catapult still excites and amazes children today. The concept of making things fly a desired distance is naturally appealing to young minds—as evidenced by obsessions with slingshots, water guns, and even kid-tossing swing sets. Bringing this technology into a project atmosphere gives children a unique amount of control over the end product—and the science- and math-based variables that make it so fascinating. While designing the catapult activity, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choose the right type of catapult. A typical catapult is a great start. However, for a more advanced learner, you may want to try the illustrious trebuchet. With a trebuchet, you essentially have two catapults working in sequence. The centrifugal force of the first helps power the second, and an exponential amount of power is the jaw-dropping result. If your young one isn’t up on vector physics, yet, you can still use fairly straightforward mathematical concepts to keep his or her brain buzzing. You can make the weight that moves the lever a variable, adjusting it and recording the differences. If you add a removable basket to the mix, the length of the arm can be adjusted and the varying results can also be recorded. This is one of the most productive things to do. Using these techniques, young ones can create their very own mathematical formulas. A catapult is a great entry point for an interest in physics.
Cleaning Up an Oil Spill
Although this could get messy, it is one of the top things to do to help kids get into the nitty-gritty of the effects of an unnatural ecological disaster. To execute the activity, you simply have to take a very large container and fill it most of the way with water. You then take some oil and spill it inside. If you want, you could up the ante by using a toy boat that tows a container that either starts to leak or tips over. You also get some feathers and put them in the oily water. Then give the children a selection of things that can be used to help clean up the spill. As the children go to work on the clean-up, you can lead an informal discussion about how difficult it is to properly clean up the mess. You can also discuss the effect on the feathers and how a bird would go about getting the oil out of its plumage. As the children struggle through the process, they will gain a greater understanding of the effects of this type of disaster.
One of the most “delicious” things to do with children, architecture with food is the perfect meeting place for art and science. In this activity, you only need a lot of jellybeans and a bunch of toothpicks. The toothpicks serve to hold the jellybeans together to form walls, roofs, and other architectural structures. The children can be encouraged to take note of which arrangements of jellybeans provide more stability and which ones have more aesthetic appeal. They can also shape individual jellybeans by squishing them to make them either stronger components of, or more attractive additions to, the structure.