Growing up, math and science were my favorite subjects in school. I can still remember getting excited about science experiments and math projects at school. After working as an engineer for a while, I now work in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education and love seeing people of all ages get excited about it just like I did! Of course, there are SO many more STEM kits, books, toys, and online activities now than there were then. But, sometimes all you need is a simple activity to excite and teach!
Here is a list of some of my favorite STEM activities that are sure to engage young scientists. These are perfect for these cold winter days when you are stuck inside and want a break from technology. The activities all use household items that you either have around or are inexpensive to buy. No matter what your area of interest in science, there’s something for everyone!
Launch a balloon rocket across the room with this simple thrust activity. Extend the learning by experimenting with different size straws, different strings, weights added, or different amounts of air in the balloon to see how the changes affect it.
pH Testing with Cabbage
This chemistry activity teaches about the pH scale. Red cabbage has a chemical, anthocyanin, that is a natural pH indicator. You can create frozen cabbage juice cubes that change the color of the liquid depending on if it is an acid or base.
There are so many coding activities online nowadays! But, this fun algorithm game teaches kids about the basics of coding without having any screen time. Kids think they are playing a game, but they are learning principles needed for coding.
Clouds in a Jar
Learn about clouds and water vapor by making your own cloud in a jar with this simple activity.
This bright and colorful experiment teaches kids about capillary action and color mixing as water “walks” from one jar to the next through paper towels.
In this experiment, you use household ingredients to extract DNA from a strawberry. You can extract DNA from many different things (including your own saliva). But, strawberries are a perfect choice as they are an octoploid, meaning they have 8 copies of each chromosome. That means there is a lot of DNA to extract!
Color “Fireworks” in Liquid
Watch an explosion of color with a magic milk experiment that teaches about chemical reactions. Or watch an explosion of color in water with this simple water and oil experiment that teaches about density and color diffusion.
This “egg”-tra special experiment takes a couple days to complete, but it has a pretty dramatic result as you shrink and expand an egg using chemistry and permeability!
Kids can learn about structures as they build bridges, structural towers, helicopters, and advanced airplanes out of paper. It’s amazing how strong and versatile paper can be in the hands of budding engineers!
Citrus Invisible Ink
Unleash your kid’s inner spy with this lemon juice invisible ink activity that teaches about oxidation.
Shake a Fruit Sorbet
Shake fruit juice into a sorbet in less than 10 minutes with this tasty, fruity experiment while learning about the effect salt has on the freezing temperature of water.
Learn about density as you create a tower of liquids in this colorful activity. If you’d rather make an edible version, this fruity drink is a tasty spin on the experiment (check the video description for the recipe).