STEM activities for toddlers and preschoolers

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STEM activities for toddlers and preschoolers

Looking for STEM activities for toddlers and preschoolers that you can do at home?  We’ve got you covered! Here are 20 fun and educational STEM activities your little ones are sure to love!

Toddler holds up a chart tracking her STEM activities in her backyard
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Why STEM Activities?

The hullabaloo around STEM Activities is because of the real-world learning it provides children. By integrating the core subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math into a fun and experimental manner so children can learn and have fun doing it. It is a holistic way of learning which promotes the idea that  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math can all work together. This helps children become critical and logical thinkers, problem solvers, and innovators!

All of the STEM activities included here are inquiry-based, which means they are designed to answer a question which most often is created by a child herself/himself. The STEM activity provides a hands-on and minds-on opportunity for the child to explore the STEM subjects in a safe environment. It allows them to fail and try again and again. Through experiments, children feel motivated to apply the taught skills in the real world. STEM learning is the foundation for raising confident and resilient future innovators.

Cloud in a Jar

It’s the monsoon season here and we thought it’s a wonderful opportunity to discuss the weather and how clouds feel and look like. Why not create a cloud of our own? ️It’s an easy peasy activity and requires minimal preparation but it was a totally enjoyable, educational, and magical activity.


Materials required:

1. A glass jar.
2. A lid/a plate that covers the jar completely.
3. Some ice cubes.
4. Hot water in a thermos.
5. Any pressurized spray like a deodorant spray/ hairspray/ room freshener (we used a room freshener).

️STEM activity: Making the clouds

1. Put some ice cubes over the lid/plate.
2. Pour some hot water in the glass jar and swirl inside to warm up all the sides of the jar.
3. Cover it with the lid/plate loaded with the ice cubes and let it rest for 20-30 seconds.
4. Spray in the jar and cover it immediately with the ice cube topped lid/plate. Wait for a minute or two and watch the clouds form inside the jar.
5. Now remove the lid and woohoo !!!! Clouds, clouds and more clouds escaping out!


The science behind: 

A cloud is formed when water vapors condense into water droplets that attach to particles (of dust, pollen, smoke, etc.) in the air. When billions of these water droplets join together, they form a cloud. In this activity, the hot water makes the vapors rise up but because of the cool ice, the air on the top part of the jar is cool. The vapors start condensing on the spray which acts as the particle source on which the water vapors condense.

 Rain in a Jar 

How does rain form? Let’s find out.

Materials required:
1. A glass jar.
2. A plastic glass.
3. A toothpick.
4. Blue food color/ water color.
5. A spoon or a ladle.
6. Some cotton balls.
7. A bowl of water.

 

Making the rain clouds: 
1. Make some holes in the bottom of the plastic glass with a toothpick.
2. Put some cotton balls (6-7) in the plastic glass.
3. Put this plastic glass over the glass jar.
4. Mix a few drops of blue watercolor into the water.
5. Pour this blue colored water with a spoon or ladle over the cotton balls. Keep pouring until it starts to rain !!!!

The science behind the rain clouds:
1. The water from the various water source like ponds, lakes, rivers, sea, oceans, etc evaporates because of solar heat. The evaporated water rises up in the air and keeps rising up until it encounters cold temperatures, which causes the water vapor to condense back into liquid water droplets. When enough of these liquid water droplets come together, they form a cloud. This is what we did in our last activity.
2. The liquid water droplets that make up a cloud are too tiny to create rainfall. These tiny water droplets inside a cloud are always moving and bumping into each other. Sometimes, water droplets collide and join together, forming bigger water droplets. They soon become big enough and fall down (because of gravity) as the rain.                                              3. In the activity we did, the cotton balls are like clouds. When we pour water over them, they keep soaking the water till they are saturated and then they release the water droplets as the rain !!

This wonderful activity was suggested by Missy’s class teacher in one of her online classes and I thought to do it with some discussion over the phenomena. We are totally loving our weather science activities. This activity also gave Missy the chance to practice her pouring skills.

Blooming paper flowers

These paper flowers open up when put in the water! It’s a delight to watch them bloom right in front of our eyes.

Materials required:

1. Plain white or colored A4 drawing paper.
2. Sketch colors.
3. A pair of scissors.
4. Bowl of water

How to make blooming flowers:

1. Draw some flowers on the paper.
2. Colour the flowers.
3. Cut the flowers out.
4. Fold the flower petals and leaves.
5. Put the folded flowers in water and watch the magic

The science behind this awesome STEM activity for toddlers and preschoolers: 

Paper is made from plants. Plants absorb water through a process called osmosis, this is the movement of water across a membrane from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. Since paper is made from wood fiber, the fibers in the paper flowers swell and expand when placed in water, causing the flower to bloom!
Diffusion is very similar to osmosis but osmosis refers strictly to the movement of water.  The water-based inks in this STEM activity are also moving when exposed to water but they move by diffusion. The movement of particles from an area of high concentration to an area of low concentration. When the flower is placed in the water the ink is dissolved by the water and flows both through the paper to the white wide and out of the paper and into the water, leaving a trail of ink behind. Solubility is defined as the ability of a substance to be dissolved by a solvent. The water-based inks we used in the activity got dissolved in the water after they were leached out of the paper flowers into the water through diffusion

Understanding a Solar Eclipse

“Don’t let anything or anyone block your shine !!”Here is a simple activity to understand a solar eclipse.

Materials required:

1. For the sun- a torch, a mobile flashlight or a candle.
2. For the Earth- a globe/ a big ball/ a round plate/ planet earth drawing on paper.
3. For the moon- a small ball/ any small round object (should be smaller than the one used to depict Earth)



Setting up the STEM activity:

1. I used my mobile flashlight to represent the Sun. I held it in my hand.
2. The playshifu Orboot was our Earth.
3. The smiley we made in a previous craft was our moon.
4. So, when the Moon revolves around the Earth, it at least twice a year comes between the Earth and Sun, casting its shadow on Earth by blocking the sunlight. This is Solar Eclipse !!

The Lemon Volcano

In the firsts of our S.T.E.M activity series on Volcanes, we tried the nicest smelling volcano- The Lemon Volcano !! Because of the heady fragrance of the fresh lemon, it was a special sensorial experience as well. The idea was to have a very quick and easy set-up (it took less than 5min).

Materials required-
1.      lemons (choose big and juicy ones for longer fun). 2.   Baking soda- 2-3 spoonfuls.
3.      Food color to make it attractive and the fizz more obvious (any color, I chose red). 4.       Small spoon to mush the lemon pulp.
5.      Knife to cut and core the lemon (under adult supervision).                                    6.   A flat base- I chose a stainless steel plate.

Step-by-step-
1.      Slice the lemon base to make it sit flat.
2.      Core the lemon from the top and mush the pulp inside with a small spoon.
3.      Add some food color for some more drama.                                                         4.     The real fun part! Add baking soda slowly in the center of the lemon. Lo and behold the bubbles. Yayyyy what a fizzy foamy fun activity

Some extra things we could have done-
1.      Keep some extra lemon juice from another lemon to add-in.
2.      Add some liquid soap for more foam.

The science behind:

Since citrus fruits have citric acid and if we add baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), both will react to form Carbon dioxide and sodium citrate which cause the liquid to fizz and bubble out

Ice Painting 

Today’s activity had ice and that was enough to pep up the excitement meter to the top. Add to it the watercolors and salt, it was a perfect combination for a long fun indoor STEM activity “The melting ice science experiment with salt and watercolors “ on a hot sunny day. Sounds quite Cool right ?!?!

Child Poses with materials for her homeschooled STEM preschool activity.

Materials required:
1. Ice cubes/ a block of ice (we used one from a previous exercise)
2. Watercolors or food coloring
3. Some table salt,
4. Some paintbrushes.                                                                                                  5. dropper
6. A spoon,
7. A big bowl/ tray.

This is how we did this STEM experiment:

1. We placed the big round ice block on a glass plate.
2. Pick up a paintbrush and start painting over the ice. The colors give a vibrant look to the ice ball, some color dripping down the plate and some going inside the ice.
3. Sprinkle some salt over the ice balls. The salt creates many ravines all over the ice, the spot where salt was poured more had small craters !! The ice was melting more on these spots.
4. Paint more watercolor. Now the colors better spread on the ice because of the roughness created by ravines and craters on the melting ice.
The science behind: 
The ice melts faster when salt is sprinkled over it because the salt lowers the freezing point of water. The ice melting because of salt develops small ravines and craters. The watercolors highlight these ravines and craters.️

The results of the experiment were vibrant and interesting, Missy colored the ice ball into her favorite pink color. Just look at the shades of pink! It truly is a beautiful and fun learning experience for kids. It’s a simple STEM activity that can be explored and expanded to some different interesting versions. This one is worth repeating.

 Chlorophyll paintings

Nature is the best teacher and it has the best resources to teach us the most interesting things !! Like the “Chlorophyll paintings.” It was fun to learn about how plants make their food and what is the green pigment which makes the leaves and plants lush green.

Preschooler holds up a painting.

And here Missy is rubbing the green leaves and painting with it. I think it is the most beautiful amalgamation of art and science 🤩 For the 1st time we integrated coffee- painting too It turned out to be an amazing sensorial fine motor activity.

Materials Required

1. White drawing sheet.
2. Green leaves (5-6), greener the leaves, greener is the green paint !! We used bougainvillea, guava, lemon leaves.
3. Pencil.
4. 1/2 tsp coffee (any) mixed in 2tsp water.
5. A paintbrush.
Preschooler holds up her tree painting using natural materials in her STEM activity
Step-by-step: 
1. Draw an outline of the object you want to paint.
2. Now crush a leaf and rub it on the paper and here you just made your own green paint
3. And since we were not actually using any food colors or the real paints, we tried our hands on coffee-water to paint the tree trunk.This fun scientific art activity is an amazing way to explore, observe, and discover the world around us. This unique creative experience gave us endless discussions on color pigments commonly seen in skin, hair, eye, certain fruits and vegetables, etc. Enjoy nature, paint green

How to make DIY Balance Scales

Balance is one of those life lessons that everyone needs to learn both figuratively and literally. But for kids, literal balance is where it’s at. Here is a very easy DIY balance scale activity for introducing the kids to the concepts of weight and measurement. For this activity, we have several methods:

Child holds a homemade balancde scale for her homeschooled STEM activity

Simple cardboard balance scale:

Cut a toilet paper roll into half. Stick this in the middle of a rectangular piece of the cardboard piece. With a double sticky tape, stick 1 bowl (we used small stainless steel ones, you can use paper cups/glasses too) on each side. And it’s done We measured kidney beans, water, twigs, pebbles, etc.

Hanger as a homemade balance scale

Hanger balance scale: 

All it needs is a cloth hanger, some strings, and two similar weighing pans, I used two old thermocol glasses. I used cello tape to secure the strings to the hanger at both ends. Assemble it together as shown in the pictures and place it where it can swing freely. We measured crayons, pencil colors, erasers, etc. This was such a fun activity.

A no-tool balance scale:

Use a popsicle stick/ scale/  kulfi stick for hanging the weighing glasses (i used the same as in the previous version) at it’s two ends. Clip the center of the stick with a binder clip and hang it from a pen or a pencil and in order to let it move it freely, stabilize the pen/pencil under a book.

There can be so many other versions, just dive into your imagination and experiment with what works for you best.️

Confetti – Funnfetti

Here is another fun DIY activity with literally no-prepping- Bio-confetti. Perfect for a lazy afternoon. The set-up was really very quick, but you might want to have a tray to store all the Bio-confetti. You can either store it for an environment- friendly celebrations or just have fun blowing it around as we did.

Child holds bio confetti in her hand.

Materials Required:

Using a hole punch to make bioconfetti as a toddler STEM activity

1. Plenty of fallen leaves in the backyard (this is a cleaning activity too).
2. A single or double hole punch- if you have different shapes like star, heart, etc, it will be prettier confetti. I had a normal round punch but still, it was nonetheless, great.
3. Scissors and a pen/dry-erase marker (UNDER PARENTAL SUPERVISION ONLY)

So you see, there was an on-the-spot idea of practicing cutting too on the leaves. I showed once and Missy was punching through the leaves 🤩. The tiny hands are not strong enough so she used both hands to punch. It is such an excellent fine motor skill. For some added Math practice you can count and sort some of the confetti.

This DIY STEM activity is great because:

1. It is environmentally- friendly.
2. Confetti is bio-degradable, unlike the plastic ones.
3. No-prep activity. Doesn’t need many tools.
4. It is so creative.
5. It is a good fine motor skill activity.
6. Punching activity hardly needs parental supervision.
7. It is fun.
8. It was a nice smelling activity since we were punching through Guava and Mango leaves
Happy punching!

Capillary Action Water Flow

What started with answering my daughter’s many questions regarding how plants drink water when we water them; lead us to try our new S.T.E.M activity- “capillary action”.  Capillary action is the ability of a liquid to flow against gravity. To demonstrate how plants drink up the water we give them, we did a simple experiment to understand the concept of “capillary action”.

Materials required:

 1. Two similar glass bowls or two similar glasses.                                                           2. Any color- food color/ watercolor (we used a blue watercolor).                                     3. A thick thread, preferably white so that when the colored water moves, it is noticeable.

Setting up the experiment

1. Fill one bowl/glass half full of water.                                                                            2. Put a drop of blue watercolor (or any color of your choice) and mix it well.                    3. Put this bowl at a height.                                                                                          4. Keep another bowl empty.                                                                                          5. Now put each end of the thread in each bowl.

Keep the set-up overnight. The next morning the empty bowl will have some water and the thread will be wet !! Now your child will understand how the water can travel from the soil to each part of a plant.

Walking Rainbow 

Our weekend S.T.E.M fun has begun with our very own spectacular “Walking Rainbow”. This activity is in continuation of our “capillary action” experiment which we started yesterday. Missy absolutely loved the idea of color mixing and making “new” colors from just three primary colors.

Things required:
1. 6 similar glasses.
2. Red, yellow and blue colors (food color/watercolor).
3. 6 Tissue papers/ paper towels.

Time to experiment: 
1. Arrange the 6 glasses in a circular way.
2. Fill 3 glasses with plain water, keeping a glass empty in between.
3. Mix Red, Yellow, Blue colors separately in the 3 water-filled glasses.
4. Fold the tissue paper length-wise and put half of a tissue paper in each of a filled glass and an empty glass.
5. The water starts moving within minutes from glass to glass. And within an hour because of the capillary action, the primary colors mix and create secondary colors in the empty glasses- Orange, Purple, Green, thus completing the rainbow.
6.  The water keeps moving from glass to glass until it stabilizes and ends up at the same level in all the glasses. After this, the water stops moving further.
It was such fun to watch the rainbow form right before our eyes. The experiment beautifully combined the color mixing theory and capillary action.

Kids absolutely love this simple yet captivating experiment. They would want to do it again and again.

Leaf Breathing 

And when we talk of life, how can we not mention the life-giving plants and trees?! After all they give us the vital oxygen to breathe !! How can we demonstrate this to the little ones so that they understand, appreciate, and respect the plants? By doing a simple science activity- “leaf breathing activity”

Materials required:
1. An active leaf (a leaf has to be plucked fresh).
2. A bowl of water.
3. Some small pebbles to let the leaf be submerged in the water.
4. Most important- it should be sunny.

Now to demonstrate this invisible phenomenon and make it visible to the kids- just put the leaf in water. The leaf comes on the surface, so I put some pebbles on it so it is completely inside the water. Keep the bowl under direct sunlight. Now the most boring part- wait!! But we used this waiting time to discuss what to expect when we inspect the leaf, how do we breathe, how do other animals, birds, and fish breathe.

The Science behind: 

The oxygen released in the process will be seen as tiny bubbles on the surface and edges of the leaf!! Plants need sunlight air and water for photosynthesis. Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air and then release oxygen as photosynthesis and respiration occur. So, when we kept the leaf in water and sunlight, it was photosynthesizing (that’s why we took an active leaf and not a dried up one). What’s exciting for us is that we could find our dose of magic in this activity. We saw what is otherwise not seen with our eyes but is happening and is vital for our sustenance!!

States of Matter

Here we explore states of matter with balloons because what kid doesn’t love balloons?

Materials required:

1. 3 balloons (the same color would be better for comparison).
2. 3 bowls
3. A pair of scissors.

Activity steps: 

1. Fill the 1st balloon with water and keep it in the freezer. Let it freeze into a ball of ice.
2. Fill the 2nd balloon with water.
3. Blow air in the 3rd balloon.
4. Put each balloon in a separate bowl.
5. Let the child pick each of them and observe which one is more heavy/light. Solid was the heaviest and the air was lightest.
6. With the help of scissors cut open all the balloons. What happens? The Ice remained a solid ball despite melting a bit during the activity. The water in the 2nd balloon took the shape of the bowl. The air in the 3rd balloon escaped out with a whoosh; it could not be contained in the bowl !!

This topic was unexpectedly fun for my daughter too. I wasn’t expecting this kind of excitement for this activity

Changing the States of Matter

It’s monsoon time of the year, one day it’s raining and as soon as the sun comes up, all the water dries up. All around us, water is constantly changing states. The glaciers are melting, the rivers are drying and some places are getting floods. So, from ice to water, to steam, and back, water changes form and function as it changes state! The physical state changes but the chemical properties of the molecules remain the same.

Material required:
1. A glass of water.
2. An empty ice tray.
3. A pan.
4. An empty glass.

Step-by-step:
1. Pour some water in an empty ice tray and let it freeze in the freezer for 3-4 hours. The water freezes to form ice cubes by the process of “solidification”. This is the 1st change of state from liquid to solid.
2. Put these ice cubes in a pan on the gas stove. The ice cubes melt and change it’s the 2nd change of state from solid to liquid again by the process of “fusion”.
3. Continue with boiling the water. The water keeps reducing till it’s turned all into steam by the process of “evaporation”. This is the 3rd change of state from liquid to gas.
4. While the water was boiling, I held an empty glass near the pan. The steam got converted into water droplets in the glass. This is the 4th change of state from gas to liquid by the process of “condensation”.

It felt great to engage Missy in this fun and practical phenomenon. It really sparked her interest to see how water can change into different states of matter at relatively the same time!! The bonus was the new terms added to her vocabulary- solid, liquid, gas, evaporation.

Sink or Float Experiment

This one is an easy, fragrant, yummy & a Pinteresty
experiment !! We took 2 oranges-1 with its peel and another without peel) & 2 glasses of water.

The Experiment:                                                                                                          Which orange will sink or float? And what makes one sink and one float? Why didn’t both sink or float? Be prepared with the answers you will be flooded. Drop both oranges together in the glasses and whoooosh…. What did we see? The orange with the peel floats and the one without peel sinks.

Girl poses with materials for her STEM activity

The Science behind: 
But how does this happen? This was the best scientific explanation I found.
The unpeeled orange floats because the rind is very porous and filled with tiny pockets of air. Even though you’re removing mass when you peel the orange, the peeled orange is denser and sinks in the water.

The way my daughter initially explained why something thing floats or sink- 1. it’s because of the fan, 2. It’s because of her only, 3. I don’t know, pls tell me. After I explained the reason to her, she says- oh yes because orange peel has holes which has “hawa” (air) in it.

Paper boat

Our discussions on monsoons and rains will be incomplete if we don’t make our own paper boats and sails. Though there is a lot to understand about how a sailboat works, this experiment will focus on the importance of wind/ air and it’s the direction in sailing the boat.


Materials required:
1. A tub half-filled with water. If you have the muddy puddles around then you definitely don’t need a tub !!
2. Two rectangular pieces of thick foam sheet (I repurposed some foam sheets which came along a parcel).
3. Two toothpicks.
4. Two long rectangular colored- paper strips.
5. Two straws.

Set your sail:
1. Prick the toothpick through the ends of the paper strip to make the sail.
2. Now, prick this toothpick with paper sail half-way through the foam sheet.
3. Make both sailboats or as many you want, in a similar manner.
4. Put the sailboats in the water tub/ muddy puddle.
5. Blow through the straw and sail your boat !!

The science behind:
The sails have got a particularly curved/ angular shape to fill in the air which helps in propelling the boat forward. The sail moves forward effortlessly if its direction is the same as that of the wind. Otherwise, it’s speed is slowed down!️

The little sailboats looked too cute sailing in the water. Missy even had a sailboat race with me and she WON it too 🥇

Spinning Paper Snake

This activity was aimed to excite my curious little Missy. The idea behind the activity is that when a candle flame heats the air around it, it will expand and rise up displacing the cooler air. This movement of the convection stream of warm air will set the spirally cut paper to rotate, giving it an appearance of a slithering Snake..!!
Materials required:
1. a mug full of table salt (can use sugar, or even sand, we just need to secure the bamboo stick)
2. a bamboo or other stick (I used a kulfi stick)
3. a nee­dle
3. a tea-light and matchbox or lighter
4. a sheet of drawing pa­per (plain paper, not too thin and not too thick),                          * a pair of scis­sors
5. a pen/pencil
Step-by-step:
Now after assembling the required items, we start working with them. Draw a spiral on the paper and cut it out. Insert the needle in the bamboo stick and put the stick in the mug full of salt to support the stick. Place the head of the paper snake over the needle tip. Light a tea-light and place it in the mug over the salt. And now enjoy the “snake” spin !!!!⚠️ Since this experiment requires fire, please observe all safety measures while performing it. Let the child watch it from a safe distance. Since we use a lot of sanitizers these days because of COVID-19, please wash your hands before performing anything which requires fire
I hope when you try this experiment, it will evoke a Wow 🤩 just like my daughter did!

Shadow Play

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadow” But here we are doing the opposite. We are doing “Shadow Drawing”!! It is such an easy and fun activity with minimal preparation required. It is a perfect experiment for understanding the light and shadow concepts. Since we had been having rainy days lately, we did not make drawings with sun-made shadows. Instead, we made it indoors with a flashlight. It was great fun creating some amazing shadow drawings.

Materials required:

1. Some small toys/shapes.
2. Blank paper.
3. Pencil/ crayon/ sketch colour/ markers.
4. Flashlight

The Shadow Play STEM activity:

1. Put a toy on the paper or on a small box if you have pasted the paper on the wall.
2. Shine the torch over the toy or from behind the toy.
3. Using the pencil/ crayon/ sketch color/ marker, trace the outline of the shadow on the paper.
Some fun observations to discuss with your toddler or preschooler:
1. Different shadows can be made with the same toy by rotating it to different angles.
2. Shadow length and the shape both change with moving them flashlight close or far.

The science behind the shadow play

Light travels in a straight line. If some object comes in the way of the light, that object appears dark (the shadow) and the rest of the light travels around it on its a normal straight path.

️Paper Phone

I have been thinking about the games we used to play as children and the kind of experiments we used to try. One of the favorite ones being the “Paper glass phones” !! The best kind of personal phones long before iPhones arrived.

Materials required:
1. 2 paper/ thermacol glasses.
2. 6 feet of string/ yarn/ thin jute rope.
3. Some colored paper torn to bits (optional).
4. Glue stick (optional).

This activity requires 2 persons to perform

Step-by-step:
1. We first decorated the glasses by sticking the colored paper bits with a glue stick.
2. Then poke a tiny hole at the bottom of both glasses with a needle.
3. Put the string through the hole of one glass to another and secure by a knot each (in case the holes are big then buttons, paper clips or cello tape can be used to secure the string).
4. Now, keeping the string taut (the string should be held taut- that’s the only trick !), let one person hold the glass on the ear and the other person to whisper through the other glass. What happens !!?? The whisper is audible !! Missy was amazed at what was happening.

The science behind:
Sound waves can travel through air, solids, and liquids. When you whisper into the glass, the vibrations are transmitted from the air into the string and continue to travel through the string (it works only when the string is held taut)to the receiving glass. There the vibrations are transmitted to the air in the glass, around the listener’s ear, allowing the whisper to be heard !!

Hope you enjoy these STEM activities for toddlers and preschoolers!
**Adventures With Children is registered in the Amazon Associate program and as such earns commissions through affiliate links. 

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