What is STEM and How Do I Teach it to my Kids?

STEM. This has caught a lot of attention. Do you know what it means?

– Science
– Technology
– Engineering
– Mathematics

Did you think it was exclusive to older children, or even adults? Not at all! These concepts are all part of children’s learning through exploration and discovery. 

Did you know all children are little scientists? Everything about their world is open for discovery. They want to know “why,” “what happens if I do this,” “where does it go,” “how did that happen.” Children will repeat actions such as building a tower over and over again even though it keeps falling apart. They want to learn how to make it more stable and  they want to build it taller. Have patience! Though they may get frustrated, they are learning a STEM concept! Encourage questions from your children by prompting them with questions of your own, such as, “why do you think the tower fell,” “should we try it again,” “what do you think will happen this time,” and “what should we do differently?”

Allowing children to experience concepts hands on—by creating a learning environment where they can touch, manipulate, and explore their surroundings—will benefit them far more than only reading a book about a topic or watching a video.

Try these activities at home:

SCIENCE: 
Little scientists investigating the natural world

GLOVE-garden

  • Try planting some seeds. Watching something grow from a seed can be exciting and doesn’t have to be done outdoors. You can start the growing season early by planting seeds indoors
  • You don’t have to start them in a pot or container either. Try using a plastic glove! Children can drop a moistened cotton ball into each finger length, add a seed and then hang it in the window
  • Discussion about what plants need to grow—sun, air, and water—can occur as you daily monitor the changes together as the roots begin to break free from the seed
  • Once the seed has sprouted, transplant it to a little pot with dirt and continue to watch it grow

TECHNOLOGY:
Exploring ways to use what they build for a purpose or action

Balloon Car2

  • Think “outside the box” and do activities that have less to do with an electronic device and more to do with hands on. There are plenty of apps available that offer activities related to technology, and children are getting more and more time on screens. Offer something new by taking the device out of technology
  • Use technology to “research” a project to make with your children
  • A project we like to make is a little car or boat that can be powered for simple movement. You only need common supplies such as cardboard, a couple of wooden skewers (sticks), milk jug tops for the wheels, some tape, a balloon, and a straw. After the car is built you blow the balloon up, and as the air escapes through the straw it propels the car forward. You can find complete instructions here http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Balloon-Car

ENGINEERING:
Using their knowledge of the world around them to build and create

Build-Engineer

  • Yes, build and create!
  • Make blanket forts
  • Build simple structures using toothpicks and mini marshmallows or small candies
  • Use building toys, such as stacking blocks
  • Make things from recycled materials

 


MATH
:
Increasing knowledge of counting, patterns, colours, and shapes to strengthen their ability to build and create with purpose

Color Mix

  • Get messy. Mix colours to learn about primary and secondary colours. Partly fill a sandwich bag with a small amount of shaving cream. Add a few drops from 2 different colours of food colouring. Have your children mix it all together to see what new colour is created. Have them predict ahead of time what will happen

  • Using different coloured recycled jug lids and stickers, make your own memory matching game
  • Create a container filled with random things you may find in a junk drawer (child safe of course), and have your children sort the things from smallest to biggest, or by colour or shape
  • Have fun with food! Break apart a chocolate chip cookie to count how many chocolate chips are in it. Estimate how many will be in each cookie, and compare the totals with the actual chocolate chip count

Looking for activities to do with your children, with STEM concepts in mind, can be a super way for you both to learn, be creative, get messy, and have fun!  

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

Halloween Science Fun!

I think I have one of the best hobbies in the world – science! Halloween is especially fun, as I become a mad scientist, performing science shows and demonstrations at events.

One of the things I love about this is that I get to create a character and a story to act out around the science experiments I’m doing. It changes a little with every show, but that’s part of the fun!

This Halloween, why not act out a character that’s different from your everyday life, and add some cool science activities to the fun! Here are a couple of fun, easy ones you can try!

BONE GROWING FORMULA (A.K.A. Goop)

You need:

  • Deep pan or bowl
  • Cornstarch
  • Water

What to do:

Mix the cornstarch and the water until everything is wet, but there is no water sitting on top. To mix it, you have to move slowly and gently.

This neat goop gets hard when squeezed or hit, but oozes when let go. (It’s called a non-newtonian fluid for anyone who wants to look that up.)

It’s entertaining for all ages – trust me, I had more trouble getting the adults out of it than the kids!

FAKE BLOOD

You need:

  • 1 cup Corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp Chocolate syrup
  • 2 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp Red food colouring
  • 2 tbsp Water

What to do:

Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix it up. Add more red or chocolate syrup to get the colour you want, but it works out pretty well.

Want to really gross people out? Taste the fake blood in a way that makes them think it’s real – it actually doesn’t taste bad!

Left Brain Craft Brain is a great blog that lists some spooky science experiments to do as a family. You’ll find links to all the instructions you need to have a great time this Halloween!

 

Let Your Child Take the Lead

As your child grows, their interests in books will change—follow their lead on what books to choose!

LET’S GO!

Follow your child’s lead!

DO IT TOGETHER!

Have a variety of books for your child to choose from. Make sure the books are accessible by placing them on a lower shelf within reach of your child. Or better still, put them in a basket on the floor. Let them decide which one they want to share with you.

WHY?

Your child’s interests will change over time. They may like different topics, styles, and types of books (fiction or non-fiction) at different stages in their lives.

4 Ways to Celebrate Autumn with Your Child & Reap the Benefits of the Outdoors

autumn

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.” – e.e. Cummings

Fall is almost here with its whimsical, whirling leaves and wind. There’s no better time to make sure we, and our children, are getting enough outdoor fun. With screen time increasing for both kids and adults, it’s more important than ever to consciously make the time to play in nature.

There is no shortage of information about why our kids need the great outdoors. Vitamin D exposure, healthy eye development, opportunities for exercise, improved sleep quality and brain development, Mother Nature provides it all. Thanks to the nature of outdoor play, (the jackpot of early childhood development), kids can discover confidence, independence and resiliency.

Playing outside forces kids to be inventive. It requires them to make choices and choose adventures, take risks and adapt. They move their whole bodies, and use all of their senses when in nature; they can see, hear, smell and touch the world around them, and research tells us that multi-sensory experiences promote better learning. Outdoor play supports coordination, balance, and motor skills; it feeds a sense of wonder, forces our kids to ask questions, and it even reduces stress, which is important because stress is a huge barrier to brain development.

Below are four ways to take advantage of the outdoors to promote healthy brain development and early literacy.

1. Do something that helps out Mother Nature, such as make a bird feeder, plant a tree, or make a birdbath.

How to make a bird feederbirdfeeder

You will need:

  1. natural peanut butter
  2. suet (or lard)
  3. cornmeal
  4. pinecone
  5. wild birdseed
  6. cotton thread

Directions:

  1. Mix equal parts peanut butter (use the natural kind with only peanuts listed in the ingredients) and suet (or lard)
  2. Stir in enough cornmeal to make a thick paste
  3. Press this mixture into the pinecone
  4. Roll the pinecone in the wild birdseed mix
  5. String or tie cotton thread to the pinecone and hang from a tree in your yard

2. Start an art project. For example:

  1. Collect and press fall leaves between wax paper, or do leaf rubbings (place a piece of paper over the leaf and lightly rub over it with a pencil or crayon)
  2. Collect rocks and paint them to look like animals
  3. Create a “stained glass” window with fall leaves. After picking your colourful leaves outside, press them to the sticky side of some transparent contact paper, and place on your window

3. Read a non-fiction book about birds. Try About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill, and see if you can find any of the birds outside.

Pair it with fiction books about birds or animals, like the Little Owl’s series by Divya Srinivasan, or any of the Pigeon series by Mo Willems. Extend your books even further by drawing and colouring your favourite birds together.

little-owls-nightpigeon-book              

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Learn a rhyme together that involves nature. Here’s one to start you off:

September Leaves

Leaves are floating softly down;
Some are red and some are brown.
The wind goes whooshing through the air;
When you look back there’s no leaves there.

 

Mother Nature provides for a rich learning experience, so get out there and seize the season—make those mud pies, and jump in those puddles!  

Frozen Fruits

Making a healthy snack together is fun! You can count pieces of fruit, time how long it takes to freeze, look at the shapes, and more!

LET’S GO!

What you need:

  • 2 cups green seedless grapes
  • 2 cups purple seedless grapes
  • 2 bananas

What to do:

  1. Wash the grapes and cut them lengthwise.
  2. Cut the bananas into slices about 2cm thick.
  3. Put all the fruit on a baking tray and place it in the freezer for at least an hour until it is frozen.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Let your child help you wash the grapes, cut the fruit (using a child-safe knife) and lay the pieces on a baking tray.

Talk about the measurement, and count how many grapes fit into two cups. Count how many pieces of banana you cut. Enjoy a fresh frozen dessert or snack together when it’s ready!

WHY?

Recipes give an opportunity to use reading and numeracy (numbers) in a different way. Talking about measurements, counting, and making something together helps build vocabulary and skills in a way that your child feels very involved with.

The end result, no matter what you’ve made, helps make them want to do it again!

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

Hot Day Relief and Writing – What Could Be Better?

Combining water on a hot day with an opportunity for writing can be great fun!

LET’S GO!

Use the hose and your bodies to create letters or words on a dry fence or wall.

DO IT TOGETHER!

On a nice hot day, get your hose out and have some fun! Find a dry spot on a fence or wall (the wall has to be one that gets darker when water hits it). Have your children and other family members line up in front of the dry area and strike a letter pose by making the shape with their body. You might need two people to make some letters!

Ask everyone to freeze and spray them with the hose, making sure to soak the dry area around their bodies. Once everyone’s nice and wet, have them step away and look at the dry areas left behind.

Have fun with it. Once it’s dry again, challenge yourselves to write a simple word or someone’s name! Give your children a turn with the hose, so they can be the one “writing”.

WHY?

Aside from giving relief on a hot day, writing using different tools and methods will help your children learn to write. Whether it’s making the shape with their body, or outlining someone else’s shape with the hose, they will be able to see what the letters look like and how they are formed. If you try to write words, such as their names, they will start to understand that putting letters together makes something new and meaningful.

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

Painting Patterns

Have fun painting with different-shaped objects that don’t always create the pattern you think they should.

LET’S GO!

What you need:

  • Paper
  • Non-toxic, washable paint – different colours
  • Bowls or plates to hold paint
  • Washbasin (or deep cake pan)
  • Objects that roll or slide (golf ball, rock, marble, pencil, etc.)

What to do:

  1. Put the paper on the bottom of the washbasin.
  2. Put each paint colour into a bowl or on a plate.
  3. Choose an object (like a golf ball) and dip it into the paint.
  4. Place it on the paper in the bottom of the washbasin.
  5. Move the object around by tipping the basin in different directions.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Look around outside and in your house for objects that your child thinks have fun shapes or designs. Let them try each object one at a time in the washbasin. Talk about their painting and the patterns left by the paint.

Does the pattern match the shape of the object or the pattern you thought it would leave in the paint? Follow your child’s lead and experiment by putting more than one object in at a time, or different coloured paints on the same object.

WHY?

Numeracy isn’t just about numbers. Talking about colours, shapes, and patterns helps with your child’s numeracy development. Experimenting and having fun at the same time will help your child learn and remember these numeracy ideas even more.

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

Life Sized Alphabet

Can you and your child make the letters of the alphabet with your bodies? Try numbers and shapes too!

LET’S GO!

Use your whole body to make letters of the alphabet.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Go outside or find some space in your home and make the letters of the alphabet by posing with your child. Explore which letters they can make on their own and which ones they need you to be part of to make it work. Try it laying down or standing up.

Involve other members of your family or friends and add the challenge of singing the ABCs while making the letters with your body.

What to do:

  1. Put two people in each group.
  2. Go around and have each group make the next letter in the song with their bodies (first group does “A,” second group “B,” and so on).
  3. See how fast you can get going without making a mistake.

WHY?

This is another way to explore the shape of letters with your child. Connecting the letters with big body movements will help them remember what the letter looks like and can help them when they are trying to write letters.

 

Satisfying Smoothies

With your child, experiment with this snack to try to make it the yummiest!

LET’S GO!

What you need: 

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup yogurt (flavoured or plain)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries)
  • 4 ice cubes (if not using frozen berries)
  • Squeeze of honey (optional to sweeten)

What to do: 

  1. Put all the ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth.

DO IT TOGETHER!

Let your child help you measure, mix the ingredients, and push the buttons on the blender. Show them the recipe and talk about how you know how much you need of each ingredient.

Play with this recipe by adding your child’s favourite fruits, yogurt, or juice to create something different.

WHY? 

Cooking together gives you a chance to have some great conversations with your child. There will be new words, ideas, and fun along the way while you make something together.

By experimenting with the recipe, your child will learn how to start thinking differently, even critically, as they taste and decide how to improve their creation.

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.

 

Searching for Signs

Doing this scavenger hunt will give you a chance to talk with your child about the print they see every time you go outside!

LET’S GO!

Go for a scavenger hunt—walk and look for signs.

DO IT TOGETHER!

When you go for a walk with your child, decide together what to look for along the way. It might be stop signs or signs with a picture of a truck on them—whatever your child is interested in looking for.

When you find the signs, talk about what you see. You can extend the activity when you get home by drawing pictures of what you saw on your scavenger hunt.

WHY?

This game helps your child notice the signs around them and gives you a chance to talk about what they mean. It will help your child understand that signs and the writing on them have meaning—one of the first steps in becoming a reader.

To get over 125 of the best activities to do with your children to boost and build key literacy skills from birth to 5 years, download the Centre for Family Literacy’s FREE Flit app (Families Learning and Interacting Together).

Click here for the iOS version.

Click here to download the Android version.

Watch a video demo of the app.