As the weather cools, leaves blanket the earth, and rain creates new puddles teeming with life, children find themselves drawn to explore the world in new ways.
As parents, you can support your child’s love of learning by doing STEAM activities at home.
And winter is the perfect time to introduce new STEAM concepts to your child!
What is STEAM?
STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math, and is a way for educators and parents to help children combine and integrate different areas of knowledge and learning. Since any activity potentially can encompass all these concepts, we combine them so we can see each perspective.
- Science: a way of observing the world around you; making guesses, asking questions and drawing conclusions about how things work. What happens when you put honey in your tea is science.
- Technology: using computers, but also using, understanding and getting tools to work, like gears. Using something as a tool can be simple. Retrieving a toy that’s under the couch with a broomstick as a tool is technology.
- Engineering: designing, creating, and constructing objects to make them work. Blocks, legos, and even using a roll of tape, scissors and the cereal boxes in the recycling bin is an opportunity to practice engineering concepts.
- Art: creating (visual) designs, as well as pretend play, singing, music, dancing and movement. A box of old clothes, scarves and hats create an opportunity for dramatic play.
- Math: counting, sorting things into patterns of size and shape. Sorting laundry or putting away the silverware out of the dishwasher is teaching math concepts.
Opportunities for learning STEAM abound during the winter months. Here are some of our favorite winter STEAM ideas:
- STEAM concepts: measuring, cause & effect, pretend play, shapes
- Discussion ideas: “Why does weather change?” “What makes snow?” “Why does snow melt?”
We rarely have snow in the Willamette Valley, but that’s OK! You can make your own pretend snow using household ingredients. Mix 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of cornstarch in a bowl. Slowly mix in 1 tablespoon of water at a time with your hands until the mixture can hold its shape when squeezed together. Be careful not to add too much water.
Place your snow mixture on a tray and let your child’s imagination run wild, creating shapes, such as snowy hills or a snowman. This would also be a fun activity to add toys to, such as polar animals.
Winter Soft Dough
- STEAM concepts: measuring, pretend play, design, cause & effect, shapes
- Discussion ideas: “What shapes and patterns can you make with the soft dough?”
Preschoolers love the smooth, squishy texture of soft dough. Add in some fun colors and scents, and it’s a recipe for fun!
You will need:
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt and cream of tartar. Mix in the vegetable oil, and water, ¼ cup at a time. Once your basic soft dough is made, you can use food coloring to add in your favorite festive colors, glitter, or a few drops of essential oil such as peppermint. Roll it up to make candy canes or use cookie cutters to make different shapes.
- STEAM concepts: measuring, cause & effect, shapes, design, creating
- Discussion ideas: “Why does water bubble when it boils?” “Where do snowflakes fall from?” “How do snowflakes form?”
You will need to boil 8 cups of water in a pot. Add 3 cups of Borax powder to the boiling water and boil until the water turns clear. Pour the liquid into a glass jar or disposable cup and let cool. In the meantime, make a snowflake shape using a pipe cleaner. Make sure your snowflake is small enough to fit into the mouth of the jar.
Secure your snowflake with a string or other pipe cleaner to a pencil. The pencil will sit on top of your jar and help keep your snowflake from sinking to the bottom.
Let your pipe cleaner snowflake sit in the Borax mixture for at least two hours. After such time, gently use your pencil to lift the snowflake out of the jar to reveal a sparkly, crystalized snowflake!
Opportunities for STEAM are all around
There are so many ways to enjoy STEAM activities this time of year. Even just a walk around your neighborhood, observing the ways plants and trees look in the winter and what types of animals and bugs you see, is a wonderful way to deepen your child’s curiosity about life and love of learning.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com).