Kids of all ages love science projects. Even toddlers. Yep, you can start teaching STEM to your kids as young as you want. Toddlers love to explore the world around them. And honestly, this is one of the easiest times to start science activities. You really don’t have to explain much. The goal is simple observation and experience. One-year-olds and two-year-olds love to dig in, get messy, and explore. As a mom, I like to keep things simple and without a giant mess. Oh, and bonus if my preschooler can get in on the fun too. All this can be done. Here are 5 simple sensory STEM activities for toddlers and preschoolers.
The main formula for this is one part water to two parts cornstarch. So, for example, you want to mix one cup of water with two cups of cornstarch. Exact measurements aren’t needed for this activity, the important part is to start with the water in a dish and add the cornstarch to it. (Starting with the cornstarch and adding water makes the desired consistency harder to achieve.) What you are looking for a material that feels solid when you push down on it suddenly, but you can drag your fingers through it like a liquid.
What you have made is a non-newtonian liquid. It is fun for children to feel with their hands. You can take plastic toys and make them walk across the surface, then place them on top and watch them slowly sink like they are in quicksand. Add some art to this project and use some food coloring to dye the oobleck. You can use it as a finger paint as you spread it on paper and watch the liquid evaporate leaving the solid behind.
Lava Lamp Bottles
- An empty water bottle
- Food Coloring
Fill the water bottle about 2/3 of the way with water and add the food coloring of your choice. Add oil, leaving some headspace at the top of the bottle. I used vegetable oil because that is what I had handy. You can use any cooking oil or baby oil, just choose one that will stay liquid at room temperatures. IF you want to make it fancy you can add some glitter or small plastic balls or toys. Use some glue or tape to seal the bottle. It isn’t toxic by any means, but it will cause a big old mess if it opens up.
Hand it over to your child and let them explore! They are learning how liquids interact with each other and observing wave properties. These bottles can double as a calm down technique as well.
Shaving Cream Snow
- Large ziplock baggie
- Gel shaving cream
Squirt some shaving gel into a large ziplock. Make sure it is well sealed. Tape it to the table and then elt your child squish it! They will see the reaction of the gel turning into foam and be able to squish it around. You can add small items such as buttons for your child to push around as well. Older children can practice writing numbers and letters in the foam.
- Baking soda
Mix 3 cups of baking soda with 1/2 cup of conditioner to create a soft, chilly, snow-like substance. Your child can squish it and shape it. Add some cookie cutters to help create even more shapes. A white conditioner will make it seem more snow like, but you can use any color and achieve the same substance. (And don’t worry, the cheap stuff works great for this!) This creates an endothermic reaction, meaning it feels cool to the touch. Smoosh, shape, and enjoy.
Sink or Float
- A big container of water
- Objects to test
Introduce different household items. Things like sponges, spoons, wooden spoons, bath toys, really anything at all. Toddlers are gathering information all the time just by observing what is going on in the world around them. This information gives them their baseline for predicting future outcomes. For example, they really don’t know if a wooden spoon will float or sink. It is big and heavy to them, but does that matter? You might be surprised by the outcome of different objects too. Try an apple, what do you think will happen?
These are fun and so easy to put together. So far my kids have enjoyed them from ages one to four, and ask to do them over and over. The most important part of all of them? To just let your child explore and enjoy! No pressure, just fun. Happy Sciencing!
Looking for more simple learning activities? You might like these!