Introducing maker play Play Spaces for babies Maker Space Makerspace for toddlers Makerspace

Little Makers and Explorers

One of the things that Maria Montessori talked about is having a prepared environment inside and outside. Whether that means a small fenced in yard or amazing kids outdoor play spaces. That is totally up to you. It is wonderful watching the children as they head outside. Seeing all of the children and observing them in nature is definitely a favorite of mine.
Family MakerSpace at Home
Inspiring Outdoor MakerSpaces

Since a Makerspaces are a place to create, build, wonder, and discover it can be just about ANYWHERE! So if you are tight on funds a highchair or a child size table that you already have will work. There are many DIY materials for tinkering (and creating too) to help you stay within your budget. In my world, the boys tinkered and created with recyclables and other unique materials constantly from age four and up. They entered into a small world mentality with playsets from Playmobil, Tonka, Fisher Price, Lego. They were defiantly tinkerers and makers in the 1990's and way before any teacher thought of it as a way to learn. In today's world, young artists and inventors are proud to be a part of the “maker movement,” as a cultural celebration of creating things.

As with any movement or philosophy that you come in contact with: take it in, become a master of what you find valid and agree with. Then leave the rest behind. Give it your own flair. In other words, trim the fat, but use the meat. Because of it's collaborative foundation, your children will develop skills that will be admired and encouraged in your child's future. And ultimately allow them to become peaceful and loving leaders in the next generation.

ARROW DOWN to "Little Makers and Explorers" Tinkering and Maker Play with babies and up. We are featuring "Brilliant Baby Play" and "Tools of the mind" programs as part of our Early Childhood Program.

Specifically, Parents and teachers of school aged children should encourage kids to:

  • Learn by making -- and making mistakes -- not endless planning.

  • Collaborate and share; there should be an “open vibe” in the space.

  • Select projects and materials that have personal meaning, so kids are invested.

  • Draw on technology for ideas: resources and STEM or STEAM Challenges.

  • Integrate the arts with creative design and decorating.

  • Keep a playful and tinkering outlook and mentality- Using loose ends and recyclables to stimulate creativity and resourcefulness.

  • Look for supportive mentors and materials in your community.

  • Become a maker: equal to all participants...using a helpful vibe rather than a teacher or leader. You should have the time and focus to brainstorm, collaborate, invent, design, build and embellish. This is followed by time to test, repair and improve. Or perhaps start over, with encouragement.

3 Reasons Your Child Should Be a Maker and How to Do It

Sponsored By:

Photo: Courtesy of Klutz

These days, young artists and inventors are proud to be a part of the “maker movement,” a cultural celebration of creating things.

To me DIY means that we, as a group, can innovate new ideas to help our community. With DIY Girls, I can express myself, share ideas and be creative. It makes me feel good about myself to know that I can help other people in my community with their needs.

Maker spaces for kids are becoming more popular in schools in the past decade around the world.

In these spaces kids are learning problem solving, design and more. At home, toys like Klutz’s do-it-yourself kits keep kids engaged — from building games using circuitry to making bath bombs, children are learning hands-on how things work.

The open-ended play teaches kids flexibility and creative solutions. Here are three ways kids can benefit from being a maker:

1. They’ll learn to enjoy the journey

Kids are always told to focus on finishing what they start, but the maker movement teaches kids they can enjoy the process, as much as they enjoy the finished product.

“Being a maker is all about tinkering, being resilient and creating something you’re really passionate about,” says Netta Rabin, vice president of product development for Klutz, makers of book-based activity kits. “It’s not just following a series of step-by-step instructions but making something unique that really speaks to your interests.”

2. Kids learn in different ways

Some kids learn by reading or seeing, while other kids learn by doing.

Tangible items and seeing how it works can boost understanding of a topic.

“It’s that actual physical connection that creates this learning that is so much deeper and fuller for a lot of children,” says Rabin, noting Klutz kits teach kids topics like engineering, circuitry, physics and more — but the kids think they’re just having fun.

3. They’ll develop confidence

By making things on their own, kids will be more confident and proud of their projects.

Whitney Wilson’s sons have always been interested in STEM. “Like a lot of kids, they like to play around,” says Wilson, who lives in Arlington, Virginia. “It’s satisfying to make something.”

Parents Can be Supportive by:

Introducing kids to maker-inspired websites and open-ended or maker toys.

Creative maker play or tinkering allows your child to just play and create without being reined in by a predictable outcome. They will be free to make their own choices from endless supply of possibilities during maker playtime. There are no instructions, rules, or preset sequential guides for children to follow. Unlike close-ended games and activities, there is no “right” answer or “right” way to complete and finish the project. During maker play, children have the ability to make their own decisions and fully engage their creativity and imagination.

10 Open-ended toys that your child will play with for years
Mentoring Alliance After School Program Boys & Girls Clubs of East Texas ·  The Mentoring Alliance

Search for making opportunities online and in your community.

  • MakerCamp is a free, six-week online camp sponsored by Make: magazine for kids interested in DIY projects. Counselors are also available at various community spaces listed on the site, such as public libraries, Boys and Girls clubs, and scouting groups.

  • Incredibox is a free, Flash-based website that allows you to drag and drop a cappella music components onto a set of animated beatbox singers and create your own choral music.

  • DIY is an app that offers a safe place for kids 7 years and older to learn more than 130 skills, such as Animator, solar engineering, or zoology. Children have an online portfolio in which they can share projects and skills earned with parents, teachers, or friends. An adult guide offers challenges and help online. Most of the actual project work is done in the real world.

You can find maker education programs for kids on the MakerEd directory. MakerEd is a non-profit organization that facilitates making and learning experiences for youth, particularly those in underserved areas.

Childhood presents many opportunities to hone kids’ creative abilities. And as parents, we can help them grow up to be people who continue to be curious, innovative, and lifelong learners.

Looking for other ways to cultivate your child’s critical thinking skills?
Check out Thinking Outside-The-Box: Programs that Teach Kids Creative Problem-Solving Skills.

Or Visit Tinkering Studio for school aged challenges and ideas
They are in the process of developing Early Childhood Challenges

Little Bins for Little Hands offer 40+ pages of STEM ArchivedDIY Science Kits For Kids

STEM Challenges for Kids

Science Based Activities with Fairy Dust Teaching
They also provide training and resources for parents and teachers and are developing an online Wonder League Community

Maker Play with Nature-

Exploring And Enjoying Nature
Even as a Baby

Stepping outside opens the door to limitless creativity. Kids can create and enjoy art, music, treasure hunts, and more. Encouraging your child to create will help them connect with nature in new and exciting ways.

Outdoor play for
different ages

Outdoor play helps babies learn about different surroundings and feel more comfortable with the world around them. Some ideas for outdoor play with your baby include:

  • enjoying tummy time on a blanket, towel or picnic rug

  • crawling on grass, under outdoor furniture or through old boxes

  • watching tree leaves and branches move and listening to birds

  • looking at different coloured cars, street signs or traffic light signals.

Toddlers are keen to explore the world around them and test out their growing physical skills. Outdoor play for your toddler might include:

  • throwing and chasing balls

  • wheeling, pushing or pulling different toys and objects

  • walking, running or jumping around trees, over stones or cracks in the footpath, into puddles or towards favourite objects

  • blowing bubbles and chasing them as they float away

  • playing in sand, mud or small amounts of water – but always supervise water play to prevent drowning accidents.

Preschoolers are learning to play with other children. They also like make-believe. You can help your child make the most of this stage with outdoor play ideas like:

  • playing games of chasey, hide-and-seek or kick-to-kick

  • crawling through tunnels or climbing over fallen trees

  • moving in different ways with colourful leaves, flowers, scarves or streamers

  • making mud pies with dirt and old cooking utensils

  • going on a nature walk together and naming all of the different sounds you hear

  • looking for birds, insects and new plants, and trying to name them

  • building a cubbyhouse out of boxes, clothes baskets or outdoor play equipment or furniture.

Outside water play at How we Montessori  17 months  water wheel and sand table

"Children are naturally curious and seek out opportunities to make sense of their world. When children are left to their own devices, they experiment and with their surroundings, take risks, make mistakes, and then learn from their mistakes." The author also provides practical ideas for spending time outside starting with babies! I love the concept that the outdoors offer a perfectly balanced sensory experience. I talk so much about the indoors, here is a snapshot of our outdoor play today.

While our backyard isn't like an open meadow or forest we do provide unrestricted access. It's still winter but the sun has been out and it's been so very beautiful.

Outside water play at How we Montessori  17 months  water wheel and sand table

Our outdoor space is treated much like our indoor space. Weston has free access to his materials. It's almost a 'yes' space, there isn't anything he can't touch or do (besides eat the dirt or the plants). Our neighbor's dog keeps on getting over the fence which is a delight, Weston looks for her first thing in the morning.

Although we have an art easel, a sand/water table and, a few materials, Weston spends most of his time outdoors running around with a stick, or his rake - just being busy or digging. Buckets are very important to our outdoor space as Weston will spend a lot of time transporting water. He's also barefoot outdoors as much as he can while the warm weather is here. The feet get a lot of sensory feedback and going barefoot helps to develop those little feet muscles.

Outside water play at How we Montessori  17 months  water wheel and sand table

I'm also passionate about block play. In we had a unit block set that the boys often used outside. Unit blocks are very large and the children could build high structures. I wanted a set of blocks just for outside, we decided to use the very affordable tree branch blocks pictured above. These have a lovely texture and are perfect for Weston, with some big pieces and some little pieces. He can throw them, he can bang them together and he's not going to do any damage.

Outside water play at How we Montessori  17 months  water wheel and sand table

While we have chosen not to have a Pink Tower at home (Weston can use that once he starts school) we have toddler stacking boxes which are fun to use outside too.

Otto building coloured tower at him 17 months

The stacking boxes are large and heavy so they provide a different kind of experience for Weston.

Otto building coloured tower at him 17 months

It's all about experimenting and free play when you are outdoors!!!

Nature can be a great inspiration for artwork.

Using colorful leaves and flowers is a great way to change up your kid’s art supplies. They can make all sorts of collages and patterns with natural materials, or even combine them with traditional art supplies as well.

You can make interesting things to look at, and you can also make interesting things to listen to. Help your kids experiment with sound by creating a space where you can hang up bells, old pots and pans, PVC pipes, and any other interesting materials. Kids can use sticks and hands to discover new sounds.

Getting creative with nature goes way beyond pictures. Kids can also create huts, obstacle courses, or treasure hunts.

These are great ways for your child to practice independent creativity, and they are also perfect for group play.

Teamwork through a treasure hunt or coaching each other through an obstacle course are great activities for social, physical, and mental development.

Taking learning activities out into nature is crucial for the development of a child.

They will learn and grow in so many different ways. You likely have tons of opportunities for play and learning in your backyard or neighborhood, but you might also consider special trips to exciting outdoor locations like a beach, forest, park, or nature walk.

Many practical life activities are best done outside.

The Montessori philosophy includes an emphasis on teaching children through real-life activities that are part of an adult’s regular life. There are plenty of outdoor chores that could be adapted for child play and learning.

Imaginative play, different from the fantasy that Montessori avoids, can also flourish outside where there are a lot of new objects and environments to experience. All the new items that a child wouldn’t be able to find inside will spark their creativity. Art projects and sensory play become even more intriguing when they are based on outdoor materials.

The physical development benefits cannot be ignored. When you take play and learning outside, there is so much more space for the child to practice their mobility, as well as opportunities for challenging activities like balancing and climbing.

The outdoors provides an ideal environment for practical life activities, imaginative play, sensory work, motor skill development, and concrete learning. Learning activities rooted in nature are inexpensive and effective.

One of the best Montessori outdoor activities is gardening. Digging and weeding are excellent sensory activities that will increase dexterity and introduce appropriate challenges. Children will learn about plants as they see their garden grow over time and can gain a better grasp of the life cycle of the food that they prepare and eat inside. They can practice patience while watering and waiting for growth, and they will be intrigued by the different colors and textures that can come from a garden.

Kids Gardening Set from Amazon

With their very own kid-sized gardening toolset, they will feel important and independent while gardening. They can also use their mini gloves, shovels, and watering cans to help with other yard work. Kid-sized “toy” tools will help encourage imaginative play. Montessori encourages children to use their imagination to play and pretend in ways that are based on reality. They could pretend to be a farmer, or imagine that the rocks they dig up are seeds.

Another great outdoor practical life activity is washing. Lots of water, soap, and grime can get pretty messy, especially with younger children. Taking this activity outside can allow for greater freedom. Being outside also allows for kids to use the hose or wash something large like a car. A child-size bucket or spray bottle like the one in the gardening set may be easier for the child to use. They can wash toys, play equipment, or help you with larger tasks.

Washing is an important skill to learn, and soapy water adds a lot of sensory interest. Children will experience greater motor control, patience, and concentration. Practical life activities will really engage the mind as well as the body.

Climbing, Balance, and Movement

When you think of playing outside, you probably think about fun adventures based on physical activity, like running around, exploring, playing tag, or leapfrog. One of the best parts about taking children outside is all of the extra space they have to move.

Physical activity is obviously very important to the physical development of a child. Their coordination, balance, and strength will be greatly improved through outdoor play. Playing outside will also help them to connect with the world around them. Incorporating movement into learning will help kids process and retain information.

There are lots of great activities that mother nature provides all of the materials for. You really don’t need to have anything extra to successfully use the Montessori philosophy in outdoor play. Maria Montessori definitely didn’t have any fancy outdoor equipment in her school. However, there are certain products you can buy to enhance what is already available in nature.

If you are on a tight budget or don’t care for any extras, encourage your kids to climb, jump, and explore using logs, stones, and other natural materials that they can find. Sticks can make the borders on an obstacle course, and logs can be balance beams. You can kick pine cones and climb trees. There are plenty of ways to practice balance, coordination, and movement in a typical backyard space.

However, you may not always be able to count on finding the perfect sticks, stones, trees, and logs appropriate for a young child to play with. For climbing, you might consider purchasing a set of climbing holds that you can use to make a rock wall, or add onto a tree to make more appropriately spaced handholds and footholds.

For balance, these stepping stones or this balance beam are portable and dependable. You can arrange the pieces to create developmentally appropriate challenges or even create an obstacle course of sorts. Encourage the child to arrange these materials on their own to create the activities that they think are interesting and appropriate for themselves. Using plastic stones and beams with a non-slip coating will be a lot safer for children who are still struggling with balance.

Wooden Balance Beam Set from Etsy

Bicycles, balls, and jump ropes are great ways to encourage creative movement beyond the classic run, jump, and skip. Providing your child with alternate ways to get their energy out and practice their movement can help encourage them to experiment more and grow stronger.

Sensory Play

Nearly everything you find in nature can be used as part of a sensory activity. All the different textures, colors, smells, and sounds are incredibly stimulating. With mindfulness, even just stepping outside could be considered a sensory activity. You can feel the wind, smell the rain, and listen to the birds. Providing an exploration kit with various tools can encourage your child to seek out these sensory opportunities.

Kids seem to love getting messy. Dirt and mud will not only make a kid happy, but it will also aid in their cognitive development. The gardening set is perfect for digging, scooping, and pouring anything they find outside. Another great way for kids to play dirty is with a mud kitchen. Mud kitchens allow kids to “cook” with dirt, sticks, and stones. This is a great way to simultaneously encourage imaginative play and sensory play.

An easy way to switch between various sensory activities is by using a sensory table. Sensory tables are great for indoor or outdoor activities. Honestly, sensory tables are great to do outside whenever possible to help minimize mess and clean up. Dirt, sand, shells, pinecones, rocks, sticks, acorns, leaves, and so much more could be incorporated into a sensory bin.

If you are struggling with ideas of what to put in your next sensory bin activity, take some inspiration from nature. You can include materials straight from your backyard or make a bin that is themed around a certain season or outdoor location. The beach or snow could both make great themes for a sensory bin.

Wooden Sandbox with Corner Seating on Amazon

If you don’t like the idea of your kids playing in the mud or dirt, or if you want to provide more options, a sandbox is a great place for controlled digging, scooping, and pouring. It also provides a new texture and building material for kids that are looking for a change.

Seasons and Weather Exploration

Mother nature creates her own “toy rotation” with the changes of seasons and weather. It is common practice for parents and Montessori teachers to rotate toys and activities in and out of availability to help maintain interest and keep choices manageable. You don’t ever have to worry about planning rotation for outdoor activities (assuming you live somewhere with multiple seasons and weather conditions).

The four seasons will create slow and gradual changes that continuously introduce new experiences and opportunities. Outdoor play can also change on a day-to-day basis with different weather conditions. You aren’t limited to only playing in sun or shade; you can also take children outside to play in rain and snow for an exciting new experience. Excepting dangerous conditions, of course, there isn’t any “bad” weather for outdoor Montessori play. You just need to make sure that the kids have the proper clothing and gear for whatever is going on outside.

Children can rotate through collecting things like stones, leaves, acorns, seashells, pine cones, and more. Build snowmen in the winter, and make sure to include lots of water play in the heat of the summer. Kids will be fascinated by all the new things they can find and experience and the changes are awesome for their cognitive development.

They can start to gain an understanding of the progression of the seasons, and older kids can learn the science behind weather changes.

Opportunities to Create

Stepping outside opens the door to limitless creativity. Kids can create art, music, treasure hunts, and more. Encouraging your child to create will help them connect with nature in new and exciting ways. This is great for their cognitive development as they explore possibilities and aids in their independence and confidence. Creativity is super important to the Montessori philosophy. Giving a child space to create freely is incredible for their cognitive development.

Nature can be a great inspiration for artwork. Using colorful leaves and flowers is a great way to change up your kid’s art supplies. They can make all sorts of collages and patterns with natural materials, or even combine them with traditional art supplies as well.

You can make interesting things to look at, and you can also make interesting things to listen to. Help your kids experiment with sound by creating a space where you can hang up bells, old pots and pans, PVC pipes, and any other interesting materials. Kids can use sticks and hands to discover new sounds.

Getting creative with nature goes way beyond pictures. Kids can also create huts, obstacle courses, or treasure hunts. These are great ways for your child to practice independent creativity, and they are also perfect for group play. Teamwork through a treasure hunt or coaching each other through an obstacle course are great activities for social, physical, and mental development.

Explore and Play in Nature

Toddlers are just starting to learn about their world. Outdoor activities for 1-year-olds allow them to explore, learn, and play in nature. These activities help toddlers develop skills in every learning domain. Outdoor play is a full-sensory experience that helps build a love of nature early on. This blog post will share excellent, inspirational outdoor activities for 1-year-olds.

1-year-old toddler playing outdoors with mom using people toys

Table of Contents

How Do I Entertain My 1-Year-Old Outside?

I talked about this topic in my very first post on this blog (cringing at myself but also proud that I made that first entry). Unlike older toddlers, 1-year-olds are better entertained by open-ended activities that give them to chance to explore engaging objects or test their own skills.

Extra support from adults helps build up your toddler’s confidence and motivation to keep exploring outside. These outdoor activities support the developmental stage of play that 1-year-olds are in. But they still encourage caregiver participation.

What Kind Of Activities Can You Do With A 1-Year-Old?

1-year-old toddlers relish active, sensory-rich activities. They are also naturally curious and want to better understand the world.

Outdoor activities offer toddlers the perfect balance of wonder, action, and sensory stimulation.

How Long Should A 1-Year-Old Spend Outside?

There is no set amount of time that a 1-year-old should spend outside. Outdoor activities for toddlers can happen throughout the day, as long as there is supervision and appropriate weather. And I use the term “appropriate” to describe almost all weather. Extra layers or shorter chunks of playtime can make nearly any weather worth enjoying.

In general, it’s more critical for 1-year-olds to get plenty of physical activity. Outdoor play is a great way to help toddlers meet their daily activity needs.

When Is The Best Time Of Day To Take A One-Year-Old Outside?

As you’ll find in this activity, I believe outdoor play for a 1-year-old can be pretty flexible.

The best time of day to take a 1-year-old outside depends on the weather and the child’s schedule. For hot days, aim for mornings or closer to the end of the day to avoid the heat.

Mid-day may be the best time to take advantage of the warmer temperatures if it is cool out.

Planning around naps and meals is always a good idea. Toddlers thrive with consistent routines, so if possible, try to make outdoor time part of a regular schedule.

Outdoor Activities for 1-Year-Olds

Outdoor Meals

Food is still a rich sensory learning experience for 1-year-olds. Taking a snack or meal outside gives them a chance to enjoy nature while eating. Plus, the clean-up can be a lot easier, and spilled drinks aren’t a crisis.

Skills + Senses: Taste, Touch, Smell, Fine Motor, Social, Language

Treasure Hunt

This activity takes a little extra preparation. Think of this as an Easter egg hunt, but with whatever toys or curiosity-inducing objects you’d like to use. If you hide a collection of things that your toddler can collect, they will have everything they need to keep playing at the end of their treasure hunt.

Some ideas might be:

Skills + Senses: Sight, Gross Motor, Cognitive

Outdoor Art

Outdoor art is a great way to encourage creativity and imagination. Outdoor space allows for messier play and larger canvases. This is perfect since 1-year-olds are still learning how to manipulate art materials. Outdoor art gives toddlers the freedom to turn an art activity into a full-body experience

  • Spread out a large sheet for painting (with hands or feet)

  • Use paintbrushes to paint walls or buildings with water

  • Turn driveways or porches into sidewalk chalk murals

  • Dip branches or pinecones into paints

Skills + Senses: Touch, Creativity, Cognitive, Fine Motor, Gross Motor

Toddler-Friendly Outdoor Toys

Each of the toys I’m sharing is developmentally appropriate for toddlers. Because 1-year-olds are still learning how to use and manipulate objects, many popular outdoor toys might be too advanced for right now. Still, caregivers should be comfortable that their 1-year-old might have some unique ideas on how to play with them.

  • Sidewalk chalk (wet the sidewalk first for an extra element)

  • Balls (large and small because they each have unique uses)

  • Bubbles

  • Small hula hoops

  • Push toys

  • Bean bags

  • Pinwheels

  • Water tables

  • Sandboxes

  • Pop-up tents (or DIY a blanket fort!)

  • Kiddie pool (check out my complete list of Kiddie Pool Activities)

Skills + Senses: Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Cognitive, Language

Flower Picking

Flower picking is a great activity for toddlers just starting to walk. It is also a great way to talk about characteristics like colors, shapes, and sizes.

Bringing flowers indoors adds a touch of nature to your home or classroom. These flowers can also spark conversations about the play experience your toddler had.

Alternative: Bring a jar your toddler can fill with nature objects such as stones, twigs, flowers, leaves, or nuts.

Skills + Senses: Smell, Cognitive, Fine Motor, Gross Motor

Risk-Taking Play

1-year-olds are starting to explore their world and test their limits. Outdoor activities for 1-year-olds should include some opportunity for risk-taking play. This type of play helps toddlers develop a sense of self, build confidence, and learn about cause and effect.

Some great examples of risk-taking play for 1-year-olds include climbing on playground equipment, running, climbing hills, or jumping.

Check out my post on risk-taking play for toddlers to learn more about its benefits and find more ideas.

Skills + Senses: Gross Motor, Vestibular, Proprioceptive, Emotional

Visit a Nature Park

Nature parks are rising in popularity. It’s hard to nail down exactly how to describe them because each is so different. Generally, these parks are designed to highlight the terrain and natural features of the area.

Children can learn about plants, insects, and animals. They have the chance to explore rocks, sand, water, and more.

Nature playground as an example of an outdoor activity for 1-year-olds

Instead of plastic and metal playground equipment, these parks encourage active play with hills, tunnels, rock climbing, small streams, bridges, etc. Some have no equipment, others have equipment made from natural materials.

Unfortunately, not every community has access to a nature park. But I highly recommend looking into what might be available in your area. This can be a great learning experience for toddlers.

Skills + Senses: Gross Motor, Vestibular, Proprioceptive

Outdoor Dramatic Play

Outdoor dramatic play is a great way to encourage imagination and creativity. This activity can be as simple as setting up a pretend picnic or tea party.

Take your toddler’s favorite dolls, toy toolset, or costumes outside. Even toy kitchens become an exciting new activity when moved outdoors.

Find more imagination games for toddlers here.

Skills + Senses: Cognitive, Creativity, Social, Emotional, Language

Reading Outside

Bring your toddler’s favorite nature story to life by taking reading outdoors. You can plan to sit and read with your toddler. Or you can lay out a cozy blanket and set their favorite books in a basket. This is a perfect invitation to rest for a bit and read during outdoor play.

Skills + Senses: Language, Literacy, Social, Emotional, Cognitive

Exploring During Early Morning or Dusk

Sunrises and sunsets are a unique part of nature that children often do not experience. The colors, shadows, unusual sounds, temperature changes, frost, fog, or slow appearance of stars are all sensory-rich experiences toddlers can engage with.

These times are the perfect opportunity to offer your toddler a flashlight to investigate the shadows.

Skills + Senses: Sight, Cognitive, Emotional

Scavenger Hunts

I don’t just mean any scavenger hunt because I have shared somewhat out-of-the-box ideas about scavenger hunts outdoors.

6 Free Nature Scavenger Hunt PDFs here (I don’t even ask for your email.)

Skills + Senses: Sight, Gross Motor, Cognitive

A toddler standing on a log while looking at a woman. Both are smiling while they do an outdoor activity.

Outdoor activities for 1-year-olds are a great way to help toddlers explore, learn, and play in nature. These activities can be done throughout the day and encourage creativity, exploration, problem-solving, and physical activity.

How to Introduce Loose Parts With Infants and Toddlers

by Jenni Caldwell

Let’s face it, infants and toddlers are experts at tinkering. What better materials to tinker with than loose parts? Loose parts are essentially any open-ended material that can be used in a variety of ways.

IT Loose Parts 6

Introducing loose parts to infants and toddlers can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. With 3 simple steps, we will break down how to introduce loose parts to infants and toddlers.

IT Loose Parts 1

1. Start smallWhen planning to introduce loose parts to young children, plan to start small. You don’t want to overwhelm them with too many options. A good rule of thumb is to start with 3-5 options for a classroom of 8-12 infants/toddlers. From there, you can slowly introduce more and rotate out as needed.

IT Loose Parts 4

2. Think BIG!Remember loose parts do not have to be small pieces. For infants and toddlers, it is best to offer larger loose parts since they are still very oral and most objects are a choking hazard.

IT Loose Parts 3

Large plastic cups are great loose parts for fulfilling toddlers love of stacking!

3. Provide a variety of textures and aesthetics.Infants and toddlers thrive on sensory experiences. By providing loose parts that feed their sensory needs, you are allowing them to build deeper connections as they build their knowledge of the world around them.

IT Loose Parts 5

This area features a variety of textured loose parts: Soft cotton balls, rough wood cookies, shiny metal, and smooth blocks. The mirror also adds a reflective depth to add to the sensory experience.Looking for ideas on what loose parts to introduce? Click here for a list of my favorite loose parts for infants and toddlers.Do you have a tip to share? Drop it in the comments below!Also, click here to check out my other blog posts about Loose Parts! It’s a must-read for loose parts lovers!

Celebrate Spring

8 Ways to Celebrate Spring with KidsWe’ve still got snow on the ground here in Northern Virginia, but according to the calendar, spring has sprung! Indeed, we did spot our beloved purple crocus in bloom just days before this last snow fall. Those crocus always help me hang on–surely warmer temps are just around the corner… In the meantime, here’s a…Read More

11 Ways to Enjoy Winter with Your Kids

11 Ways to Enjoy Winter with Your Kids

I get it–I know cabin fever is a real thing. I know it’s hard to get everyone bundled up. I know it’s cold. I know some days are sunless and dreary. Many people simply do not enjoy winter. While I happen to love winter–A decade spent in Texas left me homesick for full blown seasons and I was thrilled to return…Read More

Check out the rest of the series 5 Tips for a Successful Nature Walk with Kids:

Bird Activities

Tinkering with Building and Creating

Nurturing Creativity and
Tinkering From the Start

How a baby learns to explore:

By Polly Banks

As your baby's eyesight and coordination develop, she'll delight in discovering the world around her. Find out more about how your baby learns to explore.
Photos: David Browne

baby holding toy sitting and smiling

We've tracked Sara's development each month to see how she learns to explore.

  • Sara's sight, movement and grasp will lop she discovers the world around her and learns about playtime! Of course, your baby is unique and will reach milestones at her own pace.

newborn reaching out for black and white toy
  • One month: sees black and white
    Sara can't see far, but she can distinguish black and white patterns or high-contrast colours. When she spots something interesting, she turns her head and tries to reach out towards it. Most babies will distinguish black and white patterns within their first few weeks. Find out more about how your baby's sight develops.

baby lying down fascinated by colourful toy
  • Two months: follows complex patternsSeeing more detailed designs, colors, and shapes is easier for Sara. A colored or patterned toy in front of her face transfixes her. She will happily lie on her play mat for a while, gazing up at the colorful mobiles.

  • Most babies will start to follow complex patterns around the age of two months. Learn how to stimulate your baby's sense of sight.

baby lying down looking at a toy
  • Three months: bats at toys
    Sara can bring both hands together, open her fists and play with her fingers. She may even use a closed fist to bat at dangling toys. Most babies will be trying to reach out and touch objects close to them around the age of three months. Learn how to develop your baby’s hand-eye coordination by holding out a toy to see if she’ll grasp it.

52 weeks of discovery bottle ideas for kids, 1 sensory bottle per week for a year. Fun, hands-on learning for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Perfect time for introducing Discovery Bottles. I used spice bottles but you can order bottles online as well. Amazon sells premade discovery bottles and kits to make them. OMG -These are so fun.

Take mental notes when babies reach or become enthralled in something- pop it into a bottle. It becomes a toy. Lucky for me, Hope first reached for flowers on a walk.

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  • Four months: touches shapes and textures
    Sara has discovered her sense of touch. She loves to explore shapes and textures, such as cool plastic, warm fur, soft felt and crunchy tissue paper. Most babies will start exploring different shapes and textures by around the age of four months. Find out more about your baby's sense of touch.

baby mouthing soft toy
  • Five months: mouths objects When Sara picks up a toy, she studies it for a moment and then puts it in her mouth for a good gnawing. Mouthing objects is how Sara explores new things around her. By about the age of five months most babies will be gnawing on anything they can pick up! Find out more about how your baby learns to mouth objects.

baby throwing fabric book
  • Six months: throws and grabs
    There's so much to explore for Sara. She's discovered it's fun to throw things to see how and where they fall, or to watch mum pick them up! And she doesn't always play with one thing for long. If she sees or hears something more interesting, she'll quickly turn towards it and try to grasp it. Most babies will try to grasp and throw objects by about the age of six months. Find out more about how your baby learns to throw and grab.

baby holding wooden toy and grabbing soft cube
  • Seven months: pulls toys towards herself.
    Sara loves to touch colorful objects, and she can pull things towards herself. She can pass things from one hand to another, too. Any toy that makes a noise or has striking colors and patterns will get her attention. Most babies will start trying to pull toys closer by about the age of seven months. See which toys your baby will love at this age.

baby crawling towards toys
  • Eight months: investigates distant objects
    At eight months, many babies are starting to crawl or shuffle around on their bottoms. Your little one’s eyesight is better too, making it easier for her to see distant objects. All this means your baby is probably keener than ever to explore anything that catches her eye. Learn more about how your baby learns to crawl.

Great time to Introduce Discovery Baskets and Brilliant Baby Play. Hint: If you are working on crawling: move their favorite toys out of reach to motivate them to move.

baby bashing bricks together
  • Nine months: bashes objects together
    The idea that you do something to an object has occurred to Juliet, and she loves bashing her blocks together. Anything new she gets her hands on, she will explore by shaking, dropping, banging and gumming. By about the age of nine months most babies will delight in trying to bash their toys together. Find out more about how your baby learns to bash objects together.

baby putting yellow block in a bag
  • Nine months: fills and empties a container
    Sara understands that small things can fit into big things. So she loves to put objects in a container, and remove them again. And when she's finished, she'll enjoy turning the container upside down and emptying everything onto the floor! Most babies will have a go at filling and emptying by around the age of nine months. Find out more about how your baby learns to fill and empty containers.

smiling baby crawling under chair
  • 10 months: crawls and explores Now Sara is confident at crawling, she's keen to explore her surroundings. She delights in playing peekaboo behind a chair, and in crawling around under tables and chairs to see what she can find. Most babies start exploring their surroundings by about the age of 10 months. Find out more about how your baby learns to crawl and explore.

baby looking at picture books
  • 11 months: looks at picture books Sara is ready for storytime! She loves to look at books and leaf through the pages, though she won't always turn them one by one. Juliet likes books that have flaps to lift up, different textures to touch, and brightly colored pictures. By the end of their first year, most babies already have their favorite stories! Find out more about reading to your baby.

baby putting plastic container on her head
  • 12 months: energetic play
    Playtime is very energetic! Juliet finds it fun to push, throw, and knock everything down. She particularly loves raiding the kitchen cupboards for tubs, pots and pans that she can bang together and throw on the floor. By around the age of 12 months most babies will be a bundle of energy when they're at play! Find out more about how your baby's senses develop through play.

How Process Art and Open-Ended Experiences Inspire Creativity


Process art and open-ended experiences allow children to engage in creative expression that focuses more on their own exploration than what the product of their art will be. Allowing children time for creative experiences has many developmental benefits and is an important part of curriculum.

What is Process Art?

According to NAEYC’s online article, How Process-Focused Art Experiences Support Preschoolers, process art has the following characteristics:

  • There are no step-by-step instructions or samples for children to follow; and no right or wrong way to explore and create

  • The art is focused on the experience and on exploration of techniques, tools, and materials

  • The art is unique and original and entirely the children’s own

  • The experience is relaxing or calming and is the child’s choice

How does Process Art Encourage Creativity?

When teachers emphasize the process rather than the product and provide a classroom environment that allows children to explore without constraints, children can let their imagination run free. These open-ended experiences allow children to create and enjoy the use of artistic materials. Children can express themselves, their thoughts, and their ideas through art. When children are handed projects with a specific outcome in mind, it can limit their self-expression by focusing on making a specific product rather than simply creating.

Early Childhood News’s article, Fostering Creativity, summarizes ideas for teachers to encourage creativity with preschoolers through open-ended experiences, using James Moran III’s suggestions below:

  • Adapt to children's ideas rather than trying to structure the children's ideas to fit the adult's.

  • Use creative problem solving in all parts of the curriculum. Use the problems that naturally occur in everyday life.

Early Learning Benefits

NAEYC’S article, Supporting the Development of Creativity, lists the several benefits for children, including the following:

  • Physical Development: Small motor skills develop as children use glue, paints, and play with clay. These small motor skills are important for future writing skills and kindergarten readiness.

  • Language & Literacy Development: Engaging in art with children, leads to conversation that expands their vocabulary. Children are able to express ideas through art and this type of conversation supports literacy development.

  • Social and Emotional Development: Art is a form of self-exploration and self-expression. Engaging in creative projects supports the development of self-regulation and self-control as children practice focus and take pride in the work they have done when their project is complete.

Ideas for Activities

  • Collaging with Tear Art: An idea that worked really well for a Colorado pre-k teacher was to encourage the 3-5 year-olds in her class to create using only construction paper a glue stick. There was not a pattern nor were scissors used…Just tear and create!

  • Painting with unique materials:Try to use different materials as paint brushes! Use feathers, leaves, sponges, sticks, or kitchen utensils to make unique markings on paper. Talk with children about the different patterns and textures you see. Or swap out your paper for foil, clear plastic wrap, or even a rock!

  • Add music: Try to play music with a quick, upbeat tune and then switch to music with a slower and more peaceful melody, and ask children to paint how the music makes them feel. Watch as they allow their bodies to move to the different beats and then talk later about what they created.

  • Work together: Create a mural by allowing the children to all work on a large piece together! This type of project inspires collaboration, teamwork, and creative problem-solving.

NAEYC also suggests the following when Leading Process-Focused Art:

  1. Approach art like open-ended play—for example, provide a variety of materials (including regularly introducing new materials) and see what happens as the child leads the art experience

  2. Make art a joyful experience. Let children use more paint, more colors, and make more and more artwork

  3. Provide plenty of time for children to carry out their plans and explorations and let children come and go from their art at will

  4. Notice and comment on what you see “Look at all the yellow dots you painted”

  5. Take art materials outside in the natural light

  6. Display children’s books with artful illustrations, such as those by Eric Carle

Unusual Paint Brushes: Simple Process Art Projects for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy opportunities to be creative and engage in an open-ended project, and painting is just that! You can change up a child’s creative and tactile experience offering stamps, sponges or other items for applying paint. Unusual paint brushes are any materials that children dip in paint to stamp, smudge, or smear. MORE...

Recycled materials, also referred to as “found materials,” are easy to access, versatile, and economical. They can be incorporated into a variety of classroom activities, such as canvases and materials for art, and loose parts for construction projects. MORE

Create With Me

Sticky Paper Collage for Baby’s & New Artists

Contact & sticky paper make the perfect base for baby or toddler craft activities! If you hate glue or find it too messy, the sticky paper makes the activities much easier.

When I need my kids to play quietly, I pull out sticky paper to create on. For this activity, I place a piece of contact paper on the table, along with craft supplies, and let them create whatever they like! It’s really simple, but it’s a great quiet play idea and also a way to spark your child’s creativity. Sticky paper is perfect for those who haven't quite mastered the art of using glue properly and most of these activities are great for developing their fine motor skills too.

creating with contact paper

Contact paper is like a giant sheet of tape. It’s an adhesive and you can find it in the kitchen section at stores like Walmart. (People use it as a shelf liner.) I like to place strips of construction paper around the edges. It makes the contact paper lay flat. You could also tape it to the table.

Then I just set whatever craft supplies I have in front of them. On this day, I set out foam hearts, yarn pieces, glitter letters, feathers, beads, pom poms, and doilies for my artist to create with. And then she just created on the sticky paper.

Preparing A Sticky Collage Wall For Little’s & New Artists

Unroll the contact paper and cut off the size required for the activity. The back of the contact paper has lines that you can follow. Contact paper has one side that is very sticky so unrolling it and taping it to the wall can be a little tricky. Here’s how I do it.

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First, peel the paper backing to expose one small corner of the sticky paper, then tape that corner to the wall, sticky side facing out. Slowing peel back the backing to reveal the other corner, tape that side down. Repeat for the other corners.

sticky wall activities for babies

Discovering Contact Paper

This is an absolute favorite of mine. It was funny watching Donavan the first time, because he didn’t see the paper and was trying to put the poms on the wall next to it. It’s a good challenge and excellent for cognitive skills to understand where the sticky part begins, or why the poms stick certain places and not others.

He was amazed at how they stuck when he did find the paper, and wanted me to do it too, and he liked to see how the paper felt with his hands, other body parts and clothes. He also just enjoyed dumping the pom poms out of the basket and putting them back, and sweeping them off the sticky paper when he was done.


  • Contact Paper

  • Pom poms

  • Construction tape

Peel the 2 top corners of your contact paper and place the construction tape in the corners. Tape the contact paper to the wall or fridge. Peel the rest of the backing off and tape the other corners.

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Place the pom poms in easy range of the contact paper. Show your child how the pom poms stick to the contact paper

I went into it thinking it would just be an easy craft to keep them occupied, and we got so much more out of it. In other words, this craft has become a staple and I plan to recreate the activity over and over until they start to catch on, lol!

Valentine’s Decoration – Contact Paper Placemat

January 26, 2014

valentines heart placemat 2

Today we have started to prepare for Valentine’s Day by making a heart placemat. It’s a very simple craft to make for children from a very young age and allows for a lot of free expression as there really are no rules.

We started out with a large (A3) piece of red sugar paper. I folded it in half and cut out a heart shape (older children could do this step themselves). I put the heart shape aside (I’m sure that we can use it for something else) and then gave Ethan the cut out to decorate with markers.

valentines heart placemat 3

I then used a heart shaped hole punch to make hearts in each corner (but this step isn’t necessary). Then I cut out 2 pieces of contact paper that were bigger than the paper and stuck one to the back of the decorated cut out. Then I gave Ethan loads of heart confetti and small heart cut outs to stick all over the sticky plastic. He spent ages placing them all around to make it look just right. When he was finished I took the other piece of sticky plastic and stuck it on to seal in all of the pieces, trimmed the edges and voila, a perfectly unique Valentine’s Day placemat!

Summer Sensory Fun:
Contact Paper

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You can use just about any mostly-flat material you can think of. For mine, I just used things that were in my Summer Sensory Fun Box, such as tissue paper, sequins, and rice. Kayleigh is too young to help out setting up an activity like this, but it is ideal for toddlers/preschoolers who no longer put things in their mouths. Even though Kayleigh wasn't able to make it with me, it has still provided her with hours of entertainment--she loves to look at hers, touch the pretty colors, and pull herself up to be near it.

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The easiest way to do this activity is to cut a piece of contact paper to your chosen size (I cut about about an 18 inch strip) peel the paper backing off, and tape it to the ground or a table sticky-side up. Provide your kid with the chosen materials, and encourage them to leave about a 1 inch border all the way around so that you can use the border to mount their artwork later. Once your child has decorated to his heart's desire, take the contact paper and press it sticky-side down to a wall or window. Now it's time to stand back and admire! (And don't worry, the contact paper should come off of the wall/window smoothly and easily. It's not made to be as sticky as it used to be).

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 Why Kids Love This:

Babies will love the stimulating colors and enjoy touching the completed project. It gives them something exciting to focus on, and you can point to colors and shapes and begin teaching them.

Toddlers will love the sticky texture and the freedom that they can do this all by themselves. They don't have to wait for you to glue things down for them, and as long as you've prepared ahead of time and cut all of the tissue squares or set out anything else that they will need, you can give them free rein on this one.

 Contact Paper With Nature

November 1, 2012 by Kate

This is a great activity that promotes discussion and develops observation skills.

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ect some leaves from your garden or the local park.

Have your baby place each leaf on the sticky surface of clear contact.
Place another layer of clear contact over the leaves and trim the edges.
Smooth out any bubbles or creases.

Hang for display and discussion.

Stained Glass Easter Egg

Contact paper + tissue paper = delight for my child. The contact paper stickiness doesn’t bother her simply because the sticky remains on the paper, not on her hands. These are two craft supplies that can be applied to just about any season, holiday or event. // Stained Glass Easter Eggs - made from contact paper and tissue paper. This is a fantastic no-mess Easter craft for toddlers.


How-To // Stained Glass Easter Eggs - made from contact paper and tissue paper. This is a fantastic no-mess Easter craft for toddlers.

Cut two equal rectangular pieces of contact paper roughly the size you’d like your egg to end up. Place one piece on a flat surface, sticky side up. Tape it down with painter’s tape. Cut up some little squares of tissue paper in a variety of Easter colors – we opted for pink, lilac, light blue and a bright green. Let your little one put the squares of tissue all over the piece of contact paper.

Once they are happy with their work of art, remove the tape and lay the other piece of contact paper on top, sticky sides facing each other. Next, cut and egg shape out. I did a freehand egg but you can also use a template if you prefer.

Punch a hole in the top of the egg and hang from a suction cup hook or a piece of ribbon or string in your window.

Babies that are zero to two are in the SENSORIMOTOR stage of cognitive development. “During the sensorimotor stage infants learn mostly through trial and error learning. Children initially rely on reflexes, eventually modifying them to adapt to their world. Behaviors become goal directed, progressing from concrete to abstract goals. Objects and events can be mentally represented by the child (sometimes called object permanence).” Saul McLeod, SimplyPsychology

Exploring how things work in our world

Discovering our World
with Science & STEM

AnnMarie Thomas with The Maker Education Initiative captures the mentality of The Maker Movement. “… making allows kids to follow their own interests and passions and create something that is uniquely theirs, while applying the knowledge they are gathering in all aspects of life.”

How To Introduce Stem Activities To Babies And Toddlers For Better Learning

Stem activities for babies and toddlers #STEM #STEMactivitiesforbabies

Albert Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

Maybe you have heard of STEM play, its a new philosophy and method on how to teach kids in a well-rounded manner.

STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” (also known as STEAM if you include art in there as well and you should).Way before your child knows how to do math or completes science projects, they begin learning the skills that will lead up to those things, and that’s what STEM Learning is all about.

You can start STEM activities at a very early age too, even young babies will benefit from them.
Learn more about how STEM works below!

Stem activities for babies and toddlers #STEM #STEMactivitiesforbabies

Bright Hub Education explained each element of STEM very well:

  • “Science is a way of thinking through experiments, observation, making predictions, asking questions, and deciding how things work.

  • Technology is a way of doing. With learning tools, kids become inventive, identify problems, and make things work.

  • Engineering is also a way of doing. A child can solve problems with a variety of materials – they design and create. Little learners build things that work.

  • Math is a way of measuring. Preschoolers explore shapes, size, volume, and learn about patterns and sequencing.” Bright Hub Education

 What are the benefits of STEM learning?

  • STEM gets kids excited to learn.

  • STEM is all about curiosity which strengthens the brain.

  • STEM teaches kids to fail – and that it’s okay!

  • STEM prepares kids for today’s technology.

  • STEM fosters creativity and imagination.

  • STEM promotes independent play – let your child lead and see what they discover on their own.

  • STEM helps kids relate to the world around them.

  • STEM helps kids with memory retention.

  • STEM will better prepare kids for school.

Stem activities for babies and toddlers #STEM #STEMactivitiesforbabies

STEM learning does not mean a complicated DIY science experiment where you need a ton of time and materials. It can be as simple as going outside in nature with your child.Ask “What” questions when exploring:What are those bugs doing?
What shape is that stone?
What is on the tree branch?
What is under that rock?
What do you see in the clouds?

For babies, try to not say “no” often and instead let your baby explore more freely. For example, our son used to get into this cupboard in the kitchen that was located on the ground level (all the other cabinets had safety locks), but this particular cupboard was filled with old baby bottles, plastic containers, lids, and things like this so we left it unlocked.

Our son LOVED opening this cupboard and taking out everything inside and then he would even climb in the cupboard and play in there (the door was always open).

Yes, it made a huge mess on the kitchen floor, but instead of saying “no,” we allowed him to play and explore. Afterward, I just cleaned it up – no big deal. This cupboard would keep him entertained for a good 45 minutes! With a baby’s short attention span, this was amazing and proves that STEM activities and toys are more engaging for kids.

For toddlers, STEM gets even more fun when we can talk with our kids, listen to what they have to say, and watch them imagine and figure things out.Stemsational is a fabulous blog about STEM activities for kids. It can give you some great ideas!“STEM projects for toddlers help children explore a variety of thinking skills that boost both their creativity, logic, space awareness, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills. Toddlers who engage these systems, versus toddlers who largely learn from screens and immobile activities have a huge advantage once they reach school-age.” (Source – Steamsational)In addition to DIY STEM learning, STEM toys are really important because these are the best toys that will help your child develop and learn instead of just sitting around collecting dust.

Stem activities for babies and toddlers #STEM #STEMactivitiesforbabies

Take a minute to think about your child’s top three favorite toys. I bet they are interactive in some way, right?We just donated two trash bags of toys to our son’s pre-school because we noticed he only played with three main toys:

  • His cars / hot wheels (he loves to line them up and one by one he looks at each car carefully, it’s really cute. Especially when he says, “Look, Camero!” or “Mama, Hummer!” Also, he sorts all his cars by color in piles)

  • Building blocks

  • Lincoln logs

Baby Savers published an amazing list of ideas and activities for parents to refer to when choosing STEM toys:“Seek out toys that encourage one or more of the following ideas or activities:

  • Comparing

  • Sorting

  • Sequencing (putting things in order)

  • Observing

  • Speed and distance

  • Cause and effect

  • Questions

  • Predictions

  • Identifying shapes, numbers and/or letters

  • Measuring

  • Spatial sense

  • Problem-solving

  • Building or balancing”

Baby Savers

Additionally, here are some great tips to follow when introducing your baby / toddler to STEM toys:

  • Keep it simple.

  • Avoid technology.

  • Don’t use battery-operated toys that tend to guide the child on how to play instead of the child exploring and learning on their own.

  • Avoid teaching.

  • Make it fun.

  • Talk together.

  • Follow your child’s imagination – there’s no right or wrong way!

  • Switch it up a bit – dad can be cooking and mom can be mowing the lawn.

How to Teach STEM At Home

These STEM activities are the perfect STEM enrichment activities for kids and include hundreds of STEM activities for kids! STEM challenges FTW!

You don’t have to be a professional teacher to teach STEM! I have never taught full-time in the classroom, but I am so happy I started doing STEM activities with my kids at home anyway!

If you’re not a teacher, you’ll want to check out my guide on how to teach STEM at home.

Sensory Science Activities Exploring the Five Senses

When we do science, we make observations using one or more of our five senses. Even the youngest scientists can use their senses to learn about the world around them.

Activities that Explore the Sense of Touch

These sense of touch activities focus on the sense of sight. This is a great example of how our senses work together. Often what we see helps us form opinions about what our other senses should experience.

Rainbow Texture Explorations for Toddlers inspired by a Rainbow of My Own from Inspiration Laboratories – Explore colors and textures with this activity perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Rainbow Sensory Ice Excavation Activity inspired by What Makes a Rainbow? from To Be A Kid Again – How can you get the ribbons out of the ice? This activity pairs wonderfully with the book recommendation as both have colorful ribbons.

Rainbow Sensory Bag for Toddlers inspired by A Rainbow of My Own from Rainy Day Mum – Explore color mixing in this mess free painting activity for toddlers.

The Lorax Sensory Tray from Science Sparks – Recreate the story of The Lorax in a sensory rice tray. The change in colors matches the changes in the story.

Cat in the Hat Sensory Tray from Science Sparks – Explore magnets and numbers with this sensory rice tray colored to mimic the Cat’s hat.

Activities that Explore the Sense of Hearing

Backyard Sound Observations inspired by Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? from Read Science – What sounds can you hear in your backyard?

What Makes a Musical Note Higher or Lower? inspired by The Way Things Work Now from Mama Smiles – Learn about the physics of sound with these video demos you can try at home.

Listening Games with Elephant and Piggie inspired by Should I Share My Ice Cream? – Work on listening skills with these fun games.

Activities that Explore Taste and Smell

Cooking and baking with kids is an excellent way to explore the senses of taste and smell. Cooking and baking are also perfect for working on science and math skills like measuring and following directions.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies inspired Piggy Let’s Be Friends – Brownies are a super easy way to get kids baking in the kitchen. Having a tea party to extend the sensory experience.

Visual Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies inspired by If You Give a Mouse a Cookie – This recipe uses pictures instead of words for the ingredient list and directions.

Food Science Experiment inspired by Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows – Let your children design a food science experiment to find out what foods they like to eat. It’s a fun way to try new foods and learn about conducting a science experiment.

Kitchen Chemistry Experiment: Make a Cup Cake in the Microwave inspired by Whopper Cake – Experiment with ingredients to make a cake in the microwave. This posts has sample recipes and suggestions for experimenting.

Activities that Explore the Sense of Sight

Sensory Bottles Used to Explore Shapes inspired by Mouse Shapes from JDaniel4’s Mom – Graph the different shapes you find in the sensory bottle.

Solar System Sensory Bottle inspired by How to Catch a Star – Learn about the planets in our solar system with this simple sensory bottle.

Fizzing Pinkalicious Cupcake Experiment inspired by Pinkalicious – Try this sensory science investigation to discover which combination of ingredients will make the best fizz.

Explore Shiny and Dull with Painted Foil Hearts inspired by Ollie’s Valentine from Read Science

Activities that Explore all Five Senses

Nature Scavenger Hunt inspired by The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare from Nature with Kids – Head out into the forest and see what you can find. Use all five senses to explore the outdoors. (Can you smell and taste the air?)

Exploring the Five Senses with Books inspired by What a Wonderful World from Great Family Reads – Go for a walk and see what observations you can make with your senses. Grab the free printable and record what you find.

Exploring the Five Senses: A Science Experiment for Kids inspired by from Edventures with Kids – get kids into the kitchen and use your senses to explore different ingredients

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds with Kids: A Five Senses Experience inspired by Pete the Cat: Five Little Pumpkins from To Be A Kid Again

Fizzy Coconut Lime Play Dough inspired by My Five Senses – This super soft cornstarch play dough is a wonderful tactile experience. For extra sensory fun it has the smell of limes and coconut plus it fizzes! This activities doesn’t explore the sense of taste. (The play dough is not edible.)

The most important science learning comes from experiencing the natural world. Without the natural world we could not manufacture any of the human-made materials that make our lives easier and more comfortable. The natural world is the most important science tool of all, so go outside with your child, breathe, look around, and explore.

You do not need all the answers to teach science. You simply need an inquisitive mind and to be willing to carry out an investigation. Learn how to teach inquiry-based science to youth with any of these lesson guides!

Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat Series

Use these STEM projects for toddlers to spark ideas for your own toddler STEM activities! There is almost no end to the STEM learning you can do with little ones.

Adapt any of these STEM ideas for toddlers to the skill level of your toddler.

Some toddlers will be ready for the more advanced activities in this list, while other toddlers are best suited to the simplest toddler STEM projects.

When you’re just starting out, try the simplest challenges and gradually increase in difficulty when your toddler is ready for more challenging STEM projects and activities.

STEM Activities for 2 year Olds and 3 Year Olds

stem activities for toddlers

Science Activities for Toddlers

Toddlers will have fun with these toddler-friendly science experiments.

Learn about chemical reactions when you make Fizzing Rainbows.

Explore surface tension with the Magic Milk Rainbow Science experiment.

Learn about sink vs float when you make your own Density Jar!

Learn about the life cycle of plants in the Seed Sprouting STEM Activity.

Technology Activities for Toddlers

Even toddlers can begin to explore technology!

Learn about how colors mix and make new colors with the Color Mixing Flower activity.

Find secret hidden messages in this secret message activity!

Make a flower discovery trayand learn about the parts of a flower!

science activities for toddlers

Engineering for Toddlers

Toddlers will love these basic building and engineering activites! It’s never to early to start learning about building and design.

Make a Walking Rainbow and learn about surface tension and color mixing.

Find out what makes pennies turn green with this Turning Pennies Green activity!

Build your own Rainbow Necklace!

STEM Math Activities for Toddlers

These math activities are perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

Use these cookie counting mats to learn about numbers!

Make counting fun with these fun counting bear challenge cards!

Count zoo animals with these fun zoo clip cards!The most important science learning comes from experien

How to Complete a STEAM Art Project

A STEAM project follows a strict pattern based on the scientific method.

STEAM art projects provide a fun STEM-focused way to learn art and design. These bright and colorful STEAM activities for kids put the art into STEAM! #steamactivities #stemactivities #stemed #stem #kidsactivities

STEAM projects should follow this basic outline:


At the most basic level, every STEAM activity should answer a question. The question could be as complicated as “how do we prevent our town’s bridge from flooding when it rains,” to as simple of a question as “what happens when I mix these two things together?”


Before any experiment is conducted, the children should conduct some research ahead of their project time. This will help establish what materials might be useful, or what design options exist, or what variables to test.

If you are looking for a really fun STEAM activity for your kids, you can’t go wrong with something creative like these STEAM art activities!


This is the most exciting part of any STEAM activity. At the experiment stage, children are testing their designs and concepts to see what happens. For most accurate results, children should run multiple experiments or tests for each question.

Experiments should use elements of science, technology, engineering, art/design, and math, where possible. Simpler projects may use just one or two concepts.

Record/Analyze Data

Once each STEAM project is complete, children should record and analyze their data. Our STEM activity worksheet can be used for this, or a science journal.

elementary stem challenge cards

What Makes Something a STEM Art Project?

steam art project

I believe that any STEM activity that contains a heavy art element can be counted as a STEAM activity.

This could be an exercise in exploring math patterns in a colorful way, creating science experiments filled with color or light, or even engineering projects to create beautiful things.

If you’re looking for artistic STEAM activities, you can’t go wrong with any of the following STEAM projects for kids.

Tons of Fun STEAM Activities for Preschool

Check out the list below of the best STEM activities for preschoolers!

Preschoolers can learn with preschool STEM activities! STEM activities for preschoolers are the ultimate STEM experience!

Try these preschool STEAM activities that your preschoolers will love! STEM activities for preschoolers have never been so much fun before!

Seasonal STEM Activities for Preschool

Preschoolers will love these STEM experiments with a seasonal twist!

Spring STEM for Preschoolers

Spring STEM Activities for Preschoolers

Frog Activities for Preschoolers with a STEM Twist

Summer STEM Ideas for Preschool

Hands-On Activities for a Preschool Circus Theme

Summer STEM Calendar

Fall STEM Experiments for Preschool

23 Halloween Fine Motor Activities for Preschoolers

11 Books about Pumpkins for Preschool (with a STEM twist!)

Thanksgiving STEM Activities for Preschool

These are our favorite Thanksgiving STEM activities for preschool.

Winter STEM Projects for Preschoolers

Fun Winter STEM Activities for Preschoolers

Easy Winter Science Experiments for Preschoolers

Christmas STEM Activities for Preschool

You won’t want to miss this fun list of Christmas STEM activities for preschool.

Easy STEM Activities for Preschoolers

No need to be overwhelmed by the challenges of doing STEM activities with preschoolers. These STEM activities are easy!

Fluffy Slime Science Experiment

Tornado in a Jar Science Experiment

Making Butter STEM Activity

Classic Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano Science Experiment

Magic Milk STEM Activity

Fizzing Rainbows Chemical Reaction Science

Flower Dissection Tray Science

Magic Milk Rainbow Science STEM Activity

Rainbow Naked Eggs Science Experiment

Liquid Density Jar Science Experiment

Walking Rainbow Science Challenge

Turning Pennies Green STEM Activity

Seed Sprouting STEM Activity

Non-Newtonian Fluid Oobleck Science Experiment

Oil and Water Science Experiment

Magnifying Glass Discovery Tray Science

Preschool Animal STEM Activities

Salt Crystal Dinosaur STEM Activity

STEM Crafts for Preschoolers

These STEM experiments are not just an experiment, but also a STEM craft you can take home!

Apple Tree Life Cycle STEM Activity

Color Mixing Flower Science Activity

Falling Glitter Jars

Bee Life Cycle CraftScience Experiments for Preschoolers

Science Experiments from Raleigh Child Care Center

Preschoolers are always looking for fun and creative things to do, so why not keep them busy with preschool science experiments? Besides teaching them some science basics, kids can have fun and get some other great benefits. When kids learn about science at a young age it teaches them how to be good problem solvers, encourages them to be creative and adventurous, and helps them to understand the world around them.

With just a few simple products you probably have lying around the house, you can try some preschool science experiments. Remember, keep them easy and keep them fun and you’ll keep them interested! Let’s check them out!

Dancing Rice Experiment

Try this acid-base reaction that will cause the rice to dance inside a cup of water.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • White Vinegar

  • Baking Soda

  • Instant Rice (non-instant rice is too dense for this project)

  • Clear Jar

  • Water

  • Food Coloring (Optional)


  1. Fill the clear jar 3/4 full of water. Mix in food coloring if you want.

  2. Add in 1 tablespoon of baking soda and stir. Be sure to mix completely.

  3. Pour in 1/4 cup of uncooked instant rice.

  4. Add in 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar.

Once everything is added, watch the rice start to dance!

Lava Lamp experiment

Grab a few household items to make this science experiment work. Your child will love seeing how colored water and oil work together.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Clean plastic bottle

  • Vegetable oil

  • Alka Seltzer tablets

  • Food coloring


  1. Fill the clean plastic bottle with a ½ cup of water.

  2. Pour vegetable oil into the bottle until it’s almost full.

  3. Add a few drops of food coloring and watch as the color sinks into the oil.

  4. Break your Alka Seltzer tablet in half and drop half into the bottle.

Make Shaving Cream Rain Clouds

This very fun activity shows kids how clouds become saturated with water, causing rain. Parents will like this one too!

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • A couple of clear glasses, vases, or bowls

  • Food coloring

  • Shaving cream

  • Small bowls or containers that hold 1 to 2 ounces

  • Water

  • An eyedropper, syringe, or 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon


  1. Fill the containers with water. The less water you use, the faster your rain will fall.

  2. Add different food coloring to the containers.

  3. Fill a clear glass with water about ⅔ full.

  4. Top with a good amount of shaving cream.

  5. Use the eyedropper to drop the different colors of water onto the shaving cream cloud. The closer you get to the edges, the faster it will travel through the shaving cream and “rain”.

Color-Changing Flower

This color-changing flower experiment is a crowd favorite. They’ll love watching their flowers blossom into beautiful colors.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • White flowers with long stems (daisies, hydrangeas, or white roses should be fine)

  • Food coloring

  • Several glasses or vases


  1. Fill each glass with water and put 2-5 drops of food coloring in each glass.

  2. Trim at least a half-inch off each stem before putting them into each glass.

  3. Keep flowers in a cool place overnight.

  4. Watch the changing colors in the petals.

  5. Change the water every 2-3 days to keep flowers fresher for longer.

Rainbow in a Jar

Kids love rainbows, so building one will be just super fun! Watch them transform an empty jar into a full rainbow.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 1 jar

  • Blue liquid dish soap

  • Rubbing alcohol

  • Light corn syrup

  • Olive oil

  • Food coloring

  • 5 spoons & mixing bowls


  1. Make the purple layer by mixing ½ cup of light corn syrup with 1 drop of blue and one drop of red food coloring.

  2. Carefully pour into the bottom of the jar.

  3. Pour ½ cup of blue dish soap down the side of the jar.

  4. Mix ½ cup of water with 2 drops of green food coloring.

  5. Pour the green water down the side of the jar.

  6. Gently pour ½ cup of olive oil down the side of the jar.

  7. Mix ½ cup of rubbing alcohol with 2 drops of red food coloring.

  8. Carefully pour the red rubbing alcohol down the side of the har.

  9. Put your jar down and catch the rainbow!

Air Pressure Experiment

Kids can see how air can move objects with this simple experiment.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • 2 Kitchen Sponges

  • Drinking straw

  • Plastic Ziploc bag

  • Pom poms or anything else kids want to see move

  • Tape


  1. Place the two kitchen sponges, one on top of the other, inside the plastic bag.

  2. Place the drinking straw between the two sponges so that one end of the straw is inside the bag and the other end is sitting outside the bag.

  3. Seal up the bag with the seal and with tape.

  4. Blow into the straw to inflate the bag.

  5. Place the pom-pom on a flat surface.

  6. Place the bag behind so the straw can blow the pom pom.

  7. Press hard on the sponges and watch the pom pom roll away

Blow Up Balloon Experiment

Your kids probably think the only way to blow up a balloon is to have you do it. But, after they do this experiment, they’ll realize there are other ways.

Supplies You’ll Need:

  • Baking Soda

  • Vinegar

  • Empty Water Bottles

  • Balloons

  • Measuring Spoons

  • Funnel {optional but helpful)


  1. Blow up the balloon a bit to stretch it out.

  2. Use the funnel and teaspoon to add baking soda to the balloon.

  3. Fill the container with vinegar halfway

  4. When the balloons are made up, attach the containers tightly

  5. Lift the balloon to put the baking soda into the container.

  6. Water your balloon blow up!

    STEM Projects for Toddlers

Even toddlers can explore STEM! Check out our main idea list of STEM Projects for Toddlers and find a STEM activity even a one year old can try

STEM Activities for Preschoolers

For preschoolers, STEM is all about learning how things work and the whys behind everyday occurrences. Check out the complete list of preschool STEM activities and then check out these seasonal STEM activities for preschool!


School Aged

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Today's Incredible Nature Adventures, Tomorrows Memories

Let Nature Tell the Story!

Get Started with Nature Journaling with FREE Curriculum and Resources

Keeping a nature journal is a great way to get outside and observe things you might otherwise overlook in the busyness of life. It takes little preparation, you don’t have to be an artist, and it’s inexpensive. You only need a keen eye and listening ear along with your pencil and paper! It’s the perfect family time!

If you want to start your own nature journal, check out these free resources to get you started:

  • Start with a basic nature scavenger hunt using this adorable free printable. This is a fun activity to inspire your learners to observe more!

  • Use these helpful ideas from the National Wildlife Federation.

  • The California Native Plant Society offers a fantastic free downloadable curriculum guide, Opening the World Through Nature Journaling. This guide incorporates art, science, and language arts into games and activities. You can request a free .pdf version of the guide here.

  • The California Native Plant Society also offers free online classes and step-by-step drawing lessons.

  • Smithsonian in Your Classroom offers a free nature journaling guidebook, Introduction to the Nature Journal. Learn more about what’s included and get the download link.

Journal and Observation Ideas

The most common supplies are a sketch pad and pencil, but if you want to do something different, try these ideas:

  • My younger kids love these paper bag journals, and they’re super easy and inexpensive. (Little hands especially love these!) I recommend checking out the first link for inspiration, but if you need video instructions for making a paper bag journal, click here.

  • Learn more about what you observe with the Ranger Rick website, or use their free downloadable nature observation pages.

  • If you need inspiration for your nature journal, check your library for The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

  • The Julia Rothman Collection (Farm Anatomy, Nature Anatomy, and Food Anatomy) is a great, highly engaging resource for the curious nature observer.

  • For a guided journal packed with information, My Nature Journal is a great keepsake journal.

Web Cams

Getting outside and observing nature is the best way to keep a nature journal, but sometimes your learners might want to observe animals that aren’t native to your area. Webcams are a great way to observe the parts of nature you can’t access by getting outside.

  • Continue your nature journal recordings with the Audubon Bird Cams.

  • To view other animals via live webcams all over the world, check out Explore.

Free Nature Journal Observation Pages

To help you get started, I created these nature journal observation pages. I included two journal cover options and three observation page options. If you’d like to share, please share from this page link and not the actual file.

30 nature activities

If, like many of us, you have been stuck inside and feel like you need an adventure, then the summer is a great time to get outside and explore nature. The weather is warmer and your local area will be literally abuzz with activity and interesting things to see.

Noticing and reconnecting with the natural world we are all part of can be a great mood booster.

We have 30 fun activities for you to try, either on your own, with friends, or with your family. These range from walks and animal observation to craft projects and photography. We even have some ideas for when the great British summer forces you to retreat inside.

Discover Summer Fun with your kids

a teddy bear with two homemade nature journals

1. Family activity of the week - sharing your adventure

You’ll be surprised how quickly nature can take over, if it is left undisturbed. What can you find on fallen logs, old stone walls or even pavement corners? Make your own journal to share your stories.

Get creative with flowers and leaves

hands pressing flowers into a book

2. Press flowers and leaves

Once you've mastered this simple technique, why not embark on a craft project and decorate special cards for family and friends?

hands holding flowers and leaves backed onto paper up against a window

3. Make an easy Sun print

Making Sun prints is a fun activity that can turn leaves and flowers into simple but distinctive artworks.

Give garden wildlife a hand

 a simple bird bath being filled with water from a watering can

4. Build a bird bath

It's important for birds to have access to a reliable water source for bathing and drinking all year round. Help them out by building a quick and simple bird bath in your garden.

a pot full of bamboo rods, and a flag with a bee on it

5. Make a bee hotel

This simple bee hotel will provide a home for a variety of solitary bees, including red mason bees and leafcutter bees.

a striped fly on a white flower

6. Create a wildlife-friendly garden

Making small changes to your garden can help support your local wildlife. Here are seven easy ways to make a difference.

the equipment needed to make a wormery, including boxes, bricks and compost

7. Turn food scraps into plant fertiliser

A worm composter, or wormery, can turn your kitchen food scraps into fantastic fertiliser for your house plants and garden.

A person putting a wooden lid on a little brick hedgehog house

8. Make a hedgehog house

Hedgehogs won't start hibernating until winter, but why not get a shelter ready for them now? They may even nest in it next summer and raise baby hoglets.

Explore fascinating animal life

A person setting up on their garden fence a plate hung up as a feeder

9. Feed the butterflies

Attract beautiful butterflies with our easy-to-make fruit feeder. Ideal for observing butterflies, this feeder will help you enjoy these enchanting insects even if you don't have a big garden.

Hands burying a clear plastic cup up to its rim in soil

10. Use a pitfall trap to catch minibeasts

Discover what small creatures are crawling around your garden by setting up a simple pitfall trap.

11. Spot insects in the dark

A huge variety of animals are active after sunset. By making a light trap, you can find out what nocturnal insects call your area home.

A triangular cardboard tunnel placed in a garden

12. Make a footprint tunnel to reveal what wildlife visits your garden

Footprint tunnels are a great way to discover which small animals, such as hedgehogs, are out and about, and it's easy to make your own at home.

A person at a rocky beach, crouched over a pool

13. Go rockpooling

Going rockpooling is a great way to see a wide range of creatures that live on the seashore. Our guide gives you tips on the equipment you need and what you might find.

Watch, reflect and connect with the nature you see

A person taking a photograph of a blossoming tree on her phone

14. Record your wildlife thoughts and observations digitally

Our Digital Nature Journal gives you a free and easy way to keep track of all the nature you see.

Two pages from a journal, showing drawings of bees and notes

15. Craft a nature journal

If you'd prefer to use a paper-based journal that you can draw and stick things in, then we have some simple craft instructions so you can make your own, with tips on what you could record.

a sunny day in the highands, with a path leading onwards to mountains, water and greenery

16. Experience the healing power of a walk

Taking time to notice nature can boost your mood and general wellbeing.

Illustrations explainig what you can do on your mystery nature tour

17. Go on a magical mystery nature tour

Rejuvenate your body and mind and discover the magic and wonder of nature. This self-led walk can be used in any park or green space for a wellbeing boost.

An iridescent beetle on a purple flower

18. Look out for colourful beetles

How many of these 17 beautiful beetles can you spot? Many of them are quite small, so you'll need to look closely at your environment. What others can you find in your area?

A bat flying in the dark

19. Go bat hunting

Bats are one of the most overlooked and misunderstood of our fellow mammals, but they help keep flying insect populations under control and even pollinate plants in some parts of the world. Explore how to spot bats in your local area.

A close up of some green oakleaves

20. Identify common urban trees

Find out about five of the UK's most popular street trees, including distinctive features to look out for when identifying them and how they support wildlife.

Screenshots of the app, over a picture of the Jurassic coast

21. Search for fossils

Our Fossil Explorer app can help you to identify fossils based on where you find them in Britain.

A long exposure of the night sky, showing stars and streaks from meteors

22. Watch for meteors

You can watch amazing meteor showers throughout the year, including the Perseids in August.

Help scientists look after nature

A mother and child survey a rockpool on a sunny day

23. Search for seaweeds along the shore

Did you know that seaweed creates habitat where fish, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals can find food and shelter? Survey your shore with the Big Seaweed Search to help protect our marine environment.

A man stands in tall grass, inspecting flowers

24. Join a biodiversity recording scheme

If you enjoy taking an interest in your local wildlife, why not contribute your observations to one of the many UK monitoring schemes? They cover everything from ladybirds and butterflies to ancient trees and fungi.

Try your hand at photography

A close-up of an urban fox peering over a wall into the camera

25. Get into wildlife photography

These nine tips from Wildlife Photographer of the Year finalists and winners will help you boost your photography game.

A gibbous moon in the night sky

26. Shoot the Moon

If you'd like to capture the Moon in its magnificence, this guide has useful suggestions for budding astrophotographers.

Family indoor activities for rainy days

A row of eggsheels painted to look like a caterpillar, with cress growing from their tops

27. Grow a cress caterpillar

Create this colourful caterpillar from cress seeds, then eat the tasty results!

Salt dough ammonites being brushed out of the soil, as if uncovering real fossils

28. Make a salt dough ammonite

Craft these replica fossil shells and read our suggestions on the different ammonite forms you could make.

An illustration of a flamingo and a line drawing copy of it to colour in

29. Chill out with some colouring in

Download a range of animal-based drawings that you can print out and colour in.

A young girl wearing a paper moth headdress

30. Make a moth headdress

Younger kids can have fun making this moth head piece, complete with proboscis and feathery antennae.


Enabling Open Ended Tinkering


During open-ended play or tinkering, children have the ability to make their own decisions and have full access to their creativity and imagination.


It enables your child to practice decision making skills. When children aren’t handed a set of instructions, they make their own. Rather than telling a child how to do something, open-ended play leaves the decision-making up to them.

It encourages children to be more open to experiment with new ideas and learn new concepts.

There’s no “wrong” way for children to engage in open-ended tinkering. When children have the ability to play without instruction, they become less concerned with doing the activity correctly.

Open-ended tinkering instills confidence within your child to experiment with new concepts as they realize there’s no right or wrong way to engage.

It promotes problem solving skill in children, one of the most important skills needed in today’s world.

Take an open-ended toy like building blocks. They have the cause-and-effect feature: “When I stack too many blocks, they fall.” “When I hit two blocks together, it makes a sound.” “And when I place the square on the rectangle, it stays, but on the ball, it falls.” And because open-ended toys have no clear instructions, he need to solve problems on his own. For instance, he learns how to stack the blocks so they resemble a house without them falling down.

It encourages creativity and imagination in your child to flow freely.

Open-ended play is a chance for a child to use their imagination. Electronics have taken away a child’s ability to use their imagination because it does everything for them. For just a little bit, open-ended play allows a child to pretend and to use their imagination, which is ever-so-exciting.

And more importantly, many of the open ended toys and materials are TIMELESS.

Many open-ended toys kids play with today are the same ones we played with in our childhoods. They’re simple, timeless and last through the ages. The same zeal you once had with opening a cup of play dough is the same that your child will feel as well.

I know many friends who are still tinkering with Lego blocks even at 30 years old! They were presented with toys and materials to create and build with at an early age. Tinkering became a part of who they are.

Timeless toys and materials also mean that they can be used again and again with your 2nd child or your 3rd child, and they will still instill the same interest and passion, and benefits in the child!

Something I’ve learnt in my personal journey of 40 years working with children is when it comes to open ended play, is that if you are newly introduced to your child or in the very initial stages a little guidance and prompting is very helpful as they build their imaginations and are new to gleaning ideas from their own mind. Below are some tips!


Provide some downtime for your child.

If your child has a really packed or busy schedule for the day, he may be exhausted and it will be more difficult to engage him in open ended play. Instead, ensure he has some down time in the day. “Mummy, I’m bored”, when he whines that he/she , this is usually the best time to encourage him to tinker with his open ended materials or toys.

Throw him ideas to start him off, leave it as a comment or an open ended question. Don’t make it sound like an instruction for him to follow.

”Wow, you have so many vehicles here. I wonder if it is possible to have a carpark big enough to park all of them.”

Become a collaborator in play and praise your child’s creativity and when he/she is courageous in taking the lead with his own idea.

Ask open ended questions during the play.

Encourage open-ended play by asking open-ended questions. Whether you’re playing with your child or asking about his play, open-ended questions avoid directing his play or taking over his lead.

Start by giving him your full attention as he shares about his open ended play:

“What is this figurine doing here?”

“This structure looks interesting, do you want to tell me what is it?”

Play with them!

Sit with them, be present, show them some ways of using these toys and enjoy some sweet time together. I would steer clear of telling them what to do with the toy.

Rather, I would simply play next to them.

They will watch you and copy what you're doing. Before you know it, their own imagination will take over! This will not only help the child see the possibilities with the toy but also foster a stronger connection with you.

It is really important, especially at the start of the open ended play, to just sit with your child and play next to him. Tinker with his open ended toys and materials.

Build something.

Build a house with those blocks, and he might add a roof to it, a garden in front of it, and he might put his animal figurines around the house.

Build a carpark, and he might add a “slide” to it. He might start building another structure next to it and call it the “petrol station”.

Soon you will realize that he is building onto your imagination and creativity! And even when you leave him alone to his play, he might not have realized you’re gone because he’s so immersed in his own open ended play now!

Fill your house with open ended toys and materials.

Every home has a variety of toys for different purposes. Some promote creativity, entertain, and encourage physical activity. Others challenge kids mentally, while some are games that are fun for the whole family.

And toys are anything. I sometimes catch myself telling my son not to play with an item because “it’s not a toy.” Meanwhile here I am giving him pipe cleaners and a colander to play with. Kids will explore anything they’re curious about.

Open-ended materials are usually materials or items you can find around the house, below are some examples:

  • Pipe cleaners

  • Scoops and spoons

  • Containers

  • Popsicle sticks

  • Tissue boxes

  • Pom poms

  • Bottle caps

  • Toilet rolls

  • Paper

  • Stones / Pebbles

  • Play silks

  • Art and Craft Materials

The same holds true with open-ended toys. Fill your home with these kinds of toys and encourage your child to use them as tools to create. Below are our top highly recommended open ended toys which we personally own (and some ideas of how to play with them)!

1) Magnetic Tiles

We have 1 set from Magnatiles and 1 set from Playmags. These magnetic tiles are the ones which are taken out most often for his open ended play!

Using magnetic tiles to create multi-story carpark for his vehicles


2) Lego Building Blocks

I actually personally prefer the Duplo blocks to Lego blocks, because they are larger in size and more versatile in terms of open ended play.

Duplo blocks from Lego official website


3) Grimm’s Rainbow

One of my favorite brands for high quality, sustainable and non-toxic wooden toys! We use these wooden rainbow pieces as bridges and tunnels for his vehicles, or to create animal enclosures or to do color sorting. Possibilities are truly endless!

Our Grimm’s Rainbow with Grimm’s peg dolls

Grimm’s Rainbows as a tunnel for his vehicles

Grimm’s Rainbows as animal enclosures for his animal figurines (Hope didn't like the idea of cages. We used alot of trees

 4) Grimm’s semi-circles

These semi-circles are newly acquired so we haven’t had a chance to explore with them much yet. But they are definitely a perfect accompaniment to the Rainbows!

Using the peg dolls with the semi-circles to create different levels

Example of how the semi-circles complement the rainbows!


5) Grimm’s wooden peg dolls

These peg dolls are so great because they can be anyone that your child wants them to be! One day, the red peg doll is a firefighter; another day, the red peg doll is a little girl; and yet another day, the red peg doll is a farmer. We use these peg dolls in almost every pretend play session!

Grimm’s peg dolls as spectators at a race track

6) Gluckskafer’s building slats

Another great brand for wooden toys, our other go-to brand aside from Grimm’s! These rainbow building slats is another hot favorite in our home!

Building slats as dominoes

Using the building slats as a multi-storey carpark

Building slats as a see-saw for his peg dolls!

7) Waytoplay Tracks

We really really love these tracks, and the only regret I had was not buying it earlier!!! I had previously spent money on 2 ready-made track sets which didn’t hold my boy’s attention for long. He got bored with each set after about 1 month.

On the other hand, because the waytoplay tracks can be manipulated for different configurations, every play is different and as interesting as the last!

Play dough sets

And yes, how can we forget good ol’ play doughs! I prefer home-made play dough (you can get them from The Tiny Trove or Doughnme) sets because the texture feels better and smoother and they are non-toxic!

Or you can always make your very own play dough at home!

Those are our recommendations on toys for tinkering!

I hope the above helps you to get started on your open ended tinkering journey with your little ones! Remember, give them the freedom and flexibility to explore these open ended toys and materials on their own terms. And more often than not, you might be pleasantly surprised by how creative and innovative your little one can be!

One great way is to start young with STEM activities and challenges created for kids to learn about different aspects of engineering through play and experimentation. The engineering side of STEM focuses on problem-solving and creating your own designs, as well as building devices and structures.

This early focus on engineering will help your kids understand bigger concepts later, and could even be the starting point for their future career!

Fun & Hands-on Engineering Activities for Kids

My favorite part about including these types of STEM activities is that it encourages older children to continue to learn through play. They can experiment, succeed, fail, and enjoy the process of learning without a pre-determined outcome.

I hope you enjoy some (or all) of the activities on the following list. Trying some engineering STEM activities will breath new life into your old building toys and have your kids looking at some familiar household objects in a while new way!

 Build a Structure from Paper Blocks

from Babble Dabble Do

Build a Structure you can Balance On
from A Gift Of Curiosity

Building Pool Noodle Structures
from Little Bins for Little Hands

How to Make a Windmill Model

from Adventure In A Box

l Noodle Marble Run
from Teach Beside Me

 Popsicle Stick Catapults

from Little Bins For Little Hands

Storytime LEGO Building Challenge
from Left Brain Craft Brain 

Build a Cork Raft that Floats
from Kitchen Counter Chronicles

Build a Popsicle Stick Bridge
from Teach Beside Me

Learn more about Engineering and Bridges with these cool books:

Science of Bridges from Teach Beside Me

Upcycled Marker-Bots
from Left Brain Craft Brain

It’s a sneak peek into our super fun Bot Book filled with 19 cool builds!

One fun way to bring books to life is to literally bring them to life. In this case, we’re using LEGOs! We read four of our favorite books, then I challenged my kids to make LEGO creations based on themes from the book. Their creativity was surprising and it was tons of fun to sit down and play LEGOs with the kids for a rainy afternoon.

These engineering books for kids are all about the concept of engineering, which is about designing, planning, and building things. Whether your kids are building structures in the block center, creating towers, or constructing bridges, these age-appropriate books are sure to have an impact!

nine book covers with text that reads engineering books for kids

Engineering Books for Kids

Below you’ll find a treasure trove of engineering book ideas for the kids. I broke them down into categories so you can have an easier time finding what you’re looking for: preschool, early elementary, biographies, and books focused on engineering projects kids can do.

Hopefully, these book suggestions will have you running to the local library (or bookstore) this week! I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall – Young inventor Jabari tries to invent a flying machine. He goes through lots of relatable emotions as he tries, fails, and tries again to make his dream a reality!

Galimoto by Karen Lynn Williams – Kondi wants to make a galimoto (a push toy), and he’s not deterred by his brother’s laughter over the idea. He spends the day collecting items to make his toy.

Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall – Dawson loves giving old things a new purpose in his secret workshop. He invents something to help with cleaning up and things go a bit awry in the process.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires – A “regular girl” and her dog assistant set out to make the “most magnificent thing”, but things don’t go as she’d like them to at first.

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe by Katey Howes – Magnolia is a serious inventor, preferring nuts and bolts to dresses. So it’s her worst nightmare when she’s asked to be a flower girl in her uncle’s wedding! Can she invent a contraption to save the day?

Gus’s Garage by Leo Timmers – Gus has a pile of discarded bits and bobs in his garage that he uses to help his friends fix their things, he finds that he has just the items he needs.

Violet the Pilot by Steve Breen – Violet makes amazing flying machines, and has to deal with teasing from other kids. She has an adventure on the way to the air show, helping some people along the way.

If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen – Jack happily tells his family all about what he would do if he was in charge of making a car.

Mary Had a Little Lab by Sue Fliess – Young inventor Mary has no friends, so she makes herself a sheep friend! But things get out of hand when her sheep draws lots of friends and attention!

Goldilocks and the Three Engineers by Sue Fliess – Goldilocks is an inventor and the 3 bears are engineers. After the bears enter Goldilocks’ house and tinker with her designs, can they find a way to work together?

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems – Oh, we can’t forget to include this book! I always have a blast reading this one to the kids because of how interactive it is.

Books about Engineering for Early Elementary

Next, we have engineering books for kids who are in early elementary school, from kindergarten to about second grade.

six book covers with text that reads books about engineering for early elementary

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty – The great, great niece of Rosie the Riveter, Rosie is an engineer-to-be. This story tells the tale of Rosie’s adventures – and misadventures – when her great great aunt comes for a visit! Don’t miss the whole continuing series, starting with Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters.

What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada – This simple book explores the concept of an idea and how a person feels and acts when they have one. Follow a young boy as he has an idea and goes on to change the world!

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier – A brilliant retelling of the story The Little Red Hen! Ruby is building a fort and asks her brothers for help, but no one pitches in. When the fort is done, they all want to play inside! Ruby decides to play by herself until her brothers find some creative ways to make it up to her.

Abby Invents Unbreakable Crayons by Dr. Arlyne Simon – Abby is frustrated that her crayons keep breaking. She uses her frustration to invent the world’s first unbreakable crayons! Don’t miss the second book in the series, Abby Invents The Foldibot by Dr. Arlyne Simon.

What’s My Superpower: Discovering Your Unique Talents by by Delanda Coleman, and Terrence Coleman – Deshaun comes from a family of superheroes but doesn’t seem to have any special abilities of his own. When he does what comes naturally (reading, math, and building), he builds a mighty robot that just might save the world!

Emma Ren Robot Engineer: Fun and Educational STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Book for Kids by Jenny Lu – Emma loves building things and is excited to build a robot for her class battle, but her partner doesn’t believe she can do it.

Engineering Biographies

The following books help children learn about real-life engineers!

five book covers with text that reads engineering biographies

Rube Goldberg’s Simple Normal Humdrum School Day by Jennifer George – This clever book was written by Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter. Meet Rube as a young boy and see all the complicated contraptions he makes!

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming – A sweet story based on the life of Lodner Phillips, who invented early submarines. Virena’s Papa is an inventor, but none of his inventions ever work. One day she muses, “have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a fish?” Papa dashes off to his workshop, and the rest is history!

A Computer Called Katherine by Suzanna Slade – Another great biography that inspires young girls to pursue STEM fields. It’s the story of Katherine Johnson, a human “computer” who joined NASA and used math to help put a man on the moon!

The Crayon Man by Natascha Biebow – A beautiful book that tells the story of the real inventor of crayons. Edwin Binney loved the vibrant colors of nature and was sad that children couldn’t draw in color. So he found a way to get those colors into children’s hands!

When Sparks Fly by Kristen Fulton – The story of Robert Goddard will inspire young kids to follow their own dreams! This book is an approachable biography of the father of US rocketry.

Engineering Projects for Kids

Now that you’ve read tons of books to the kids, it’s time to try out some hands-on engineering projects! These books will inspires some amazing creations, I’m sure!

Check out this book filled with 100+ Play & Learn LEGO Activities!

28 Days of STEAM – More Learning Fun!

Many of these projects are part of an amazing, month-long series of hands on STEAM projects for kids. Click on over to 28 Days of STEAM for 60+ FREE science, tech, engineering, art, and math projects from 30+ education writers. All ready to get your kids excited to learn.


Teaching Science When You Don’t Know Diddly-Squat Series

March 2, 2017

You do not need all the answers to teach science. You simply need an inquisitive mind and to be willing to carry out an investigation. Learn how to teach inquiry-based science to youth with any of these lesson guides! Click the link above for more Information

Kitchen Concoctions-
Mixing up some fun

Kids LOVE to do arts and crafts and sensory activities of all sorts, and when you can make the supplies yourself (usually for a lot cheaper than you can buy them!), it’s easy to indulge your miniature Cassatts and Rembrandts.

Check out these tutorials for tons of DIY art supplies that your kids are going to enjoy creating with:

1. Chalk. Make your own sidewalk chalk!

cinnamon dough ornaments (1 of 4)

cinnamon dough

2. Cinnamon dough. Bake this delicious-smelling play dough, and it will keep nearly forever.

3. Cloud dough. You may substitute any oil that you’re comfortable with for the baby oil called for in this recipe.

4. Colored corn. These dyed corn kernels are great for both art projects and sensory play.

5. Crayons. Use old crayon bits to make new ones in fun new shapes.

6. Drawing dough. The three-dimensionality of this paint will be a whole new experience for kids.

dyed pasta

dyed pasta

7. Dyed dried pasta. Make those dried pasta mosaics vibrate with color!

8. Edible play dough. These chocolate and peanut play dough recipes are really delicious!

9. Glitter glue. Easiest thing in the world! Your kids will love it.

10. Glue. You don’t have to worry about the kids wasting the glue (and oh, they will WASTE the glue!) when it’s this easy to make.

11. Glue paint. Glue and paint want to be best friends. Won’t you play matchmaker for them?

12. Liquid watercolors. Make these from dried-out markers, another gold star kid’s art supply.

modeling beeswax tutorial (2 of 2)

modeling beeswax

13. Modeling beeswax. It’s like clay, but can be re-used over and over.

14. Moon sand. This moon sand has only two ingredients, and you can eat it! (Don’t eat it.)

15. Mud paint. Bring the outdoors indoors! Or, you know, stay outdoors. Whatever…

16. Play dough. Play dough still warm from the stove is one of my favorite craft supplies.

17. Rainbow Epsom salts. A great sensory toy, these dyed Epsom salts are also shiny!

18. Soap fingerpaint. Kids can get crafty even in the bath!

19. Scupltable bread dough. You can sculpt with this bread dough, and then eat your creations still warm from the oven.

20. Wikki Stix. Make your own bendy yarn using natural ingredients.

STEM Activities for Kindergarten

If you’re following the Next Generation Science Standards for Kindergarten, you’ll love this list of STEM Activities for Kindergarten.

STEM Activities for 1st Grade

The Next Generation Science Standards for first grade have clear topics to cover in first grade! We have a whole list of STEM Activities for 1st Grade that meet these standards.

STEM Activities for 2nd Grade

2nd grade STEM activities are all about hands-on learning for basic science concepts and themes! We have a bunch of seasonal STEM for 2nd grade, including:

Need more science, technology, engineering, or math in your classroom? These STEM activities are the perfect STEM enrichment activities for kids and include hundreds of STEM ideas as a list of STEM activities. It's the ultimate STEM challenge list of STEM activities! #stem #stemed #stemactivities #science #scienceclass #scienceexperiments #handsonlearning #kidsactivitiers

STEM Activities for 3rd Grade

In third grade, things start to get a bit more involved! Kids complete science fairs, start putting the pieces of ecosystems and climate together, and learn about properties of matter! Check out our third grade STEM activities below.

STEM Activities for 4th Grade

In 4th grade, kids learn a lot! These fourth grade STEM activities cover all the core 4th grade science concepts, plus add in a fun seasonal twist!

STEM Activities for 5th Grade

STEM starts to get serious in 5th grade! Check our our full list of STEM Activities for 5th Grade, but also check out these seasonal activities, because 5th graders love to have fun, too!

Middle School STEM Activities

Calling all middle school teachers! Middle school STEM activities are still hands-on and can be lots of fun.

middle school stem challenges

STEM Summer Camp Themes

If you want to run your own summer camp or after-school program, check out these fun STEM Summer Camp Themes!

STEM Kit Ideas

Sometimes it is easier to just buy a STEM kit pre-made with everything you need in one box. These are our favorite STEM and science kit providers:

If you love science and STEM but don’t like hunting for supplies, we love the Mel Science kits. They have options for elementary and middle school, and each kit comes with all the supplies needed for each experiment!

Winter STEM Activities for Kids

When it’s cold out, try these winter STEM activities for kids!

Spring STEM Activities

When things start warm up and flowers emerge, these spring STEM activities will teach kids all about it!

Summer STEM Activities

When summer rolls around, try these summer STEM activities at school care programs, summer camps, or at home!

STEM Activities for Fall

STEM activities for fall will keep kids learning all fall long with fun themes that include pumpkins, leaves, acorns, Thanksgiving, kitchen science, and more!

Science Activities for Every Month of the Year

500 Science Activities for Every Month of the Year post image

Do you teach by themes? It is an effective way of teaching because it is an effective way to learning for kids. If you do, this is your dream place for science activity ideas — organized seasonal science activities for each month of the year. It is seasonal by holidays, season, whether, nature changes, such as plants, trees and animals. Altogether there are over 500 activity ideas, each theme includes activities for preschool to high school students.

Year Long Science Activities for Kids

seasonal science activities monthly list for the whole year. STEM science experiments of holiday theme, nature plants and animal theme, seasonal weather experiments, for kids from preschool kindergarten to high school. Great STEM resource for science class, homeschool, science club, science camp.

Paper Fidget Toy

January Science Activities

It is the beginning of the new year, let’s celebrate it with science! It is also cold in most areas, so we can do some science with the cold temperature.

8 STEM Activities to Celebrate the New Year, most activities have science components in them.

8 Cold Science Experiments to Amaze Kids

6 Fun and Easy Snow Science Activities

You will get more ideas from over 200 Winter Science Activities for Kids.

February Science Activities

It is still cold, so try some indoor science activities. Of course, no one can forget the Valentines.

9 Heart Science Activities for Kids for Valentine’s Day.

8 Science Activities to Learn About Color

8 Science Activities about Salt

5 Science Experiments Using Pepper

March Science Activities

It starts to warm up, but there are always up and downs, so this is a good time to study weather. If you start growing seeds, make sure invite kids and do some science exploration with them.

Our collection of over 75 Spring Science Activities have a lot wonderful science ideas for kids of all ages.

10 Weather Science Activities for Kids

9 Science Activities for Kids to Learn about Seeds

April Science Activities

In our area, we get a lot windy days during this time of the year. It is also a good time to study the sun before it gets too hot. Many times Easter falls in April, and for kids, it is about eggs.

8 Fascinating Science Activities with Eggs

7 Wind Science Activities for Kids

10 Science Experiments about the Sun

Related: 75 Spring Science Activities for Kids

Love science but could not come up science activity ideas to do with kids? We have listed over 500 science activities for kids for each month of the year, with season themes and activities for kids from preschool kindergarten to high school. Great STEM resource for science class at school or homeschool or after school activities at home. You can also plan your science camp using these resources.

May Science Activities

Summer starts in the north hemisphere. It is getting warmer, plants are growing, insects are active.

Make sure to visit our collection of over 100 Summer Science Activities for Kids

8 Simple Science Activities about Bugs

10 Plant Science Activities for Kids

June Science Activities

This is a month with blooming flowers. It is also the time you will see a lot fresh vegetables. Many kids finish the school year in June and families have more time to be outside.

Definitely try these amazing backyard science activities with kids.

9 Amazing Flower Science Activities

With so many fresh food varieties, it is a good time to learn about taste with these 7 Taste Science Activities.

Related: 100 Summer Science Activities for Kids

July Science Activities

It is summer break, and beach is a popular place to go, a place with a lot sand. Many places also see a lot rain. When it is hot, it is always nice to play with something cold, like ice.

7 Sand Science Activities for Kids

8 Science Activities to Learn About Rain

8 Ice Science Activities for kids

August Science Activities

It is still hot in many places, so it is the perfect time to play with water. This is also the time I don’t care kids stay up late till it is dark.

7 Water Science Activities.

10 Science Activities for Kids to Do after It is Dark

During the day, they can study light with these 9 Science Experiments about Light

Related: 70 Fall Science Activities for Kids

September Science Activities

Although the fall starts in August, September is the time it really feels like autumn season. It is also a good time go out at night to observe the moon and stars.

Check out these 70 Autumn Science Activities for Kids

7 Science Activities about the Moon

7 Activities to Learn about Stars and Constellations

October Science Activities

Apples, pumpkins, yellow leaves are signs of October. Kids will also love Halloween at the end of the month.

7 Science Activities using Apples

9 Pumpkin Science Activities for Kids

7 Leaf Science Activities for Kids

For Halloween, try these 10 Skeleton Activity to learn about human body. I also like these 10 Interactive Apps about Human Body.

November Science Activities

It is the start of winter season. Leaves are falling. It is Thanksgiving, when families are getting together, and cooking together.

Find some fun ideas from 200 Winter Science Activities for Kids.

8 Pine Cone Science Activities for Kids

6 Kitchen Science Activities for Kids

December Science Activities

It is cold, and it is Christmas season for many countries. People all over the world are getting ready for the New Year.

9 Science Activities of Christmas Tree

These 9 Magnet Science Activities are perfect for a cold winter day.

It is always fun to watch how others perform science experiments on these interesting science YouTube channels.

Hope these will keep you busy for the year, or maybe several years.

I hope you like all these science activity ideas. Doing science at home is not just for fun, it is also to cultivate child’s interest in science and help them grow scientific thinking skills. I encourage you follow the scientific steps while working with kids on these fun activities.

kitchen STEM activities for kids

STEM activities for preschoolers and toddlers

science activities for kids about five senses

You may also like 150 Kitchen STEM activities, and 9 STEM Activities for Preschool Kids, and 45 Science Activities to Help Kids Learn 5 Senses

Seems like everyone's talking about the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) these days. And hey, I get it. We live in a highly technological world that's rapidly advancing in all sorts of new ways. We want our kids to be be creative and adaptive problem solvers.

But maybe you're like me and you deeply love arts and crafts. They're your jam. And maybe you're unsure how to dive into all this STEAM goodness. Hey, I get that too. Hopefully today's post will help. In this post I sharing over 40 ideas for arts and craft projects that also happen to incorporate STEM ideas. Yup. Here are some of my favorite artsy crafty posts...which also happen to have a little STEAM-y oomph to them!STEM Experiments for Artsy Fun!

Example of a fresco project depicting a sun scene in an aluminum foil tray - Art Science Experiments

Fresco Painting with Oobleck

Students probably know Michelangelo did the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but do they know these paintings used a special technique called fresco? Fresco painting involves painting directly onto a wet layer of plaster. This technique has been around for thousands of years and was popular during the Italian Renaissance. With the fresco painting activity, students can learn more about fresco painting and simulate the process by painting onto Oobleck (rather than a ceiling!). How will their fresco masterpieces compare to paintings made on wet paper? Which technique creates the most vivid paintings? Which one has the sharpest lines and details?

The science: The technique of fresco painting causes pigments to sink into the wet plaster as the water from the paint is absorbed. Once dry, frescoes are more permanent than other forms of painting.
Marker chromatography on a strip of filter paper - Art Science Experiments

Marker Ink Chromatography

Are all blue markers the same? How about black ones? When it comes to ink (in markers or even in bottles used to fill fountain pens), artists often discover that inks of a specific color don't all look the same. When it comes down to how they are created, the actual color molecules used to make them, inks can vary greatly! With paper chromatography, students can test markers or inks of similar shades from different brands and watch the colors that have been used in the formulation of the ink separate out in a column on a piece of filter paper (or a coffee filter). You might be surprised what colors show up in your ink! For other paper chromatography experiments and resources, including an introductory video, see Paper Chromatography Science Projects & Experiments

The science: In paper chromatography, a small amount of ink (or a sample solution) is placed on a strip of chromatography paper. The strip is then suspended in a solvent. As the solvent moves up the paper, the individual components of the sample solution separate out in bands of individual color.
Example of food coloring swirled on top of shaving cream with a tooth pick as part of a paper marbling science activity - Art Science Experiments

Paper Marbling

What happens when you put food coloring on top of shaving cream foam? Students can find out with a paper marbling activity. As they experiment with mixing colors on top of the shaving cream and, separately, with what happens when they spray the surface of the shaving cream with water, they'll also be learning about surfactants and what it means for a molecule to be hydrophilic (water loving) or hydrophobic (water repelling). Can colors be mixed on top of the foam? Be inspired! See this family's paper marbling exploration

The science: Shaving cream is typically made from soap. Soap is a surfactant, which means its molecules are both hydrophilic and hydrophobic. Liquid food coloring is hydrophilic. It interacts with the hydrophilic parts of the soap molecules but is repelled by the hydrophobic parts, so it doesn't soak into the shaving cream. 11 Lessons to Teach About the Chemistry of Mixtures and Solutions collection.
Art Flipbook made from index cards - Art Science Experiments

Index Card Flipbook

Use stacks of index cards (cut in half) to make simple flip books and discover how our brains can perceive sequences of still images as if they are in motion. After exploring with simple colored dots (that appear to move or bounce when the book is flipped), challenge students to create a more complex flipbook story. What else can they put in motion with this technique? What happens if the images on the cards are too far apart? How can you make a flipbook animation appear smooth? Tip! You can talk about cartoons, flipbooks, and stop motion animation at the same time as the concepts are similar in terms of how a viewer sees the resulting "animation."

The science: By experimenting with the placement of the image (or dot) on each card and the amount of change in the placement between cards in the sequence, students will better understand animation and the requirements for successful flipbook animation. As an optical illusion, this kind of "apparent animation" is a good example of how our brains may fill in missing information when presented with visual cues.
Example of a fractal experiment with fingerpaint - Art Science Experiments

Fun with Fractals

Fractals refer to patterns that infinitely repeat, often at smaller and smaller (or larger and larger) sizes. If you zoom in or out, you can see the same pattern again and again within the same object. In the Mesmerizing Fractals activity, students use finger paint and plastic CD cases to create prints that may reveal fractals and repeating patterns. What objects in nature also demonstrate fractal patterns? How can math help explain the patterns in a fractal? What kinds of shapes are common in fractals?

The science: Fractals appear naturally in the world around us, in objects like trees, snowflakes, lightning, shells, and ferns, as well as in fruits and vegetables like pineapples and Romanesco broccoli. The characteristic of fractals having patterns that repeat at different scales is referred to as self-similarity.
Student arranging mobile elements on homemade mobile to balance them - Art Science Experiments

Balance a Mobile

Whether the objects are paper, wire, dimensional objects, or even spoons and forks, when it comes to making a hanging mobile, understanding the physics behind balance is essential. All objects have to be in balance for the mobile to hang properly. In the Balance the Forces Within a Mobile activity, students experiment with using straws, thread, and physics to balance paper shapes on a homemade mobile. How many objects can be balanced? Does the size of the objects (relative to one another) matter? What other lightweight materials can be balanced in a mobile? This can be a great activity for using lightweight recycled or junk-drawer materials! Be inspired! This student's mobile was almost as tall as the front door!

The science: By adjusting the length of the string and/or sliding the hanging elements along the straws, students can experiment with the positioning of the items until everything balances and the mobile hangs properly.
40+ Projects that combine STEM with Art- Great resource for art teachers and crafty folks who want to encourage STEM learning too!

Here's a quick guide for how to combine STEM learning with Art Projects-

You could try...

  • Making art materials with kids

  • Encouraging kids to study and experiment with their art supplies

  • Making art to illustrate STEM ideas

  • Building toys with kids

  • Folding Origami with kids

Alright. You got the quick guide. So now let's roll up our sleeves and break down each of these ideas!

Make Art Materials with Kids

Store bought art materials are awesome. They're quick and easy to use. But did you know that there's a TON of science involved in making these materials? (Side note- I recently read this book and cannot recommend it enough.History, science, intrigue...who knew all these things went on to create colors!) To help give kids a firsthand experience to this process, try making your own art supplies together! Cutting, mixing, melting, cooking, combining, problem solving.....they get to be a color scientist!

With a little bit of science, technology, engineering and mathematics know-how, you can create any of these art supplies from everyday materials!

Experiment with Art Materials

Another easy way to incorporate STEM ideas with arts and crafts is by intentionally exploring and studying the different properties of your supplies.

For example, what happens when you apply heat to crayons?

What happens when water drips onto marker?

Can markers draw on all surfaces?

When kids explore questions like these they are being creative and thinking unconventionally. Some examples of these types of activities include...

Use Art to illustrate STEM ideas

Let's face it. Understanding STEM ideas can be tough. Luckily, many concepts are more easily understood with accompanying visual explanations. We can use art projects to help teach or clarify these difficult ideas for kids. Some examples of these types of projects include...

Build Toys with Kids

I'm a lover of all classic well as a cardboard hoarder. Yup. It's a pretty great combination. (Or a dangerous one...muah ha ha!)

I love turning cardboard into all sorts of fun toys with my kids. We get to be artsy-crafty engineers, designers, and mathematicians all at once.

Some examples of our favorite handmade toys include...

Use Science to Make Art

Does "art" always have to be created using conventional materials? No! Why not use scientific ideas to create your own STEAM-filled art?

You use your creative, artsy side to fold and manipulate a simple flat sheet of paper into something entirely different. You also explore math ideas like geometry in an intuitive way.

And, did you know that origami even inspires NASA scientists to think about solar panels in a different way?

Phew. That was a long list.