It can be tough finding fun learning opportunities to do during the winter, but a site called SteamPoweredFamily.com shares fun STEM activities (science, technology, engineering and math) that are entertaining for the whole family.
Here are some fun ways to educate the kids while having fun this winter.
STEM Learning #1: Light Up the Night Ice Lantern
Although this activity was described as one good for Christmas, it’s actually a great activity throughout the winter, one that’s doable for preschoolers on up. To make your own ice lantern, you’ll need:
- Two plastic cups: one large (like a red Solo cup) and one small
- Fun decorative pieces, from tinsel to pipe cleaners, and from pompons to beads; the site says glittery ones are best
- Food coloring
- Battery-operated candle
First, decide how you want to decorate the outside of your large cup. This, the writer says, “is the engineering challenge!” They twisted pipe cleaners to make them spiral up their cup and then used them to anchor other decorations; make sure your decorations are balanced.
Once you’re happy with your creativity, put the small cup inside the larger one so that the tops of each are even with one another. Use tape to keep them flush with one another and then place a couple of small stones in the smaller one to keep it in place.
Carefully add water in the space between the two cups until the water is a couple of centimeters from the top. Add a few drops of food coloring.
Note: Yes! This site is Canadian—which gives you a perfect opportunity to also discuss math during this craft: 1 cm = 0.3937 inch.
Then, put your lantern (or lanterns) in the freezer for about five hours, until completely frozen. If it’s cold enough outside, you could also put them outdoors to freeze.
When all is frozen, ask your child what he or she notices about the cups now. Even with the tape and all the stones in the smaller cup, the top of the smaller cup is now higher than the larger one, and the ice rose to the top of the large cup. Why? Water expands as it freezes, and this is a perfect way to let your child see this in action.
After you’ve discussed what happened, carefully remove the smaller cup. Then remove the larger cup from the ice; you may need to use scissors. Then, place your battery-operated candle inside the ice, turn it on, and you’ve gotten a handmade ice lantern!
STEM Learning #2: Stacking an Indoor Snowperson
This may seem like just a game (and what’s wrong with that?) as your children use round fruit, marshmallows and toothpicks to put together a snowman or snowwoman. This teaches physics/balance if it works and physics/gravity if something falls and is great for boosting motor skills.
As your child builds his or her creation, talk about what shapes, weights and sizes work best for the bottom, whether or not a rounded piece of fruit can sit on a flat surface and more. If this takes a few tries, that just gives your children more time for experimentation, plus more time for family discussion.
As a bonus, while your children are busy at work with their STEM activities, you could read books to them. Here’s a list of snowman books!