What is STEAM?
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. Many people think that STEAM can only be used with older, school-aged children. However, toddlers and preschoolers are naturally curious and enjoy exploring, discovering, and solving problems. STEAM can be an easy way to incorporate hands-on play and learning. Follow our STEAM Series to learn more about each component of STEAM and some activities to try with your little learners.
The S in STEAM
The S in STEAM stands for Science. Encourage children to observe, collect data, solve problems, and change behaviors to change the result. Science-based activities will help children discover and learn different ways of thinking. Be available to help ask and answer questions, further their discoveries, and supervise the use of materials.
Here are 5 easy Science ideas to incorporate in your setting:
Offer enclosed magnets and baking sheets to the children. They can place them on and take them off the baking sheets and explore how the magnets stick.
Offer chenille stems (pipe cleaners) to the children with large magnetic wands. Let them discover picking up the chenille stems with the magnetic wands. For older children, add more safe objects that are both magnetic and nonmagnetic to experiment with. You might try a large bell, a metal lid, a metal spoon, a plastic spoon, a large rock, or a toy car. Use safe items you have on hand that do not pose a choking hazard.
2. Explore Mixing Water and Oil
Ask the children: Will oil and water mix? Offer them clear plastic jars with lids. Remove the lids and fill the jars halfway with water. Offer oil in cups with pipettes. Let the children add drops of oil to the water. What happens? Does it mix? No. Help each child pour the rest of the oil into the jar. What happens now with more oil? Does it mix? No. Invite the children to shake the jars. Maybe shaking the jar will mix the oil and water. Your little learners will be fascinated to see it might temporarily mix and then the oil and water start to separate right away.
Go outside with the children on a windy day. Offer a variety of items such as streamers, fabric scarves, pinwheels, bubbles, a windsock, and a parachute. Invite the children to explore how the items move in the wind, while supervising. You may need to assist young toddlers by blowing bubbles for them or demonstrating how to shake the wand. Talk with the children about their discoveries and how the wind blows the objects. Next, try going out on a non-windy day. Do the objects move the same? How can they get the objects to move?
4. Explore Light
Set out a light table and a variety of objects. Some examples might be regular blocks, transparent blocks, tissue paper, leaves, X-rays, mirrors, seashells, feathers, and any other safe objects you have on hand. Let the children freely explore the items on the light table.
Offer flashlights for the children. They can practice turning the light on and off, shining it on or through different objects, making shadows, or experiment in other ways. Explore the flashlights with the overhead room lights on and then off. You might need to control the flashlights for young toddlers until they can safely control handle the lights without shining them into their eyes or the eyes of peers.
Children love playing in water. Place water in a sensory table or large plastic bin. Offer a variety of toys, scoops, strainers, cups, sponges, and rags. Let the children freely play with the items and water. They will likely transfer water between cups and containers, see how water falls from strainers or cups with holes on the bottom, experiment with toys that sink and float, and make many other discoveries in the process. Always directly supervise water play.