Science STEM Activities for Preschoolers

We do not often stop and think about the habit of learning. We tend to familiarize learning with schooling at an early age, and we do not always understand how kids are absorbing information all the time. STEM activities are an excellent way to make this kind of learning conscious, as it involves introducing fundamental lessons on science with elements surrounding toddlers. 

Furthermore, kids engage in the scientific method “naturally”. They explore, ask, touch, wander, anything that helps them understand the world around them. The advantage of STEM experiments is that they direct their curiosity into developing science skills. We will share with you some science STEM activities for preschoolers that are fun and that parents can easily do at home.

Topics Covered:

What is STEM for preschoolers?

STEM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This compound of disciplines gained public notoriety when the National Science Foundation coined the acronym in the 2000s decade. The institution noticed that US kids’ results in said disciplines were not as competitive as other countries. What followed was the development of many activities and experiments to make at home and help kids find motivation in these disciplines and pursue potential careers in any of them. The earlier kids are motivated, the better, not only for the potential future professionals they can become but build a healthy relationship with learning. Preschoolers can engage in all sorts of fun activities that guide them through the basics of multiple sciences and keep them open-minded and curious about their environment.

Why is science important in preschool?

As explained, preschool toddlers are especially sensitive to questioning the world around them. They are immensely open to all sorts of learning experiences, particularly those which involve sensorial exploration. Sounds, colors, smells, touching, everything ignites their curiosity. Scientific experimentation adapted to their capacities provides them with a framework that will continue to evolve throughout their lives.

Engaging in scientific activities in early childhood is important for multiple reasons:

  • It fosters a lifelong love for science: putting the fun in science at an early age helps it carry on throughout all kids’ lives. 
  • It provides a basic foundation of scientific concepts and thinking: every STEM activity has a clear objective of teaching fundamental scientific precepts. 
  • Kids can learn crucial skills for their future: no matter what career they pursue later on in life, abilities such as teaming and decision-making (to name a few) are taught throughout STEM experiments.
  • It creates a child-like spirit of curiosity: successful scientists carry a curious spark from an early age and find the balance between fun and rigor when properly motivated as kids.

How do you teach science to preschoolers?

In a broad sense, every activity you engage in with your kids has the potential for becoming a lesson on science. Still, we have some points for you to ensure you are planning the experiment correctly.

  1. Have clarity on the experiment’s scientific base: you do not need to understand the complexity of the subject, but whatever you choose, know the basic science behind it and the phenomenon’s name. For example, you can play with static electricity by playing with a balloon. 
  2. The kids must play a significant role in the activity: it makes no sense to do everything yourself and the kids just watch the process. We understand that some aspects must be done by adults, but make sure that they participate somehow, especially if they can show their creativity, for instance, in decorating any part of the experiment.
  3. The more hands-on, the better: kids are particularly kinesthetic (they learn by doing). They need to see, hear, feel and touch. Any experiment involving these is a win with them.
  4. Aim for the surprise: toddlers are easily awed and will remember things better when surprised. Memory development is very important at an early age, so surprise is always a good ally for this. 
  5. Add some flexibility: we know some experiments need carefully followed steps, but try to always have some room for alternatives (at least at some stages of the process). In that sense and connecting with point 2, flexibility allows kids to take a larger role.
  6. Incorporate errors into the learning process: the point of the experiment is not necessary to make successful attempts. If you can show them that things can go wrong and still proceed, you are teaching them the foundations of the scientific method. Besides, this is also a great lesson on how to cope with frustration.
  7. Repete and redesign: just like with point 6, there is always space for improvement. Give the kids a chance to mimic and try on their own. Science requires a lot of observation and attempts to recreate the observed phenomenon.

Easy Science STEM Activities for Preschoolers

  1. Seed Sprouting
  2. Floats or Sinks?
  3. Do water and oil mix?
  4. Home-made balance scale
  5. Magnetic Slime
  6. Marble Race Track
  7. Penny Boats
  8. Magnet Fishing
  9. Digestion Experiment
  10. Home Dinosaur Digging
  11. Home-made Butter
  12. Water Cycle in a Bag
  13. Leak-free Water Bag
  14. Food Recycling
  15. Sensory Monsters

It’s time for us to check out some easy experiments to teach science to preschoolers. We will list them with the necessary materials and step-by-step instructions for you to recreate them at home.

  1. Seed Sprouting

Many of us tried this one when young. Watching the process of a growing plant is a great introduction to botanic science. Plus, adding some decoration to the jar/pot in which we grow our seed allows kids to own the process.

Materials Needed:

  • Jars/pots
  • Sprouting seeds
  • Elements to decorate them (paint, markers, colored paper)
  • Dirt
  • Potting soil
  • Plastic bags
  • Paper towels
  • Water

Instructions: 

  1. Place 3/4 seeds to pre-sprout between layers of damp paper towel inside a plastic bag. (it takes about 5 days)
  2. Fill the jar/pot halfway with dirt from the yard, and a mixture of half-and/half-potting soil
  3. Plant the 3/4 seeds in the container. Use a pencil to push the seeds into the soil.
  4. Decorate the pot/jar and allow it to grow.
  5. Make sure to check the evolution every day.
  1. Floats or Sinks?

A great idea to get the conversation rolling and do some observation with your kids. By dropping objects into a pool, sink, or bathtub, you can learn the basics of physics, and make some predictions.

Materials Needed:

  • A pool, bathtub, or kitchen sink filled with water
  • Different elements that can be submerged (i.e., a ball, marbles, pencils, both elements that can or cannot float)

Instructions: 

  1. Ask your kid to drop an element into the pool.
  2. Ask him/her to tell you whether it floats or sinks.
  3. Repete.
  4. Ask him/her to make predictions for the objects before throwing them.
  1. Do water and oil mix?

The answer might be obvious to you, but it is a fun experiment for your little ones to engage in. Plus, with very few elements, your kid can try it at home.

Materials Needed:

  • One jar with a tight lid
  • Water
  • Oil (can be cooking oil)
  • An egg yolk
  • Food coloring

Instructions: 

  1. Ask your kids the question about oil and water mixing.
  2. Add some water to the jar.
  3. Add food coloring and mix.
  4. Add oil.
  5. Close the lid.
  6. Ask your kids about what they see.
  7. Ask them to shake the properly closed jar to see if they mix now.
  8. Explain to them that some elements do not mix. 
  9. Home-made balance scale

This crafty tool is a great lesson on weighing science. With very few elements, you can make one at home and try as many combinations as possible. Your kids will adore trying out different combinations.

Materials Needed:

  • A hanger
  • Two plastic cups
  • Yarn
  • A hole puncher (or anything to make small holes in the cups)

Instructions

  1. Punch 3 holes in the top border of the cup’s rim.
  2. Tie a yarn string on each of the holes and join the 3 yarns together, so you can lift the cup attached through one string.
  3. Tie the string and cup to one end of the hanger.
  4. Do the same to the other string-tied cup on the opposite end of the hanger.
  5. Hang it somewhere (i.e, a doorknob).
  6. Try now adding small elements to each cup and see how it balances.
  7. Magnetic Slime

Slime is always fun for kids, and to move them with a magnet is almost magic for them. It is also a great introductory magnetism lesson. 

Materials Needed

  • Liquid starch
  • Glue 
  • Iron Oxide powder
  • A mixing bowl 
  • Plastic spoons 
  • A 1/4 cup measuring cup
  • A 1 Tablespoon measuring spoon
  • A strong magnet (neodymium works, but be careful when using it)

Instructions:

  1. Pour 1/4 cup of glue into your mixing bowl. Use a spoon to scrape all the glue out of the measuring cup.
  2. Add 2 Tablespoons of iron oxide powder. Stir well. 
  3. Pour in 1/8 cup of liquid starch.
  4. Stir the glue and starch mixture well to make sure that it’s all mixed. As soon as you begin to stir, the starch will react with the glue and the slime will start to form.
  5. Knead the slime with your hands. If it’s not ready, add either more glue or liquid starch.
  6. Put the magnet close to the mix and see what happens!
  1. Marble Race Track

Racing marbles are much more fun when designing some race tracks. If we add some gravity and angles to it, the game can become a great lesson for kids. 

Materials Needed

  • Many cardboard tubes (i.e, from toilet paper). You can make the tubes with cardboard yourself, but you should have at least a couple of them.
  • Things to decorate the cardboard tubes.
  • Duct tape
  • A wall
  • Marbles
  • A Cup

Instructions:

  1. Start by decorating the tubes.
  2. Design a track for the marbles to go through: stick the tubes together as a tunnel at different angles. They should go down so you ensure that gravity does its thing.
  3. Put a marble in the upper tube in your wall and see how long it takes to reach the ground.
  4. You can put a cup on to ensure the marble falls in it.
  5. Try now designing two race tracks and running a race!
  1. Penny Boats

This one goes hand-in-hand with the “floats or sinks” exercise. You can make a penny boat and see how many pennies/coins it takes for it to sink.

Materials Needed: 

  • A large bowl of water
  • Food coloring 
  • 30+ pennies/coins per boat
  • Aluminum Foil

Instructions: 

  1. Fill a bowl with 3/4 of water.
  2. Add a drop of food coloring.
  3. Cut two squares of aluminum foil for each boat. 
  4. Form a small boat from the aluminum foil. 
  5. Place 15 pennies on the other square of tin foil (not in a boat shape), ball it up, and place it in the water. 
  6. This one will sink.
  7. Place your boat in the water and see if it floats (Reshape if it doesn’t) 
  8. Slowly add the pennies/coins one at a time. 
  9. See how many pennies/coins can you count before it sinks.
  1. Magnet Fishing

Let’s face it: magnets are tons of fun to play with. You probably have seen those fishing rods that pick magnetic fish. Let’s change this into homemade rods and different elements (metallic or not) to teach kids how magnetism works.

Materials Needed:

  • A stick (you can use a big spoon, a chopstick, whatever you have at home)
  • Yarn
  • Magnets
  • A big plate/bowl
  • Different elements (ideally, metallic and non-metallic, to show your kid what elements are magnetized and which no)

Instructions

  1. Tie a magnet to one end of the yarn.
  2. Tie the other end to the end of the stick.
  3. Put all the elements in the plate/bowl.
  4. Start fishing! 
  5. Document with your kids what elements are magnetized and which aren’t. 
  1. Digestion Experiment

An easy one to try at home, this involves pure scientific methodology. With some bread, water, and bags, you will create a control and variable group to understand how digestion works, a daily process to teach your young ones.

Materials Needed:

  • 4 bread slices
  • 4 sealable plastic bags
  • Water
  • Marker

Instructions:

  1. Label your 4 bags as follows: Control, Dry, Wet, and Mixed.
  2. Put a slice of bread in each bag.
  3. Take the dry bag and squish it up with the bread inside. Once they have squished it for a few minutes, set it aside.
  4. Take the wet bag and add 1/4 cup of water. Make sure the bread comes in contact with the water (do it softly). Set this bag aside.
  5. Take the mixed bag and add 1/4 cup of water. Seal the bag and squish the bread with the water in the bag.
  6. Let some time go by (about an hour), and do some observation:
    1. Which bags have “more digested” bread?
    2. Which bags have changed the least?
    3. Encourage your kid to comment as much as he/she can 🙂
  1. Home Dinosaur Digging

Many kids adore dinosaurs. Archeologists’ work is to dig up the past and understand how ancient species lived. Why not create home-digging to teach your toddlers and inspire them to learn more about dinosaurs?

Materials Needed:

  • A big bucket/bowl/plant vase
  • Dirt to fill it
  • Plastic dinosaurs
  • A small shovel/spoon to dig
  • A bowl to put the dirt on (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Out of your kids’ sight, add the dinosaurs to the bucket and bury them in the dirt. Try not to place them all together.
  2. Ask your kid to take the shovel and start digging to see what he/she finds. For tidiness’ sake, you can ask him to put the dirt in a separate bowl.
  3. Once all dinosaurs have been found you can tell them a little bit about their names and habits, so you complete the cycle of researching these species.
  1. Home-made Butter

Churning butter at home is a great overview of states of matter. Plus, you get to eat them by the end, so the kids adore the process!

Materials Needed:

  • Whipping Cream (heavy)
  • Salt
  • Strainer
  • Jar with a Lid

Instructions:

  1. Pour whipping cream into your jar (almost filling it). 
  2. Close the jar. The lid should be securely tightened.
  3. Ask your kid to shake the jar hard and as long as possible.
  4. Pause the shaking several times so your kid can see the state changes.
  5. Initially, you will get whipped cream. 
  6. You can taste it (it will not be as good as the ones you buy, because it lacks sugar).
  7. Start shaking again (till you hear a “liquid” sound).
  8. Open your jar and sprinkle in some salt. 
  9. Shake a little longer.
  10. Open up, put a strainer over a bowl and pour the contents of the jar over the strainer.
  11. The liquid is buttermilk and the solid is your butter.
  1. Water Cycle in a Bag

The rain sure draws toddlers’ attention at a very early age. With very little, you can reproduce it in a bag and teach them how rain works.

Materials Needed:

  • Water
  • A sealable bag
  • Tape
  • A marker
  • Blue Food Coloring 

Instructions:

  1. Draw a cloud and a sun in your bag (on the top).
  2. Add a straight horizontal line on the bottom to represent water (when water with blue coloring is added, it will look like a stream or river).
  3. Fill the bag with blue-colored water until the line you drew. 
  4. Seal the bag and tape it on a sunny window.
  5. Throughout a hot day, you should check the bag from time to time. You will see the different steps of the water cycle. 
  6. Ask your kid to comment on what he/she sees on each change.
  1. Leak-free Water Bag

Kids adore science when it passes for magic. This experiment allows them to stab a bag filled with water without any consequences (though adult supervision is required, as always). The objective of this is a simple polymer confection. The pencil works like a cork for the bag.

Materials Needed:

  • Sealable Bag
  • Sharpened Pencils
  • Water

Instructions:

  1. Fill the bag with water almost fully. 
  2. Leave some headspace at the top. 
  3. Seal up your bag.
  4. Stab the bag with a pencil and leave the pencil in place. (Extra caution here with kids)
  5. You can add more pencils.
  6. Once you finished, take one pencil at a time and see water leaking from the holes.
  1. Food Recycling

As we throw vegetable leftovers, we do not consider basic botanic sciences. Why not regrow the base of a celery stalk to teach kids about it? 

Materials Needed:

  • The base of the celery stalk
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • A pot 
  • Soil

Instructions:

  1. Place the base of celery in the bowl with water, base side down. 
  2. Let the celery sit in the water for about a week. 
  3. The celery will begin growing from the center of the base.
  4. After you have a bit of new growth, transfer the plant into a pot with soil.
  1. Sensory Monsters

This last one returns to the basics: fostering your children’s curiosity. With a resealable bag and some elements, your kids can explore the texture of monsters and comment and their findings!

Materials Needed:

  • Resealable Bags
  • Markers
  • Shaving Cream or Gel
  • Googly Eyes (optional)
  • Masking Tape

Instructions:

  1. Draw a monster or an animal (whatever your kids prefer).
  2. Put the googly eyes on it (or draw them).
  3. Add some shaving cream to the bag.
  4. Seal the bag and try to get as much air out of it as possible.
  5. Tape the bag to a table and gently spread some of the shaving creams out.  (the tape helps in the game and avoids messes)
  6. Ask your kid to move the shaving cream around with their hands and see how the monster changes its look!

Conclusion: Engaging in Science STEM Activities with Preschoolers

Preschoolers are generally curious and eager to learn about the world around them. Teaching science through hands-on experimentation will hone their skills, ability, and capacity to learn, something they will carry on through adulthood. Letting the child have fun with their experiments and projects as the process is more important than the results. Always keep an eye open for their creativity or anything they wish to add to the process. Any of these activities should help you foster this, as these easy STEM science experiments can be done with home elements.