STEM Art Activities for Preschoolers

STEM activities are crucial for children’s development. By introducing them as early as possible, kids develop a healthy and curious approach to knowledge and learning new things. Plus, as they get older, the relationship between STEM disciplines and arts starts to seem distant, so seeing them as mutually beneficial when young helps them think outside the box when they become older.

In the end, STEM becomes STEAM as you motivate preschoolers to learn about their disciplines with an original and artistic approach. In this article, we will share with you the best STEM art activities for preschoolers.

Topics covered:

What is STEM vs. STEAM for preschoolers?

As you already know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEAM incorporates Art into this set of disciplines. This group was coined by the National Science Foundation in the 2000s to point out the necessary boost needed for said disciplines in education. These must be introduced into students’ learning process at a very young age not just to have more professionals in the discipline but to help them have a more familiar and creative approach to them.

When talking about preschoolers, STEM activities are simple and fun experiments to practice at home, igniting their curiosity and creativity. STEAM activities in particular always incorporate a very open and flexible approach for kids to express themselves, hence, taking the lead while learning. Without going too much into detail about concepts, 2-4-year-old toddlers enjoy enticing projects and associate STEM disciplines with fun. All of these activities are applied to real-life situations so they see the value of what they are doing.

Why is art important in STEM for preschoolers?

We cannot stress more the value of arts in the learning process. Art activities allow them to be more assertive, making their own decisions and expressing their growing thoughts and feelings about the world that surrounds them. STEM disciplines require rigor and abstract thinking, skills whose foundations can be built at a very young age. Art eases the way into these skills and promotes lateral thinking, a strong complement to these disciplines.

STEM activities with art can:

  • increase creativity
  • improve academic performance
  • increase motor skills
  • enhance visual learning
  • boost higher decision-making skills

How is art used in STEM for preschoolers?

Every STEM activity has room for art. It gives kids a freer vision of what they can bring to the table when creating. It doesn’t have to be much, but adding the possibility to decorate, or some music while experimenting goes a long way.

STEM can incorporate art in many ways:

  • Visual arts
  • Visual notetaking
  • Adding graphics
  • Using colors
  • Music
  • Children’s Literature

15 Best STEM Art Activities for Preschoolers

Let’s check some STEM art projects for toddlers. They are all fun and have a basis for each discipline while adding an artistic approach.

  1. Magnet Painting
  2. Water Music
  3. 3 Little Piggies Story Reenactment
  4. Shape Sorting
  5. Auto-inflating Balloon Head
  6. Art Material Exploration
  7. Flower Construction
  8. Rainstick Instrument
  9. Ice Ornaments
  10. Rock Tower
  11. Home-made Kaleidoscope
  12. Dancing Fluid
  13. Geometric Art
  14. Brush-bot
  15. Season Cups

1. Magnet Painting

Magnetism is itself fun, but add some paint to it and you have a nice activity to do with your kids.

STEM Category: Art, Science

Materials Needed:

  • A magnetic wand (you can replace this with a strong magnet attached to a stick to use as a “brush”)
  • Different small metallic elements in various shapes
  • Color paint
  • Cups to put the paint on
  • A plastic blanket to avoid big messes
  • A blank page

Instructions:

  1. Add paint to the cups.
  2. Use the magnet wand to pick an object.
  3. Dip it in the cup of paint.
  4. Start painting!

2. Water Music

Music is always attractive for kids, especially at a very young age. This easy exercise can make your instrument at home and compose some tunes with sound vibration basics!

STEM Category: Art, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • 7 or more long glasses (make sure that the borders are not too thick)
  • Water
  • A small mallet to play

Instructions:

  1. Fill the 7 glasses with different amounts of water (one with 1/8, the other with 2/8, etc.)
  2.  Hit it softly with the mallet and hear the sound it produces.
  3. Try playing memory games or writing some simple music.

3. Little Piggies Story Reenactment

A universal story, the 3 little piggies can teach kids the basics of engineering materials and architecture. Recreating a story is always fun for toddlers and serves as a visual aid for them. We propose here the experiment with home materials that can be easily obtained, but the more accurate the materials you get for the story, the better.

STEM Category: Art, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • If you don’t know it, the 3 little piggies story
  • 3 different materials for each small house (we suggest sand/grass, cards/sticks, and lego blocks, but just make sure that one is sturdy and the other two can be torn down with wind)
  • A small fan
  • Small toys to play with the characters (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Start telling the story to your kids.
  2. When the first piggy builds the house with weak material (i.e., sand)
  3. Do the same with the second and third houses.
  4. Now, for the wolf, try the fan on the three houses!

4. Shape Sorting

Though preschoolers may not be yet familiar with numbers, they do know shapes, the basis for geometry. Some simple sorting exercises and some color can do marvels with their math knowledge basics.

STEM Category: Art, Math

Materials Needed:

  • Paper shapes: square, circle, triangle, rectangle (ideally, in blank and for coloring)
  • As many pencil colors as shapes

Instructions:

  1. Print out shapes or draw them for your kid to color.
  2. If you have 4 shapes, paint each shape with a different color. For example, you should 1 yellow square, 1 yellow circle, 1 yellow rectangle, and 1 yellow triangle, and repeat this for other colors.
  3.  Once done, ask them to arrange all equal shapes in one group.
  4. Once done, ask them to rearrange in colors.
  5. You can try also for them to complete patterns (put all but one yellow shape together and ask them what is missing)

5. Auto-inflating Balloon Head

Balloons are endless sources of fun. You can also add some creativity and make them auto-inflate, just like magic for your little ones!

STEM Category: Art, Science

Materials Needed:

  • A balloon
  • Markers that can be used on balloons
  • Empty water bottles
  • Measuring spoon
  • A small cup
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Funnels

Instructions:

  1. Draw a face in your balloon with the markers (later on, you can draw other stuff)
  2. Put the funnel in the balloon so you can add ingredients to it.
  3. Add 4 teaspoons of baking soda (you can add more if the balloon is bigger)
  4. Add half a cup of vinegar to the bottle (you can use the funnel too for this)
  5. Place the balloon’s mouth around the bottle’s opening without spilling the baking soda.
  6. Once it’s properly placed, the baking soda should now be spilled into the bottle.
  7. Watch it grow!
  8. Try adding different faces, shapes, and whatever your kids suggest after the first one.

6. Art Material Exploration

Sure, painting is kind of a given for kids, but why not take a step back and show them how it changes based on materials? After all, the scientific method starts with very simple questions.

STEM Category: Art, Science

Materials Needed:

  • Different materials to draw on: paper, cereal box cardboard, aluminum foil, paper towels, felt, sandpaper, wax paper, whatever you can find.
  • Different materials to draw with: paint, markers, crayons, etc.

Instructions:

The idea is to combine materials to draw on and others to draw with and see the results. Try all of them with all of them, and then start combining!

7. Flower Construction

Mimicking is part of the learning curve for kids. By recreating a flower, your kid is practicing the basic scientific method of reproducing a phenomenon by observing it. Plus, if they get creative, it is a great chance to openly discuss their ideas.

STEM Category: Art, Science

Materials Needed:

  • Playdough of various colors
  • Craft sticks (as many as possible)

Instructions:

  1. Show your toddlers as many flowers as possible. Ideally, real ones, but photos should do.
  2. Ask them to recreate them.
  3. Try engaging in a straightforward discussion on similarities and differences between what they see and what they do.

8. Rainstick Instrument

A very simple yet exotic instrument, rainsticks are easy to craft and a fun element to play with kids.

STEM Category: Art, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • Sturdy cardboard tube
  • Elements to decorate it
  • A paper grocery bag
  • Rubberbands
  • Scissors
  • Pipe cleaners or craft wire
  • Beads, rice, beans, or other material for inside the rainstick

Instructions:

  1. Decorate your cardboard tube and let it dry.
  2. Cut out two circles from the paper grocery bag.
  3. Attach one to one end of the tube with a rubber band.
  4. Add elements inside the tube for the sound (beads, rice, etc.). Try with different elements.
  5. Close the other end of the tube with the other circle and rubber band.
  6. Make it sound!

9. Ice Ornaments

A good lesson on states of matter, these ornaments are easy, straightforward, and ideal for snowy locations. Nevertheless, you can do them anywhere in any weather conditions.

STEM Category: Art, Science

Materials Needed:

  • A plate or bowl (ideally, it has to have some depth)
  • Natural elements (i.e., berries, leaves, twigs, etc.)
  • Water
  • Yarn/strings

Instructions:

  1. Add water to the plate/bowl.
  2. Submerge the elements in the water.
  3. Add some string (make sure half of it is outside of the water).
  4. Put the plate/bowl in the freezer and wait till the water freezes.
  5. Once frozen, take it out and pull gently from the string (use a knife/spoon to help pull out the frozen ornament).
  6. Hang the ornament somewhere and see how it slowly melts over the day (you can put a plate below).

10. Rock Tower

Adult educators, beware! This one is not suited for the impatient. The activity itself is quite simple, and a lesson in engineering, but the most important trial to endure is to help toddlers do things slowly and patiently. Piling up rocks is an interesting challenge.

STEM Category: Art, Engineering

Materials Needed:

  • Gather as many rocks as possible, of different shapes and sizes

Instructions:

The exercise is self-explanatory, but make sure to go for a nice hike with your kids and collect as many rocks as possible. Once at home, start piling them up patiently with them. Don’t be afraid to lose and start over, that is the most important lesson here.

11. Home-made Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscopes are beautiful, no matter how old you are. Crafting this simple technology at home is a fun exercise and a good lesson on light refraction.

STEM Category: Art, Technology

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard tube (can be toilet paper)
  • Mylar sheets or mirrored sheets
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • White cardstock
  • Bendy straw
  • Decorative elements (paint, markers, etc.)

Instructions:

  1. Decorate your cardboard tube.
  2. Cut your mylar or mirrored sheets into three equal strips. The size should be just right so the finished kaleidoscope insert fits in your cardboard tube and won’t fall out.
  3. Line up your mylar strips, leaving a small space between each one. The shiniest/least scratched sides should face down. Tape them together over the spaces.
  4. Fold the taped mylar into a triangular prism and tape along the top to hold it in place.
  5. Place it inside the cardboard tube.
  6. Cut off the bendy end of a flexible straw.
  7. Tape it along the top of your tube with the flexible part of the straw hanging over the edge.
  8. Cut out 3 circles from cardstock and poke a hole in the center of the circle. Decorate the circles (shapes, letters, colors).
  9. Place the circle onto your straw with the design facing the kaleidoscope.
  10. Look in the kaleidoscope and enjoy!

12. Dancing Fluid

Known as oobleck or non-newtonian fluid, this psychedelic matter is a great experiment to make at home. Your kids will adore watching how it works.

STEM Category: Art, Science

Materials Needed:

  • Cornstarch
  • Water
  • Spoon
  • Large bowl
  • One cup measuring cup
  • Food coloring

Instructions:

  1. Add one cup of cornstarch into the mixing bowl.
  2. Pour one cup of water into the bowl.
  3. Mix the water and cornstarch as you pour the water in.
  4. If the mixture gets too liquid-like, add a little more cornstarch.
  5. Add a few drops of food coloring.
  6. Try the liquid now: squeeze it, and move it fast in the bowl to see it change state as it moves.
  7. If you have a high-volume speaker, try putting the speaker up, placing some newspapers on it (so it doesn’t spill), and placing some of the fluid on it.
  8. Put the music at a high volume and watch it dance!

13. Geometric Art

This easy exercise is proof of how geometry and art combine. By drawing many circles together and painting them, your kids will discover a beautiful set of geometric art forms.

STEM Category: Art, Mathematics

Materials Needed:

  • Graph paper
  • A compass
  • A pencil
  • An eraser
  • Markers

Instructions:

  1. Draw multiple circles with the compass. Make sure they overlap with each other.
  2. Ask your toddlers to paint on the segments where circles overlap.
  3. Let them color freely and ask them to check if they notice any object (i.e., flowers).

14. Brush-bot

Making a small robot is a great introduction to technology. Especially if this robot can make art!

STEM Category: Technology, Art

Materials Needed:

  • Four AA batteries
  • 6-volt battery case with wire lead terminals and an on-off switch
  • 6-volt hobby motor
  • Electrical tape
  • Washer, dime, or other small, flat object
  • Kitchen brush
  • Duct tape
  • Felt
  • Scissors
  • Tacky glue
  • Paint (like tempera)
  • A plate for the paint
  • A blank sheet to paint on

Instructions:

  1. Put batteries in the battery case.
  2. Connect the leads to the hobby motor
  3. Secure the wires in place with electrical tape.
  4. Attach the washer to the motor’s shaft with electrical tape.
  5. Attach the battery pack and motor to the brush with duct tape.
  6. Decorate at will (make sure you can still access the on-off switch)
  7. Dip your bot’s brush in paint.
  8. Turn it on to see it move on the sheet.

15. Season Cups

Finally, a very simple way of teaching kids about seasons involves drawing. A couple of cups should do.

STEM Category: Science, Art

Materials needed:

  • 4 Transparent Plastic Cups you can pile
  • Color markers
  • A light box or light table

Instructions:

  1. Ask your kid to draw (or do it yourself) the following on each cup:
    1. A leave-less tree for winter.
    2. A couple of colored dots as flowers for spring.
    3. Green circles as leaves (bushy ones) for summer.
    4. Red circles in the same shape as the summer one for autumn.
  2. You should be able to pile the cups in this order and see how the drawing changes when the cups are piled.
  3. Place the light within the cup, so the drawings stand out.
  4. Tell your kids how the seasons change while removing the cups.

Closing thoughts on STEM Art Activities for Preschoolers

STEM introduced at an early age is very beneficial for your kids’ future education. In that sense, art goes far beyond crafting; it teaches them to be creative, open-minded, and think outside the box. Art motorizes the fun in the learning experience and the more activities you do at home, the better for kids to enjoy while learning.