Create Winter Wonders: 7 Indoor STEM Activities for Cold Weather Days
Kids can go a little stir-crazy when they’re stuck inside on cold weather days. While you may not be able to get their energy out physically, there are plenty of STEM-filled ways to exercise their minds.
Whether your future engineer is in kindergarten or middle school, these seven indoor STEM activities will keep them engaged and excited all winter long:
Build an LED Ornament
As much as kids enjoy tinkering with things, they especially love it when they have something to show off at the end. By building their own LED ornaments, they can show off their ingenuity by hanging it up on their Christmas tree at home.
This project gives parents and teachers the opportunity to teach about electricity as kids exercise their creativity and engineering smarts. Kids over the age of eight should have little difficulty with this project, while younger kids will need supervision.
Ready to start building LED ornaments? You can find detailed instructions right here.
Expanding Snowman Experiment
Need a winter STEM activity that will engage your little ones? The expanding snowman experiment is both an inexpensive and simple activity that is suitable for preschoolers to middle-schoolers.
This activity involves taking snow from the ground (or making your own by crushing ice in a blender) and putting it inside a Ziploc bag. Before adding snow, you and the kids can decorate the bag to look like a snowman.
Then, you’ll put Alka-Seltzer tablets into the bag and watch the chemical reaction that will soon take place. Before conducting the experiment, have the kids predict what will happen and write down their hypothesis in a book.
For older kids, you can delve deeper into the chemical reaction that took place. The two active ingredients in Alka-Seltzer (sodium bicarbonate and citric acid) react with snow (H2O) to form carbon dioxide gas.
This is the same type of reaction that occurs when you mix baking soda and vinegar together.
Have Fun with Electro Dough
If you have a tinkerer on your hands, let them learn about electricity with Electro Dough. This conductive dough is a fun and safe way to learn about the flow of electric currents when you’re stuck indoors.
The Electro Dough kit features two color-coded wires (red and black) which are threaded through a plastic enclosure. Kids can stick each wire into the conductive dough which sends an electric current through the dough.
Once an LED is added, it lights up and allows kids to easily build their own circuits. This STEM activity encourages kids to get creative with their dough and can easily be integrated into the classroom or at home.
Dissolving Candy Canes Experiment
Once Halloween is officially over, candy canes magically appear in every store and local business. Take advantage of the candy cane surplus with the dissolving candy cane experiment!
In this STEM experiment, you will put four liquids (cold water, hot water, vinegar and oil) into four separate mason jars. Four candy canes will be placed inside each jar.
Before conducting the experiment, ask your students/kids what they predict to happen with each jar. Which liquid will dissolve the candy cane the fastest? How long do they think each one will take?
Have them write down their predictions to practice how real scientists hypothesize and observe outcomes. Don’t forget to set your timer. Both you and the kids might be surprised at the results!
Create a Winter Ice Lantern
If you live in an area that gets below freezing during the winter season, this next STEM activity is a must-try. All you need are two plastic cups, food coloring, a few holiday decorations (pom poms, pipe cleaners, etc.), tape, water and a battery-operated candle.
To begin making winter ice lanterns, kids will start by twisting pipe cleaners and adding pom poms to the inside of the larger cup. Next, you’ll place the smaller cup inside the big cup and tape it in place so that the two cups are even.
Finally, carefully pour water inside the larger cup until it’s full. Add some festive food coloring and place outside until it is completely frozen.
After the kids have oohed and aahed over their creation, explain the science behind what happens to water when it freezes.
Snowman-Themed Place Value Activity
Flashy science experiments often steal the STEM spotlight. With this snowman-themed place value activity, you can finally give math the attention it deserves without boring the kids.
This activity takes little time to get started and is perfect on days when the kids are trapped indoors. Simply print the free snowmen and cut each of them into three individual pieces.
Each snowman includes a head with a total number and two bodies. One of the bodies has a number in expanded form and the other body shows the number in place value blocks, or base 10 blocks.
Using these printouts, you can easily introduce kids to expanded form and teach them what the value of each digit means. You can also use real base 10 blocks to mimic the snowmen and reinforce the lesson.
Build a Marshmallow Structure
The next time you fix the kids some hot chocolate, don’t put away the mini marshmallows just yet! Instead, get out a box of toothpicks and encourage the kids to build the strongest, sturdiest structure that they can using only the toothpicks and marshmallows.
To make things a little more exciting, consider setting a timer for 15 minutes. Seeing what they come up with is exciting and you can watch as they discover which shapes provide the best support.
After they’ve completed the first challenge, consider extending the fun by posing a new challenge. Have them build a structure using only one shape (i.e., a triangle) or have them build a marshmallow bridge.
Keep Their Imaginations Warm
Kids can become bored and restless when they’re stuck inside on a cold winter day. With fun, interactive STEM activities, you can keep them engaged and having a blast all season long.
Not to mention that you’ll be having fun along with them. There is nothing better than seeing kids having fun with STEM while knowing that you’re preparing them for the future.