Boost your kids' science, technology, engineering and math skills at home
This year's holiday break is shaping up to be even more stressful than usual. With entire families stuck at home, limited ways to safely see family, and malls, movie theaters, ice skating rinks, closed, parents are already wondering: How are we going to make it to 2021?
Well, this winter, why not try doing some at-home science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities to keep the kids occupied? It’s a great way to get them out of your hair long enough to wrap presents — and they might even accidentally learn something. And while we’ve only gone into depth on three STEM activities here, they’re all chosen specifically for their ability to entertain kids for prolonged amounts of time. You’re welcome!
Some kids like to put things together — and some kids like to take things apart. If your kid falls in to the latter category, why not encourage their destructive tendencies this holiday season? If you have some old devices lying around, give it to the kid with some tools and tell them to have it at it! And if you don’t have anything to hand, recycle centers and thrift stores usually have inexpensive options.
As a next step, encourage them to build something new out of their taken apart gadgets. Can they make a robot? Maybe even one that moves, if you add a Raspberry Pi to it? (More on that below.) Encourage your kid to get creative and think outside the box of what the object was originally.
If your kid is always making up stories or creates elaborate worlds or loves LEGO, then a stop-motion video is the perfect STEM activity to keep them occupied over the holiday break. The first step is creating an environment, which could be as simple as couch cushion mountains or as elaborate as an art class-level cardboard box diorama. You probably know your kid’s preferred medium, so encourage them to create something they’ll love.
Once the stage is set, they can either write out a script or get directly to the filming! Stop motion is done by taking a photo of the scene, moving an object a little bit, taking another photo, moving the object, taking a photo, and so on. At the end, you link all the photos together so that the objects look like they’re moving. You can do that either with software like Animoto or another app.
If you want to take it one step further, try adding dialogue and/or music via iMovie. This is obviously a bit more complicated and might be more appropriate for older kids, but it’s definitely a fun way to stretch out the activity and enrich the stop motion video.
If you really want to get your kids into coding, the Raspberry Pi Piper kit is where it’s at. (And for those of you who don’t know, Raspberry Pi is the name of small, single-board computers that were created to help with STEM education but now are used for all kinds of computing.) Designed for the kid who likes to tinker with things, the Piper guides kids through building their own computer that actually works. The reward at the end is a Minecraft game designed specifically for Raspberry Pi.
The other great thing about this kit is that you can use the Raspberry Pi to do other tech experiments once your kid gets tired of the Piper game. And if you find that your kid is really into it, you an sign them up for the Maker’s Club, which sends out a new piece of technology, a new Piper hardware project, and a new PiperCode project every month.
The full sized kit is sold out for this year, but you can get a Piper Mini that includes a Raspberry Pi, Piper software and levels, and the hardware pieces. The only thing it’s missing is a monitor and an HDMI cord, which most people have at home already. Bonus: It’s only $99, compared to $299 for the full kit
The holiday season is going to be long this year, folks. But with a little creativity — and a lot of patience — we’ll make it through. We hope these STEM activities help — and we’ll see you in 2021.