This time of year, there is always a lot of time off from school, work, and extracurricular activities. So, what are kids supposed to do with all that extra time? Keep their brains learning, exploring, and developing with STEAM activities.
Science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics are not out of reach for even the youngest of kids. Nor are teenagers too cool to mess around with these hands-on, educational exercises. Instead of messing up The 12 Days of Christmas (because who can actually remember what comes after five golden rings) spend 12 days figuring out some of the coolest holiday activities.
Day 1: Tinkering Trees
You’ll need a set number of ⅝” diameter bolts in varying lengths as trees, 5 x ⅝” nuts for that same number of trees, and 4 washers per tree in reducing the diameter. Help kids build fine motor skills and learn patterns, all while building some of the coolest industrial Christmas trees out there. Left Brain Craft Brain has a step-by-step guide, but let kids explore and build the kind of tree that only their imaginative minds could create.
Day 2: Jingle Bell Lego Maze
Legos are an amazing toy for all sorts of learning opportunity. Watch kids develop lateral thinking capabilities, problem-solving, and planning by construction skills as they maneuver these mini blocks into shapes and structures. Grab a square base, red and green Legos, and a jingle bell. Let kids to develop a maze and then try to get the jingle bell through it as quickly as possible. Handmade Kids Art even offers activity extensions to keep the learning going beyond the initial race.
Day 3: Christmas Cup Tower Challenge
Grab a few members of the family and challenge each other to a game of cup stacking. Just get some green plastic cups and start building. See who can build the tallest, fullest tree before it topples over. Decorate the cup tree tower with colorful pompoms ornaments to make it even more festive. Little Bins for Little Hands even suggests rolling up a few white socks and throwing the “snowballs” at the tree to knock it down!
Day 4: Snowball Shooter Kit
Parents can join in on this one with their kids as everyone is transported to middle school with a substitute teacher in math class. Grab some PVC pipe from the local hardware store, some mini marshmallows to act as snowballs, and create your own target with points. Teach Outside The Box helps teach kids to engineer their spitball pipe and offers a seasonal component with marshmallows acting as snowballs.
Day 5: Jingle Bell Drop
STEAM isn’t just for older kids. Toddlers can get in on the fun with this jingle bell drop activity from Stay At Home Educator. It’s truly simple, and all that’s needed are two clear jars, red and green jingle bells, and a kid. Teach them to match colors, sort bells, and watch as they light up at the ringing of bells as they drop into the glass containers. Help build fine motor skills by using tongs to grasp the bells and drop. This game can be used outside of the season by adding other colored bells and even more jars.
Day 6: Dissolving Candy Canes
Cool science projects are exciting for all ages, even for kids that aren’t too into science as a school subject. Try to see which substances will dissolve a candy cane the fastest by grabbing three glass jars and filling one with cold water, one with hot water, and the last with vinegar. Get your favorite peppermint sugar cane and drop one into each of the cylinders. Science Sparks offers a few other tips for this activity to explore more of the scientific aspects of the experiment.
Day 7: Holiday Light Circuits
This fun activity will not only teach kids STEM skills, but also help parents learn how to fix that one pesky light that makes them all go out. Since electricity is involved, parental supervision is advised. Nitty Gritty Science uses aluminum foil, a battery, cut lights, brass fasteners, and a file folder help build simple series, parallel, and complex light circuits.
Day 8: Lego Free Build
What do the holidays mean to you and your family? Give kids some time to explore the characters and figures that mean something to them. Stem Activities for Kids suggests giving the kids some guidance using the Engineering Design Process through five easy steps: Ask, Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve.
Day 9: Engineering for Toddlers
While Fun-A-Day takes it to the next level by dying the mini wooden craft sticks, toddlers will be just as happy with the original version. Grab a few glitter balls and ask kids to help sort the colors as step one. This will help them to learn sorting by attributes. Next, let them plan or dig right in. Use the sticks to manipulate a structure and learn about engineering, patterns, 2D and 3D objects, and even continue practicing those fine motor skills.
Day 10: Snowstorm in a Jar
This snowstorm from Growing A Jeweled Rose needs a few ingredients to get started. A clear jar so everyone can see the swirling storm, baby oil, white paint, water, glitter, and alka seltzer. Watch as your kids are amazed at the reactions of these substances. It’s a science experiment right at the kitchen table, and a snowstorm that you’d be happy to sit around and watch explode.
Day 11: Christmas Labs
The Science Penguin offers a few different resources here for a true Christmas science lab. There’s cookie and milk absorption, a catapult, pipe cleaners that can be turned into holiday shapes, and a recipe to create Santa’s Elves’ favorite drink. Kids will learn how to measure, why things work the way they do, and practice planning and execution skills.
Day 12: The Grinch’s Heart Slime
A favorite of the holidays, The Grinch and his three-sizes-too-small heart. Little Bins for Little Hands combines literacy with gooey family fun. This homemade slime will just add to the appeal of the famous story. While this one will take some planning ahead (there are seven ingredients), and a copy of How The Grinch Stole Christmas, combining science and Christmas has never been more fun.