When all of the parks are played in and all of the coloring pages are drawn on, where do we turn for new things to do with the kids? STEM is a good place to start!
With two active and curious boys (4 and 6) at home, I know that the kids can get a little restless towards the end of summer. They love to explore and go to new places, so I love STEM.
STEM activities offer new experiences, some learning, and fun for the parents, too. Here are some great options that all three of us love to do:
1. Invention Challenge: Make A Floating Boat
via Kids Fun Science
Perfect for siblings or for a playdate.
Materials: masking tape, aluminium foil, action figures or dolls, large plastic bin or inflatable pool
Fill up a small bin with water or an inflatable pool (if the kids want, they can add blue paint or dye!).
Give children aluminum foil and masking tape.
Have them construct a boat that will float in the water.
Gather some of their favorite action figures of different weights and sizes. My kids love experimenting to see how many figures can fit before the boat sinks.
STEM HINT: The wider the boat, the more weight it will be able to hold. If you have a scale, children can weigh the action figure to determine how much weight each boat can hold before it sinks.
2. Build a Tower!
Kids naturally love to build. My boys love to learn about really, really tall buildings.
Print out pictures of some incredibly tall towers, like the Freedom Tower in NYC or the megatall skyscraper Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Study them for inspiration!
Help children gather different building materials such as soft foam blocks, magnetic tiles or even leftover cardboard boxes to make the tallest possible tower without it collapsing (make sure it’s also a safe height).
If using cardboard boxes, kids will love to decorate the box using stickers, markers or paint.
3. You Pick Farms or Harvest from Your Own Garden!
A great way to explore nature AND get your kids to eat their veggies!
When we first moved out of the city two years ago, we built a small enclosed garden. It was a major effort to deer-proof it, but we have managed to safeguard a nice selection of cucumbers, green beans, snow peas and some tomatoes.
Kids love to water the plants, weed, measure the growth and of course, eat the vegetables. Here’s a plus: It’s amazing how much more willing my children are to eat vegetables when they can pick it directly from the garden.
If you live in the city or you don’t have space for a garden, try visiting one of NJ’s beautiful “You Pick” farms - Alstede Farms has a Peach Festival until August 13.
4. Visit a Nature Center or a National Park
This photo of Thomas Edison National Historical Park is courtesy of National Park Service Digital Image Archives.
Something different than the beach, this one will be a breath of fresh air (figuratively and literally).
New Jersey has some great options all over. Here are some of the best:
Cora Hartshorn Arboretum and Bird Sanctuary in Short Hills, NJ: This is the perfect speed for the younger ones! You can see animals like snakes, fish, rabbits, and bees. There are also shaded trails for hiking, beautiful birds and programs for kids.
Thomas Edison’s Factory and Residence in West Orange, NJ: See where Thomas Edison worked and lived. The older children will get a kick out of Edison’s many other inventions, including a phonograph and a talking doll. There are tours, walking paths, a greenhouse, and an electric car garage.
5. Take a Trip to NYC
NYC is great for shopping and shows, but did you know that it is home to great STEM activities too?
The Battery Park Conservancy offers free gardening classes in the summer for little ones.
Take a walking tour or fly a kite at Tear Drop Park.
Visit Rockefeller Park to experiment with water or see how many children it takes to push your friends on the group bicycle (bring water shoes and bathing suits).