STEAM is best experienced hands-on, and many wonderful schools provide children with plenty of opportunities to do so. But if you think STEAM activities are only reserved for school projects, you might want to think again. In fact, you don’t need complicated activities or a whole lot of materials to get started. Right at home, your kitchen is one of the best places to start.
Well, of course ‘steam’ belongs in the kitchen, right? Most likely, your home already has some basic ingredients and tools needed to get your kids excited over some STEAM experiments. Why not make the most of your time at home with some enriching learning activities?
If you’re looking for ways to keep your children entertained while learning intriguing STEAM concepts at home, below are some activities you can try. Do note that while the activities mainly use food ingredients and are generally safe for children, there is some heating, chemicals, and cutting involved. As always, observe the necessary precautions and adult supervision is recommended.
Rock sugar candy
Indulge your children in a colourful, sugary snack with this rock sugar candy activity! They will get to create beautiful sugar crystals on a stick, and see processes like dissolution and crystallisation in action. For older kids, it is an opportunity to dive into the concept of concentration and saturation point.
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- Clean glass jar
- Add sugar to water in the pan and heat it to a slow boil. Stir constantly to keep it from overheating, and do so until all the sugar has dissolved. Optionally, you can add some flavouring and/or colouring to the solution at this point, and mix well.
- Prepare your skewer by dipping it into the sugar solution about halfway through, then remove the skewer and let it dry. Alternatively, you can coat the dipped skewer with a bit of granulated sugar.
- Set the sugar solution to cool in an ice bath or in the refrigerator, until it is just slightly cooler than room temperature.
- Once the sugar solution is sufficiently cool, transfer it into the clean jar, and place the skewer into the jar.
- Set the jar somewhere safe and leave it undisturbed for about 3 to 7 days. You may cover the opening of the jar with a paper towel to prevent contaminants from entering the solution.
- You should see the sugar crystals form as the days go by. Once it has reached a size you are satisfied with, you can remove it from the solution to admire it and have a bite of your rock sugar candy!
Home-made pH indicator
The kids will be fascinated by this colour-changing solution, which also offers a wonderful gateway to learn about chemistry topics like acidity. Let them have fun exploring the pH of various liquids they can find around the home!
- Red cabbage
- Glass beakers
- Boiling water
- Cut up the red cabbage into small pieces until you have enough for about 2 cups. You may use a blender or food processor if you prefer.
- Place the cut cabbage into a glass beaker, and fill it with boiling water. Set it aside for about 10 minutes, until you see that colour has leached out.
- Filter out the plant material with the help of a sieve; you just want the liquid. The cabbage liquid should be a red-purplish-bluish colour. This is your pH indicator, and is at approximately pH 7.
- Distribute the cabbage liquid into several smaller glass beakers, according to how many testing liquids you have.
- With your cabbage pH indicator, you can add various household solutions – one in each beaker – to see the effect it has on the indicator. Acidic solutions will give redder shades, while basic solutions will turn the liquid greenish-yellow.
Some acidic household solutions are lemon juice, vinegar, and carbonated water. Common basic solutions are baking soda and laundry detergent. If using stronger chemicals like hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide, make sure to take precautions by wearing gloves.
Present this as a challenge to your child: with a peeled hard-boiled egg sitting atop the mouth of a bottle, how can they get the egg to go inside the bottle, without directly pushing it in? The solution will intrigue them and give them a glimpse of air pressure in action.
- Peeled hard-boiled egg
- Bottle with an opening slightly smaller than the egg
- Paper and lighter, or hot and cold water
Method 1: Tear off a piece of paper of a size that can easily slip into the bottle. Set it on fire, and then drop it into the bottle. Immediately place the egg on top of the bottle’s opening. As the flame goes out, the egg should be sucked into the bottle.
Method 2: Place the egg on top of the bottle. Then, run the bottle under hot water, or immerse the bottle in a hot water bath. Set the bottle back on the table. As it cools, the egg will be pushed into the bottle.
Method 3: Place the egg on top of the bottle. Then, immerse the bottle in an ice bath. As the temperature drops, the egg will be forced into the bottle.
A little creativity will help in this experiment-cum-art project. Based on the principle of density, your child will be able to create their very own rainbow in liquid form! Rather than having set steps for this activity, you can let your child explore with some guidance.
- A tall vase or measuring cylinder
- Food colouring
- Various food-based liquids, e.g. water, sugar syrup, oil,
In the first phase, let your child explore by pouring water and oil into the cylinder. Introduce to them the concept of density and miscibility.
Thereafter, let them explore with other liquids. For colourless liquids, adding some food colouring may help visualise the liquids better. For miscible liquids, you will have to pour very carefully so as not to mix the liquids.
Once they have gotten the hang of it, you can task your child to create a rainbow using different liquids, or different concentrations of the same liquid. This will challenge them to apply what they’ve learnt and problem-solve to create the product!
If you find hands-on learning a good learning approach for your children, enrolling them in a school that believes in this is also crucial. The International School in Singapore adopts the STEAM programme which aims to involve students in hands-on projects to promote exploration and inter-disciplinary learning. This helps to make learning more impactful, and nurtures interest for the subjects in a very relatable way.
The school offers the international baccalaureate programme, from kindergarten to IB diploma courses. For a diverse, enriching, and exciting learning environment, you should definitely consider this international school for your child.