One of my very favorite things to do with young kiddos is STEM challenges! It is so much fun to give them some materials, set a goal, and sit back and watch them go to work! They are usually natural problem solvers, and they have no problem thinking outside of the box, because their young brains haven’t been forced into a box yet! And, since shapes are such a big part of what we learn early on, here are three shapes STEM challenges that your kiddos will love!
The first one can be done with any math manipulatives or small blocks you have in your classroom. I always start STEM challenges by partnering the kiddos up with each other. (Sometimes working with a friend requires more problem solving than the STEM challenge itself in preschool!) Then I distribute a handful of one of the materials to each pair. If you have enough stuff in your room, it’s great for each pair to have something different to work with, but that is definitely NOT a necessity! I give them 3 directions. 1: They have to make the shape I call out. 2: They have to work together. 3: They can only use the materials I gave them.
We make squares…
As you can see, they come up with SO many different ways to make the shapes with their materials!!
Another favorite is always play dough! Just like the STEM challenge with the math materials, I start by pairing them with partners. Then I pass out the play dough (each pair gets one can), and let them start. Just like before I give them a specific shape to make, and they MUST work together. That’s a little trickier with this one, because they can always find a way for each friend to have her own play dough, which eliminates the need to work together. So, I keep a very close eye on things to make sure this doesn’t happen!
Once they know how to make things by rolling the play dough into snakes, that becomes the method of choice. But, every once in awhile you’ll still see some creativity pop up, like what my friend did with the green play dough!
As much as I love the first two shapes STEM challenges, this one is by far my favorite! For this one, you have to do a little prep work. But, it’s super easy and totally worth it! All you’ll need to do is get some jumbo craft sticks in fun colors and self-adhesive velcro dots. Put the velcro dots on both ends of each craft stick, and you’re ready to go! (Helpful hint: Velcro has two different textures, a soft one and a stiff one. Put one of each on each craft stick to make it easier to hook them together!) We use these to make shapes in this STEM challenge, but they also live in the math center pretty much the whole year! Once the craft sticks are ready, just follow the same steps as you did in the first two challenges!
The hardest part of this challenge is usually making rectangles because they have to figure out that the long sides require more than one craft stick! But, somehow they always seem to get to the solution!!
If you love giving your kiddos opportunities to explore and discover as much as I do, you might also like to read about the Color Mixing Experiment! What are your favorite STEM challenges to do with your kiddos? Drop a comment below and let me hear your most fantastic ideas!!
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