STEM Activities to Keep Younger Children at Home Occupied

POSTED ON: March 26, 2020



Elizabeth Waters

Elizabeth Waters

While we all stay in place with our families at home, Elizabeth Waters, associate director, STEM Outreach, offers some suggestions of activities to do with younger children. Although she has many favorites in the category of online stem education resources, here are a few of her favorites that she has not only used in working with elementary and middle-school students, but with her own children as well, and why she recommends them--in her words.

Curiosity Machine Design Challenges

Many times children have ideas that are greater than their fine motor skills will allow them to build.  Curiosity Machine Design Challenges were made for children and parents to work together.  Children benefit from an extra pair of hands and parents get to demonstrate their skills as a life-long learner. Older siblings and grandparents can also help.  

Plus this platform has a Cooper connection: Electrical Engineering Professor Emeritus Toby Cumberbatch worked on the first iterations of these design challenges with alumni. Full disclosure, I also worked at Curiosity Machine before coming to Cooper Union and helped launch the challenges inspired by Boeing and the Artificial Intelligence Family Challenge. I suggest picking a theme and doing 3-5 challenges so that children get to build skills and knowledge that they can apply to increasingly difficult challenges.

Curious Jane

This was founded in New York City by Samantha Razook to provide her daughters with opportunities to learning engineering and DIY skills. Their activities are great for students in grades K-5. They're currently sharing activities that would normally require a fee for free! I also recommend their magazine and camps; my oldest daughter did camp, then volunteered as a counselor in training, and this year will be old enough to be a counselor. She finds these activities interesting at every age.

The Exploratorium

Science museums are known for making complicated topics accessible. This public online laboratory shares easy and fun STEM activities that work for all ages. I asked my high schooler to pick an activity to do with her younger sister; she picked a bubble activity because she's taking chemistry this year. My younger one liked it because it reminded her of the Central Park giant bubble makers and she misses going to the park. Lots and lots of activities organized by subject that use materials from around the house. 

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.