Chase Away Holiday Blues With These STEAM Activity Ideas

Everyone loves holidays, except maybe the parents who are running out of ideas to keep their kids occupied. If you’re one of them (parents, not kids), then these STEAM activity ideas might just be up your alley!

But first, what is STEAM? It’s an educational approach that integrates the areas of study in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. When you infuse your child’s learning with STEAM, it helps them to develop future-ready skills such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving to thrive in the 21st century. Sounds like a win-win, right?

Now that you know what STEAM is, let’s hop on to the STEAMy activity ideas we have in store for you and your kids:

LAVA LAMPS (SCIENCE)

What you need:

  • 2-3 clear plastic bottles with their own caps
  • Water
  • Cooking oil or baby oil
  • Alka Seltzer/fizzing tablets (you can get these from pharmacies) or regular table salt
  • Food colouring (choose your kid’s favourite colours)

What to do:

  1. Pour oil into each plastic bottle until it’s two-thirds filled.
  2. Fill the remaining one-third with water, but make sure to leave a little leeway at the top to avoid spillage.
  3. Observe how water sinks to the bottom. This is due to the different densities of water and oil. Since oil is less dense, it floats on top of water.
  4. Now it’s time to make the water colourful. Add a few drops of each food colouring into each plastic bottle.
  5. Observe how the food colouring sinks through the oil until it reaches water. Since food colouring has the same density as water, it sinks through oil to mix with the water below.
  6. Last but not least, drop an Alka Seltzer tablet and let the reactive action begin! (Remember to screw on the bottle caps) When the tablet sinks to the water and dissolves, it creates bubbles of carbon dioxide that floats to the top. When the air dissipates, the water sinks and the cycle is repeated until the tablet is completely dissolved. 

CIRCUIT BOARDS (TECHNOLOGY)

What you need:

  • Conductive copper tape
  • LED (light-emitting diode)
  • 3V CR2302 coin cell battery
  • A piece of white paper
  • Pencil and ruler
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors

What to do:

  • First map out a simple circuit path on the piece of paper with the pencil and ruler. Make sure to map it out so that you can fold one corner of the pathway to close or open the circuit.
    Steam Education, International School
  • Guide your kid as they paste the copper tape over the circuit path. Make sure to leave a gap where the LED and battery are supposed to go.
  • Next, paste the coin cell battery with its negative side facing down.
  • Then attach the LED with clear tape. Make sure that the LED’s positive (+) side is attached to the + side of the battery and its negative (-) side is attached to the – side of the battery. The longer leg on the LED is + while its shorter leg is -.
  • Now the circuit is ready. Fold the paper along the dotted line and watch the LED light up!
  • Play around with the circuit and try out different LED/battery side combinations so your kid understands what works and what doesn’t.
  • Once your child understands the basics of circuit paths, it’s time to explore its endless possibilities such as light-up greeting cards, origami animals.

Skills learned:

  • Observation
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Data analysis 

BUILDING A TOWER (ENGINEERING)

What you need:

  • Uncooked spaghetti (break them into shorter pieces)
  • Marshmallows

What to do:

  • Push the spaghetti sticks into the marshmallows to start building a tower.
  • Experiment with different shapes such as cubes and triangles. Discuss with your child about suitable shapes and what else could be done to make the tower stronger.
  • To make things even more challenging, you can place a small toy at the top of the structure to test its strength.

Skills learned:

  • Observation
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Innovation 

ERUPTING VOLCANO (ARTS)

What you need:

  • Plasticine in different colours
  • Construction or cardboard paper
  • Clear tape
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Red food colouring
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Plastic bottle (design the volcano based on its size)

What to do:

  • First, make a cone shape using the construction or cardboard paper. Use the tape to secure its shape. You may want to sit the cone on a large bowl so it’s easier to press the plasticine around it. The height of the cone should be about the same height as the plastic bottle.

Steam Education, International School

  • Form the shape of a volcano around the cone using the plasticine. Use different colours to depict different parts of the volcano: green for plants, brown for soil, white for a snow capped volcano.
  • Once it’s done, insert the plastic bottle under the volcano.

Steam Education, International School

  • Fill the plastic bottle halfway with baking soda. It will react with the vinegar and create the ‘lava’ effect.
  • Mix a few drops of red food colouring with some dishwashing liquid in a separate bowl. After that, add two tablespoons of vinegar to the mixture. This is the ‘lava’ mixture.
  • Now it’s time to do the experiment! It’s going to be messy so make sure you either do this outdoors or put the volcano in a large bowl for easy transportation and clean-up.
  • Pour the ‘lava’ mixture into the bottle carefully, stand back and witness how the ‘lava’ bubbles up and flows down the sides of the volcano! 

Skills learned:

  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration

DICE & GRAPH (MATHEMATICS)

What you need:

  • A dice
  • Colouring pencils
  • A bar graph (you can create one based on the picture below)

Steam Education, International School

What to do:

  • Get your kid to roll the dice. For every number they roll, use a different colour to shade the boxes in the bar graph.
  • Repeat this 20-30 times.
  • By the end of the game, ask your kid to count the total number of times they had rolled a particular number and record it down.
  • To make things even more challenging, you can include questions that require your kid to analyse the data they had collected:
  • Which number had the most rolls?
  • Which number had the least rolls?
  • Does your kid think they will get the same result if they conduct the experiment again?

Skills learned:

  • Counting
  • Problem solving
  • Creativity
  • Data analysis

If your kids are still craving for more STEAMy fun after doing the above activities, then how about signing them up for the holiday camps at Canadian International School (CIS)? Designed for kids aged 4 to 14 years, CIS’s week-long holiday camps are offered across five different categories: sport and wellness, creativity and performances, global languages, multi-activity and of course, STEAM! No matter what camp you sign up your kid for, they are sure to grow cognitively and emotionally in a fun and stimulating environment led by expert camp leaders – many of whom are CIS teachers.

Want to find out more? Simply visit CIS’s holiday camp website for more information!

Please note: redraw all diagrams or images due to copyright issues.