A simple project which includes some hands-on activities with a lot of learning potential. This project is great for preschoolers but can be done with younger or older kids. It will get you and your little ones exploring nature, working on motor skills and developing scientific vocabulary through observation and play. I love that it is such a simple project but at the same time involves different hands-on activities that can be done together as a family and that offer teachable moments. I would recommend doing the project over the weekend when you have time for all the different steps and can truly engage in a way that is beneficial for your kids.
Why Use Hands-On Activities For Preschoolers?
Hands-on activities are a great way to get your kids motivated and engaged. By allowing our kids to use their hands, the learning experience moves away from abstract concepts toward something that they can relate to. This creates the perfect environment to boost learning! It is especially important for preschoolers to engage in hands-on learning as they develop vocabulary. Even more so when dealing with scientific concepts such as melting or freezing. It is very difficult to understand these concepts if they cannot experience it with their own senses. By giving them the chance to engage in fun hands-on activities you are creating the perfect environment to nurture their curiosity and sneak in some STEM.
STEM Nature Egg Project
The project is very simple and involves a number of hands-on activities for preschoolers that you can all do together. Enjoy the process and don’t try to rush to the final product. Give you and your kids time to explore. Here are the materials you will need and the steps with some tips and suggestions to sneak in STEM skills and learning opportunities.
- Empty egg shells (we used 6)
- Egg carton
- Natural materials
- Containers for water
Project And Hands-On Activities For Preschoolers Or Older Kids
1. Prepare the eggshells
Preparation is a very important part of any project. In this case, we need to empty the egg shells before we can fill them up again. The night before you intend to do this project make sure to use those eggs for dinner! Scrambled eggs or an omelette are always a fast and easy meal at our home. Get your kids to help, involve them in the process.
The egg needs to be cracked open at the top, we used a spoon to bang the top of the eggshell. Empty the eggshell, rinse them and place them back in the egg carton. Make sure to peel enough shell away so that it can later be easily filled with all the lovely things you will collect.
2. Have a nature walk to collect materials
I love involving nature in any activity we do. It is so important and beneficial to take time out of our busy lives and just be in nature so go ahead and take a nature walk to gather materials. It can be in your garden, around your neighbourhood or even drive somewhere and make a small trip out of it. Take your time to talk about colors, plants, the different textures or sounds in nature. You can make a game out of it by asking your kids to find certain materials. Preschoolers love searching for things, for example:
- Can you find something red?
- Can you find something soft?
3. Fill the eggshells with natural materials and water
Bring the egg carton out with all the empty eggshells. Have your kids fill them with the natural materials you collected. At this point you can just let them do their thing or you can guide the activity a bit and sneak in some STEM skills. For example, have them sort the different materials using different senses and see what happens:
- Use your eyes to sort by color or type of flower
- Try using your nose to sort by smell
- Use your hands to sort by touch (soft/rough)
Once all the eggshells are full have your kids pour some water into them and place the egg carton with your nature eggs in the freezer. Time to ask some questions and explore concepts:
- What do you think will happen?
- Explore the different concepts of liquid/solid, freeze/melt, cold/hot, water/ice and develop their vocabulary. This can be done by just talking about the subjects
- If you are doing this with older kids you can make a before and after chart with this vocabulary
4. Prepare a hands-on exploration station
Once the water has frozen, set up a space for exploration and play. Have a bowl of warm water to help peel the eggs (we found that it was difficult to peel the eggs right out of the freezer so we used warm water to melt the ice a bit and make it easier to peel the eggs). Let them explore and make observations. Ask questions and use these observations to explain concepts if you wish. For example:
- What happens when you put the frozen nature eggs in the water?
- Can you see anything happening to the ice?
- What happens to the natural materials?
- What happens to the temperature of the bowl of water?
My 3-year-old daughter observed that the ice floated and got smaller! Great scientific observation and great invitation to talk about what is happening, why the ice was getting smaller. Keep playing and exploring as long as your kids are happy and entertained. My kid went on to prepare flower soup for everyone, she put all the frozen nature eggs in the bowl, added water and mixed it all until the ice disappeared and only the natural materials were left. It was pretty cool! So just play and experiment with what you have at hand and have fun with your kids.
To finish off I will leave you with a summary of STEM concepts that you can use throughout these hands-on activities for preschoolers.
STEM Concepts and Skills:
- Collecting, sorting, categorizing and observing
- States of matter: liquid/solid water/ice
- Change of state: freeze/melt
- Temperature: hot/cold
- Problem solving: how can you get the flowers out of the ice?
Thinking and reflecting on why things happen: a lot happens in this simple hands-on project and it is simple enough for children to start observing and making conclusions by themselves so keep asking open-ended questions that start with why do you think…? Or what do you see…? Or what happens…? and watch how their little brains work.
Hope to have inspired some hands-on fun you can do with your preschooler.
More Fun Activities and Games:
- STEM Activity: Bath Time Paints
- STEM Nature Box: Sort, Categorize And Learn
- String Rainbow Art Project: Explore Shapes With String
- Water Use Experiment: Teach Kids About Saving Water
- Movement and 5 Senses Scavenger Hunt
- Stay At Home Math: Fun Games For Movement And Learning
- STEM Game: The Sound and Feel of Materials