A simple STEM play setup with natural materials that you can leave out and come back to throughout the day. This activity is a lovely way to create something with your kids. Something they can later on use to explore and understand the world a bit better. Keep reading to find out how you can make your own DIY scale for STEM and use it to explore scientific and mathematical concepts through play.
These are the materials we used to create or simple DIY scale for STEM and nature play:
A place to hang it (we just attached a stick to our railing and hung it on there)
Optional: Clothespins with numbers on them
We tied the string to the baskets and found a place to put our hanger. We love involving our kids in this part of the process too. By modelling this DIY attitude, we are cultivating a their own “can do” attitude. They are problem solving, they are creating things they can play with. It doesn’t just magically appear, or is bought from a store. We use the resources we have at home and make something with it, developing resourcefulness. Somethink key in STEM and life in general.
Once the set up is complete, you can explore the scale togethere. Here are some examples of what you can talk about while you play:
Scientific concepts: weight, materials
Categorizing: find out what objects are heavier/lighter, use different combinations and compare
Observation: what happens when objects are heavier?
Math: how many shells do we need to balance a stone? What is heavier 4 shells or 2 pinecones?
Conversations: Talk and wonder about what you see and the materials you are using
Play around with it together, maybe you just end up piling everything into the baskets like we did, trying to fill all the spaces.
Check Out These Other STEM Activities With Natural Materials:
Kids enjoy getting their hands dirty and helping out in the garden is a great way to put that love of dirt to good use. And gardening with kids is actually a great way to help their development. Planting seeds and helping them grow gives kids a sense of purpose and responsibility. The tasks of tending to a garden, such as adding soil and seeds to a pot, or watering plants helps with motor skills, body management and object control. In addition, the sensory experience of feeling the soil, the water, seeds or any natural material is very engaging for little ones.
There is also so much to talk about! And conversation is a great way to develop young minds. So to bring this all together, we have prepared a simple activity that will help kids develop math skills and creativity in an environment that is already nurturing their minds. This is a lovely activity you can set up and do regularly when you want to do some gardening with kids and observe different results. So next time you are out in the garden, take a moment to do this simple yet fun garden math and art activity.
Seeds: we used “cat grass” seeds as they grow pretty easily
Mix of natural materials and loose parts: we used stones, leaves, sticks, string, and colorful stones which we had from a local shop
Pots with soil
Gather natural materials by going on a nature walk or use previously collected treasures
Prepare the pots with the soil
Bring out all the materials
Gardening With Kids: Math And Art Activity
The math part mainly consists of working on numbers, shapes and patterns. Pattern awareness is key to child development. The ability to recognize and reproduce patterns as well as the ability to predict how a pattern will continue is a skill that positively affects future mathematical understanding and thinking. How to do this:
Start by drawing numbers in the soil
Trace with natural materials and work on shapes and patterns as you trace
For example: Draw number 1 and make patterns of 1, draw number 2 and make patterns of 2, or make a circle around number 3 and a triangle around number 4
Fill the numbers with seeds
Draw more shapes and fill with seeds
Decorate and play
For the decoration part we used a different pot with soil and let the kids do their thing in a more unstructured way to let them explore at their own pace
Optional: make a number/shape map. As you will read below, our numbers didn’t come out quite as clearly as we had hoped for so we had to guess. Drawing a sketch of your pots and having your kids write in the numbers and shapes is a great way to cross-check and also perfect for tying up this educational activity.
Gardening and Math Talk With Kids
Gardening with kids is good for the body, soul, and mind of everyone involved. It also opens up a whole lot of conversation topics. It is so important that you talk, talk, talk to your kids during activities like this. Observations lead to connections, which lead to discovery. Help them along by giving them the vocabulary they need to express their thoughts and questions. You can also ask some open-ended questions about what they think will happen and why. When gardening with kids there is so much to talk about and this activity also offers you the chance to add in some math talk. Here are some suggestions and conversation topics:
What do you think plants need to grow? (water, sun, soil)
Talk about the parts of the plant (roots, stem, leaves, flower, seeds)
How do you think the plant “drinks” water?
Measure the grass as it comes out
Count the sprouts as they come out, which pot has more/less?
Can we identify the numbers/shapes/patterns? (use the map if you have one)
We tended to the grass on a regular basis and were quite excited to see it sprout! Unfortunately, the numbers were not as clear as we would have liked them to be, so we had to do some detective work. First we talked about the activity and tried to remember which numbers we had drawn and then we tried to guess by the markings in the soil. It was a good way to reflect on the activity and ask ourselves if there is a better way of doing this. We decided next time we would make a number and shape map and mark where everything went so we could cross check once the grass grew. We also used the chance to work on scissor skills by cutting the grass which was fun and engaging in itself.
Even though the results were not what we expected, this activity gave us the opportunity to talk, observe, and make connections about how our world works. And any activity that gives us the chance to do this is great for us!