Spring is finally here, meaning it’s the perfect time for both you, and your children, to spend some time outdoors! While enjoying the nice weather and sunny skies with your kids, it’s always a great idea to incorporate a few learning opportunities into this time. That’s why we’ve selected a few outdoor activities that are not only fun, simple, and engaging, but also educational!
So, here are 5 fun outdoor STEM activities you’ll certainly want to try with your kids this spring.
What kid doesn’t like a nice game of bingo? And, adding scientific elements into the game makes it even better! If you couldn’t tell by the name, Nature Bingo is a wonderful activity that allows kids to explore, interact with, and identify the nature around them.
How to Play:
Start by printing out a blank Bingo sheet for each participant. You can find one with a simple Google search. Once each child has their bingo sheet, instruct them to go outside, observe the nature around them, and fill in the spaces with words or pictures of what they see. Depending on the age group, you can broaden or narrow down what part of nature you would like for them to include. For example, you could instruct middle schoolers to only focus on different types of plants or animals, while instructing younger children to stick to the more basic components of nature. Once each student has completed their sheet, have them each trade sheets with another participant.
Now, the typical game of bingo begins! Call out random elements of nature and have the children cross out or cover up these elements until bingo is called. To further make this a learning opportunity, you can ask your children questions about each element of nature that is called out, or ask them to state a fact about that element. To make it even more fun, add some prizes into the game for the winners!
Ready for your child to exercise some engineering skills? Nature sculpting is a great activity for students to comprehend the challenge or problem, create a solution, and actually design a functional solution, just as an engineer does. It exercises both their creativity and strategic thinking skills.
How to Play:
For this game, simply instruct your child(ren) to construct an impressive sculpture from parts of nature. They can use sticks, leaves, rocks, dirt, and anything else available to use. However, make this activity much more interesting by challenging your child(ren). For example, you could ask them to:
- Create a sculpture that holds water
- Create a sculpture that is an inverted pyramid (where the small pieces are on the bottom and large ones are on top)
- Create a sculpture made of sticks that can hold the weight of a medium-sized rock
- Create a sculpture that looks like a house
- Create a sculpture that is at least 2 feet tall
Depending on the age of your child(ren), you can obviously alter the building criteria that they must meet to create an appropriate challenge. If you have multiple children who want to play along, you can even make this a friendly competition!
It’s important to remember, however, that all of these elements are part of the natural ecosystems and habitats, meaning you’ll want to replace these objects back where you found them once the activity is over.
The outdoor maze activity is another fun and simple activity that strengthens children’s engineering, creativity, and even teamwork skills, if multiple children are playing! Best of all, you get to sit back and relax while your child(ren) stays busy all afternoon.
How to Play:
For this activity, challenge your child(ren) to design and build a maze using sticks, leaves, rocks, or any other resources that can be found right in your backyard. Start them off by instructing them to plan out a relatively basic maze using a pencil and paper. You may want to assist them in choosing a starting and ending point. Once their design is complete, encourage them to build a life-size replica of their design. If more than one child is participating, you can even designate a leader who will manage where the materials are placed, and have the children take turns being the leader.
Have them keep working and correcting their maze until it is just the right size and exactly like their drawing, and inform them that a little trial and error is perfectly fine! Once their maze is finished, have them run through their outdoor maze together, or lead you, or another child, through the maze with your eyes closed.
Sun Shelter Challenge
The sun shelter challenge is yet another great activity for kids to exercise creativity and engineering skills. It presents them with a fun challenge which everyone will love! For this activity, you will need these few materials:
- UV-Sensitive Beads / Color Changing Beads (You can purchase these on Amazon)
- Pipe Cleaners
- Construction paper
- Googly eyes (optional)
How to Play:
Start this activity by instructing your child(ren) to create a small animal using the pipe cleaners and color changing beads. A simple animal to create would be a basic worm while a more difficult animal might be a horse or dog. If available, googly eyes can be added to their animal, too.
Once their animal has been created, explain that the challenge is to protect their beaded animals from the sun by building them a custom shelter. Show your child(ren) the items which they can use to construct their shelter. Though this selection is completely up to you, some common examples of materials include popsicle sticks, paper plates and bowls, straws, foil, plastic wrap, styrofoam pieces, cups, tape, scissors, and markers. Once the participants see what materials they can use, encourage them to brainstorm a structure, design it, and build it to protect their animal from the sun. Also explain that their beaded animals will change colors if they are not protected from the sun, so the goal is to ensure they do not change colors.
Have your child(ren) go outside and test their structures, and if their bead animals change colors, have them redesign their structure until it is perfectly functional. To make it even more fun, you can also offer prizes to the structure that is the prettiest, or tallest, or most functional, and so on.
Last but not least, here’s a fun and energizing math game that kids of all ages will enjoy! This competitive activity will exercise your kids math skills, while helping them to expel some energy.
How to Play:
Start this activity by creating some flashcards with age appropriate math questions on each card. The questions can be simple multiplication or addition, or more difficult algebra equations for older kids. You can create flashcards on pieces of paper, index cards, or even cut-up pieces of cardboard. Once the flashcards have been made, spread them out all over the backyard, even in hidden places.
If multiple children are playing, have them create teams and designate a “home” spot for each team. Explain to them that their goal is to get as many flashcards as possible to their team’s base. In order to do so, however, the children must collect only one flashcard and correctly solve the equation before placing it in their team’s base and running to collect another. Each flashcard equals one point.
If only one child is playing, explain to them that their goal is to fetch and solve all of the problems correctly as quickly as possible. However, just like when a group plays, they may only pick up one card at a time, and must solve it correctly before picking up another one. To make things even more exciting, challenge them to beat a certain, reasonable time.
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