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STEM Activity: Holiday Traditions Shaped by Invention

STEM Activities

‘Tis the season for festive décor, colorful lights, merry music, holiday gifts and tasty treats. With all the fun, cheery traditions we have around the holidays, there are so many inventors to thank for the things we enjoy this time of year. From taping wrapping paper on a present to watching your favorite seasonal movies, so many outstanding inventors have contributed to how we experience the holidays.

With this fun activity, your family can explore how inventions have shaped the way we celebrate! Use your senses to identify and experience holiday items you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch.


Materials Needed

  • Clay or dough
  • Clean recyclables (e.g., cardboard, paper bags, plastic bottles)
  • Copy paper or notebook
  • Music player
  • Pencil or pen


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Tune into your five senses! Get together with your family to discuss holiday items around your home that you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch.
  2. Play festive music as you reflect on the role these items have played in your holiday traditions.
  3. Make a list of inventions that might be part of these experiences (for example, consider the decorative lights around your home or the holiday-related food you enjoy), and then research the inventors behind each one.

    To inspire your thinking, consider the role National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees have played in the following holiday traditions:
  4. ​​​​​​​After exploring the inventions behind some of your favorite holiday customs, brainstorm your own creative inventions that might help make new traditions.
  5. Using paper and a pen or pencil, sketch your designs. You can take it a step further and bring your ideas to life using clay or recycled items, then consider gifting them for the next holiday you celebrate!


What Are We Discovering?

Every day, we use a wide variety of inventions created by world-changing inventors. When we slow down and take notice of the components that make up the toys we play with, the tablets we interact with, the music we listen to, the kinds of foods we eat and the items that help us give gifts, we realize how inventors have shaped our world — and our holidays!


Learn More

To find more fun, at-home activities for your family, check out our blog!

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