Have you ever heard someone say “there’s nothing to do in the winter” when thinking of the blustery weather and shortened days? Well, with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) exploration, you can open the door to fun that only happens this time of year! From constructing a snow fort sturdy enough to withstand any snowball fight to getting crafty with seasonally inspired paper snowflakes, winter provides many opportunities to learn, both outside in the snow and snug inside your home.
To get you started, we have put together a list of four family activities that will keep your STEM skills from icing over this season.
Design an Icy Fortress
If there is snow on the ground, you can create your very own winter hideaway! Perfect as a shelter for friendly snowball fights, a fortress is fun to make and allows your family to practice engineering concepts together.
First, help your child brainstorm a design for their fort by asking them questions. Should it be in a straight line like a wall or offer 360-degree protection? How tall should it be? Where in the yard will the fortress go?
Once you have the basics down, decide where you want to build and get to work packing snow tightly into bricks. You may want to use coolers, plastic bins or sandcastle molds to create uniform building blocks, which you can then stack to create walls. Additional snow packed between each block will bind the pieces together.
If the temperature is below freezing, you can add food coloring to a spray bottle filled with water and spritz the walls of the fortress. Be careful not to make the water too warm or add too much water to one area, or the fort will start to melt. As the blasts of water freeze, it will add additional stability to the structure, and some fun flair, with colorful ice!
Build a Snowman
Did you know that building a snowman requires STEM thinking? By putting together a cool new friend, children work on their creativity, practice persistence and learn about balance. Typically, a snowman starts with a large ball of snow on the bottom, a medium-sized ball of snow in the middle and the smallest ball of snow at the top. That’s because the large surface area of the snowball underneath, along with the lighter-weight ball of snow on the top, work together to keep your snowman from falling apart. Just like seasoned engineers, children need to understand balance and stability to keep their snowman standing by making sure it is structurally sound from the bottom up.
To make the activity more challenging, encourage your child to think up their very own snowy companion like a snow cat, snow dinosaur or snow monster! Then, help them use the same concepts of balance and stability to bring their imagination to life.
Make One-of-a-Kind Paper Snowflakes
Designing paper snowflakes is a nostalgic activity that never goes out of style. You only need scissors and paper to fill your home with winter flurries – minus the chill.
To create your own paper snowflakes:
- Start by taking a piece of paper and cut it into a square. You can accomplish this by pulling the bottom right corner of the shorter side of the paper diagonally across to the left side of the paper until the edges line up on the left side. Then, cut off excess paper.
- Fold the square piece of paper diagonally into a triangle.
- Fold that triangle in half.
- Place the triangle in front of you with the longest side facing away from you.
- Fold the top two corners of the triangle inward and upward so the two points crisscross and stick out over the top.
- Cut off the excess two points at the top so you are left with a triangle.
- Take your time cutting out shapes and patterns into the paper.
- Unfold your masterpiece!
As you work on this project as a family, connect these paper decorations to real snowflakes by reminding your child that, just like their creations, each snowflake is unique. You also may want to discuss the properties of snow and observe unmelted snowflakes to compare them to the paper cutouts!
Create a Waxy Winter Watercolor Scene
All you need to create a beautiful winter landscape is plain paper, a white crayon, salt, watercolor paint and a brush! This activity brings STEM concepts to life by mixing various media to see how they interact while allowing your creative kid to show off their artistic abilities.
Start by having your child use the crayon to draw trees, snowflakes, snowmen or other seasonal displays on the paper. At this point, it can be challenging to see their drawing, so you may have to help add details or remind them of the placement of their drawings.
Once the image is ready, your child can use the watercolors to paint the entire background of the paper and watch their scene unfold. The waxy crayon will prevent the watercolor from reaching the paper, revealing their design.
To add even more texture and interest to the painting, try having them sprinkle salt over the wet watercolor paint. Salt will rapidly soak up some of the water, leaving blooms of lighter pigment within minutes. Make sure to help them display their awesome art once it dries!
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