Get the whole family involved and help your children develop a love of STEAM with a family STEAM challenge night! The family can be split into teams to compete. Or, go head to head as individuals in a series of fun challenges. They won’t even know they are learning!
Children often need to learn through doing. They need to see with their own eyes how things work as they discover the world. Activities encouraging playing, building and designing are fun. But, they’re also educational tools that can go far beyond the classroom. Plus, they give the family a way to bond and spend some extra time together.
All challenges are really just lessons in disguise. For example, if you have a challenge to see which person’s paper plane can fly the furthest, you’re actually discovering the wonderful world of physics and aerodynamics. By building the GraviTrax STEM Activity set, you’re not only having to work out how to build the tracks, you’re also learning about the power of gravity. For a really fun race, try and build the Engino STEM Hero Automotives and see which ones can go the fastest (use code PakMag15 for 15% off!). You could even get into teams and time who can build their model the fastest.
It’s a great idea to take a few minutes after the fun challenges to explore the important questions. These include what, how and why. What is gravity and why does it exist? How does it make the GraviTrax set work? How does gravity affect our everyday lives?
The Lessons in Mistakes
Allowing for failure is also an important part of STEAM challenges. When things go wrong, children learn from the mistakes made. From there, they build up better skills to problem solve. They can learn to think critically about how they can complete a challenge more effectively. We all know that there’s no better way to motivate someone than get them involved in a competition that they want to win. It’s important to redirect children to figuring out why something didn’t work and then how they can improve it. It’s very beneficial for them to experience failure so that they can adjust to disappointment. That might sound like a negative thing. It’s actually a great thing! It helps children to learn that there are challenges and roadblocks in life. More importantly, it helps them learn that these challenges can be overcome with brain power.
The Lessons in Teamwork
Activities and challenges that require teamwork are an amazing way to familiarise children with sharing ideas, knowledge and the concept of workload. It’s important that children learn how to adapt to working alongside others. It’s even more important that they learn just how amazing teamwork can be. Teamwork can often solve problems faster and/or more efficiently because each person brings different expertise and personal strengths. The world’s teams of engineers, builders, astrophysicists, doctors and so much more, have made some of the most amazing discoveries and structures ever… together.
The Variety of Methods
Family STEAM challenges are the best way to combine a variety of learning methods with having fun. They give children the opportunity to solve problems in unique ways, using all subject areas of STEAM. Through trial and error, taking risks and thinking outside of the box, children go beyond applying a memorised method or known solution to a specific problem, and create their own. By avoiding the ‘step by step’ approach to problem solving, they can get creative and take control of their own learning, all while it just feels like a fun game.
For great educational resources you can buy the ‘100 Easy STEAM Activities’ book by Andrea Scalzo Yi and the STEAM Powered Kids Kitchen Science set from entropy. Both are perfect for kids and the Kitchen Science set contains over 30 science experiments that can be done with everyday materials.
We hope you and your family have some great family STEAM fun together.
Some Fun Family STEAM Challenge Ideas
Who can build a boat that can hold the most weight in coins?
You can use 10 or 20 cent coins for this challenge. All you’ll need is tin foil, the coins and a bowl of water. Give everyone the same amount of tin foil and see who can build a boat from the foil that can hold the most amount of coins in water without sinking. Either get into teams or try the challenge individually. To step the n minutes for everyone to make their boat.
Tip: Once you’ve found a winner, take the challenge up a notch. Use a timer and only allow five or 10 minutes to build the boat. Try and see how many coins it takes to truly sink the boat. It might be more than you think!
Who can build the tallest sculpture?
For this challenge you’ll need plastic cups, measuring tape, popsicle sticks, glue or tape, and something to time with (optional). Lay all the materials out for the teams or each person. Then get building! You can set a timer to make it more competitive. The goal is to see who can build the tallest sculpture. The more creative you get, the better. Only the materials provided can be used.
Tip: If you want to make it even more challenging, try not using any glue or tape to hold the materials together.
Who can build the tallest tower that can hold a tennis ball?
Plastic straws, tape, a tennis ball and something to time with (optional) are all that’s needed for this challenge. Give every team or individual person the same amount of materials, then try and build a tower that is strong enough to hold the ball on top of it. Use the time limit to make it a fun race. This challenge is great for getting those critical thinking skills used, as the materials don’t make it easy to create a shape that can support the ball.
Tip: This challenge may be too difficult for younger children. If so, you can try use something lighter than a tennis ball. It doesn’t even need to be a sports ball; any small round object could work!
See who can build a paper plane that will fly the longest distance
Get some paper, preferably A4, measuring tape and a clear space (inside) ready for this challenge. The most basic version of the paper plane is easy to make: Fold the paper in half vertically. Open it back up and fold the top two corners in to meet the centre line, so it looks like a triangle on top of a square. Fold the top corners inwards once more and then fold these ‘wings’ backwards. Mark a starting point and have everyone throw their paper planes from there, using a measuring tape to see which pane went the furthest.
Tip: There are plenty of tutorials online for paper planes, from simple to complicated designs. Everyone can get creative and see which ones work the best for distance.
The maze race
Clear a table for this race and create a maze on top of it with blocks (or you can use whatever materials around the house that work best). Blow through a straw and see who can push their marble through the maze the fastest. You can even add little challenges like small homemade ramps and tunnels. This challenge works great for teams – the bigger the table, the more teamwork comes in handy. Place team members at separate places around the table, so that they can help out the other person(s).