Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Whether the weather is sunny or you want to put on your rain coats and get out the house, I've got five fun ideas for some outdoor STEAM exploration that will have little ones entertained for hours.
I've included specifics for anyone like me who prefers to know exactly what to do, but of course feel free to adapt as much as you like.
In general I'd recommend starting the exploring together, showing them the ideas you have and helping them with vocabulary, counting, measuring etc. Then you'll soon find you can go and make a cup of tea while they carry on (fingers crossed!).
It's a classic, but it's always a winner. Potions is an activity little ones can genuinely explore for hours for messy educational fun.
Jugs, bottles, containers
Spoons, measuring spoons
Any ingredients: sand, salt, rice, pasta, leaves, grass, sticks etc.
Little ones don't usually need a lot of directions for potions but you could start exploring together by coming up with a garden potions recipe.
You could even add a bit of science fun with the Bubbling Worms potion in the image!
2. Sink It
Sink It! is a simple game that will inevitably lead into a lot fun with floating and sinking objects and general water play.
Toy boats or containers (tupperware, margarine etc)
Small stones or pennies (weights to put into the boats to make them sink)
Predict how many stones/pennies it will take to sink the boat/container. Then count them into the boat until it sinks to test out the prediction.
Test with other boats or containers and different weights to make them sink.
What other floating objects can they make sink by using stones or other weights?
3. Melting Races
It's always fun to play with ice, particularly on a warm day.
Ice blocks with small toys frozen inside them (use cups or bowls) x 3-4
Larger bowls to put the ice blocks into
If you haven't made the ice in advance, choose some toys together (e.g. small dinosaur figurines) to be frozen into ice and then put them into the freezer. Preparing the ice together helps children understand the whole process better.
Once the blocks are frozen with the toys inside, explain it's going to be a race to see which toy can escape first.
Choose different places to put each of the blocks. Examples of different places could be: outside, inside, in a bowl of warm water, in a bowl of cold water, in a bowl of salt water, in different rooms, in the sun, in the shade.
Put the ice blocks in the different places at the same time to make it a fair test and then keep an eye on them to see which melts first. Once they're melted talk about why they think they melted in that order.
4. Paper Planes
How are your plane folding skills? You'll probably need to fold most of the planes yourself, but there are plenty of videos on YouTube if you need a bit of a reminder since primary school!
Start by throwing a ball of scrunched of paper - how far does it go?
Next try throwing your paper plane - how far does it go? Notice how the shape makes a difference.
Try different planes with different folding techniques, paper clips attached in different places, different throwing techniques.
Measure each throw in some way and compare distances.
5. Rainbow Hunts
If it's a really sunny day, you can try hunting for rainbows and talking about how you need sunshine and water to make them.
OR mirror and bowl of water
You can start by trying to make a rainbow with a hosepipe. You'll need a very very fine spray of water in the sunshine - look carefully.
If that doesn't work try angling a mirror in a bowl of water so the sunlight travels through the water and reflects onto a white surface. See directions for a couple of different ways that also work without sunshine.
If all else fails, you'll find one by looking at the underneath of a CD or DVD in the light :)
Oh and of course you can always have some STEAM fun with a Little STEAMers class. Try your first class for free.