My son’s birthday is this week. Over the past six months, he has really gotten into Lego sets, which is awesome . . . to the point that, any time anyone has asked what he’d like for his birthday, he answers “A Lego set!” As much as I love watching him focus and follow the instruction manual, admire his work, and then get creative and build beyond the sets, I wanted to make sure he had a variety of stuff to play with to keep him busy whenever we have weekend or after-school downtime.
So when my sister asked what he’d be interested in for his birthday, I basically gave her a shopping list. No, not a wish list of elaborate, expensive toys or gadgets or sports equipment. More like a grocery list, giving him the essentials of safe, fun exploration in science.
All you need for an easy DIY STEM kit:
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- White vinegar and/or red wine vinegar
- Liquid dish soap
- Corn starch
- Plastic cups
- Food coloring
- (and of course curiosity and creativity)
Optional items you could include:
Lab coat and goggles — This was a part of the birthday gift from my sister, and while it’s not needed, it definitely thrilled D to be able to “look the part.” He started teaching class on the driveway, surrounded by his ingredients and a group of neighborhood kids who had some to see what he was up to.
Book of science experiments – This book is awesome! It was a gift from another family, and pairs perfectly with this DIY materials list! We’ve only done one experiment in here so far, but we can’t wait to dive into others! (note: the experiments in this book will require additional materials than what I’ve listed for an easy DIY STEM gift.)
So you got some random stuff — now what?
Knowing all the Lego sets coming his way, my sister was a little nervous that D would not have any interest in her present. But guess what? He played for well over an hour!!!! And when some neighborhood friends stopped by and wanted to get involved, one suggested we get even more of this stuff and spend a day some weekend just playing and making up new experiments!
The good news is that — as far as I’m aware — there is nothing dangerous in these ingredients, no risk of explosion, burns, etc. when the kids are playing. (Note: we should always be careful with chemical reactions, so please oversee your children in these activities and do only what you are knowledgeable about and comfortable with).
If your kids are like mine, they love hands-on learning. So D quickly designed experiments and started pouring, watching, and being amazed. From baking soda with vinegar to baking powder with seltzer, to cornstarch with water and food coloring (making “quicksand” from the experiment book shown above). He and his buddies started talking about how soap and water mix, how soap and vinegar mix, whether cups would foam over or just bubble up a little, and more. They were young scientists making hypotheses and proving or disproving them, without even knowing it. The curious student in me was so excited, and the creative side of me was bursting with bubbles like the ones flowing over on my driveway.
Speaking of driveway . . . the kids made a mess. That’s the one down side of this easy DIY STEM kit . . . I recommend you either do your science experiments at a kitchen table on a plastic, disposable table cloth, or — if you have the space, right outside in a yard or on a driveway. It was nice and easy to simply hose everything down in the end.
Ready to explore and have some fun? Head to your grocery store and make your own easy DIY Stem gift.