It is not until you start to hear carols playing amidst mainstream pop songs on radio playlists and notice classic movies replacing shows on TV broadcasts, that you’re suddenly hit with this odd and complicated mix of emotions. Perhaps it’s mostly excitement from the thought of welcoming a brand new year, or maybe bittersweet nostalgia for the time that has flown too fast.
But if you are a parent, you’ll agree that these feelings are quickly dissipated as kids go wild next to you, celebrating their school break. Soon, you find yourself stressing from wanting to plan a worthwhile and memorable holiday for the children but knowing the difficulties to do so. As a solution, you can’t help but turn for the most convenient and immediate solution: spending money on buying the best and latest toy, in hope to put the biggest smile on their face.
"The surest way to a child's heart is to spend time with them"
However, in a society that has become largely superficial and heavily centred around materialistic values, it is critical that we shift away from doing so. That way, we can grow a culture amongst children to place more importance talking about their experiences undertaken together with their loved ones, rather than showing off the coolest gifts that they received when they chat to their peers once school resumes. For that reason, I strongly suggest that you plan projects or activities that you can do with your children in the events calendar this festive season. To get the ball rolling, or help you brainstorm your own tailored to your children’s interest, here are 5 extremely simple, easy and of course, super fun STEM projects/activities you can personally attempt!
1. Magic Oobleck (Science)
If you have not heard or seen what oobleck is… you’re missing out! Oobleck is named after a substance in Dr. Seuss’ book that exhibits non-Newtonian properties. What this means is that the fluid changes in viscosity depending on the pressure applied. The best part is that you only need two simple ingredients: cornstarch and water (food colouring is optional if you want to jazz things up!). Just pour one cup of cornstarch into a mixing bowl then add half a cup of water. For a larger amount, increase quantity but make sure the ratio is always 1:2. Afterwards, add food colouring then stir to combine well. If you find that the end result is not the right consistency, add either water or cornstarch to adjust. Voilà! You’ve just made a slime-like goo that forms a ball when you squish it together but quickly turns into liquidy substance when you release it.
2. DIY Cosmic Sun Catcher (Science & Art)
It’s time to decorate the house to celebrate the holidays! You can never have too much sparkle so why not make your own sun catcher to brighten up the rooms? Bring along your craft box containing lots of white glue, food colourings/watercolour paints, toothpicks, plastic lids (recycle from tubs!), hole puncher and string. Parents, don’t forget to add in the STEM element by explaining the concept of light refraction in physics :) Credits to Ana Dziengel from Dabble Dabble Do so grab the instructions on how to at https://babbledabbledo.com/art-for-kids-cosmic-suncatchers/.
3. Backyard Bird Feeder course (Engineering)
It’s summer which means the weather is perfect for projects out in the backyard garden under the beautiful Australian sun! Call the birds for a picnic by building a bird feeder — with a twist! Build a course track (like a waterslide or a roller coaster) using recycled materials so that you can pour the seeds and watch it travel down to the bottom plate, ready for the birds. Encourage children to think outside the box and include unique elements such as obstacles and moving parts like a pulley to make it more interesting. Make sure you highlight that it is okay if it does not work smoothly the first time - trial and error is key in STEM!
4. Tinker Time! (Engineering)
Thinking of starting the new year with a fresh clean house? Before chucking out abandoned or broken gadgets, save them for a fun tinker workshop! Set aside a good couple hours and sit down with your children with the collected items. Give them another closer look, examining carefully and try taking them apart to explore the various compartments and internals. You may find that different parts can be combined together to create a Frankenstein toy!
5. Yummy Unicorn Lemonade (Mathematics & Science)
Lounging in the pool or sunbathing at the beach is a quintessential Australian way to spend a hot and sweaty season. We can’t forget icy cool drinks with it though! Why not make a tasty rainbow lemonade with your kids before going out to not only treat your tongue with sugary goodness but also your eyes with the unicorn coloured drink? Using the concept of density and how lighter liquids form layers on top of heavier ones, you can create various levels of coloured lemonade syrups that increase in flavour as you keep drinking. The sugar to lemon ratio of each section is based on the golden ratio and Fibonacci sequence so it is a sweet way to introduce your children with this fundamental mathematic concept as well. Credits to Andrea Hawksley for the recipe, you can see the steps here:
Spending time with your children does not have to require extensive preparation or many materials. It can be simple things that form a part of house routines like: learning how to operate a lawn mower together and teaching them the mechanics behind the machine (technology), putting together a small house appliance bought from IKEA (engineering) or creating a garden bed whilst learning about the ecosystem (science) and planning accurate dimensions/numbers for crop planting (mathematics).
It is no doubt that choosing to do these activities and projects with your children require so much more time and effort. However, when you look back, you will realise that not only have you gifted them with memories they will cherish and value for life (not to mention a head start in STEM education!), but also given yourself a chance to capture their beautiful young faces — before they all grow up in a blink of an eye.
"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity"
By. S. Jeong
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