From corn mazes to jack-o-lanterns, fall is a great time to get kids offline, unplugged, and back into the natural world. And it’s also an ideal opportunity to engage in hands-on learning projects that stimulate your child’s interest in the STEM skills of science, technology, engineering, and math.
While we often think of STEM as a “logical” field, the best learning experiences are those that inspire creativity, curiosity, and outside-the-box thinking. So, if you’re looking for ways to have fun as a family this fall (and learn a little while you’re at it!), here are some ideas to get you started:
- Fallin’ Leaves. As the days get a little cooler, consider going on family walks outdoors, around the neighborhood, or to a local botanical garden. As you explore, encourage your kids to take an interest in nature. How many types of leaves or flowers can they collect? How many plants can they name? What seasonal changes do they notice? What colors do they see?
- Sweet Stats. After trick-or-treating, chances are you’ll have an overabundance of sugary snacks around the house, so why not use it as a learning tool? A few prompts can get your child thinking critically about real-world math and statistics: If you pull five M&Ms out of a bag, what does their color tell you about the distribution of the whole bag? What are the odds of pulling an M&M of a particular color? Can you estimate how many the bag might contain? What guesses can you make, and how confident can you be in them?
- Autumn Colors. Here in Florida, we often don’t see the bright fall colors associated with cooler climes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create some for yourself at home! Fill several glasses or vases with water and food coloring. Then, cut the stems of some white carnations and put one in each glass. Your homemade “capillary action” experiment will become a colorful autumn bouquet in a few days!
- Candy Corn Catapult. All you need to make a miniature catapult at home is popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and a plastic spoon or bottlecap. Help your child build one and invite them to guess how high and how far the candy will go. Why does it come down? What does ballistic motion look like? Pair it with a fun, festive target – like a jack-o-lantern’s grinning mouth – and set the candy flying!
As the landscape of education becomes more distant and digital, hands-on learning at home is much more important. It’s also a chance to inspire kids with a love of learning by intertwining it with fun, interesting activities that don’t happen behind a desk or in front of a laptop.
Above all, there’s no better way to learn – or grow – than by doing it together as a family. So go out there, get messy, and start learning!