Get the Kids Active with S.T.E.A.M

Holiday-inspired activities

by Parents and Kids | Wed, December 27, 2017

By Connor Bell

There’s no better time of year than the holiday season. Growing up in Ottawa, Canada, my Christmases and New Year's holidays were filled with wonder. We would head out and explore the neighborhood and each of the home’s wonderful spectacle of lights, build igloos in the backyard, go tobogganing, sip hot chocolate by the fire, and simply delight in the glorious holiday season.

Living in Shanghai, I don’t get any of that, and it upsets me just a little to think that, for the time being, my son will never know just how magical this time of year can be. Due to this, it is my duty to find new and delightful ways to bring holiday cheer into our fifth story apartment. No snow, no houses with Christmas lights, no tobogganing, no fireplace – but I have a plan and it starts and ends with S.T.E.A.M.

Get the kids active, learning and enjoying the holidays with two of these amazing holiday-inspired activities below.

* S.T.E.A.M. (or S.T.E.M. as it’s more widely recognized) is a wonderful hands-on approach to learning that is sweeping the globe and popping up in schools for all ages. S.T.E.A.M. makes use of a variety of different subjects to provide children and teens with a multifaceted method of exploration with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths.

Technology: Light Circuit

In this day and age, kids and students are constantly engaging in technology in the world around us. They’ve got iPads, smart watches and some even have mobile phones. They know how to scroll and play phone games before they’re a year old and blow us out of the water with their technological understanding. Because of this, it’s becoming more and more evident just how important it is to introduce technology in our lessons at school, as well as foster a healthy love of all things tech at home.

This activity is good for kids aged five and up and will keep them busy for hours once you help them construct it.

What you'll need:

  • File folder
  • Tape
  • Aluminum foil
  • 3 Brass butterfly pins
  • Scissors
  • 9-volt battery
  • Old holiday string lights

What next:

1. First, you will need to cut a few lights from the string, making sure to leave about 1.5 inches of the cord on either side of the light. Score the bottom of the cord with scissors – just enough to remove the plastic coating.

2. Cut the aluminum foil into strips – this will serve as the ‘wire’. Place them in any design or pattern you’d like, but it’s best to keep it simple in case you need to repair the circuit.

3. Using the three brass butterfly pins, create a switch by pushing two pins through the file so the circle top is present. Next, push the third pin through the file from the back side so that the arms are showing. When both arms are touching either pin, your circuit will be complete.

4. Attach your lights to the circuit, making sure the wires are touching the aluminum foil. Leave a space in the circuit for the 9V battery.

5. Play and design different circuits ‘till the sun goes down. This will definitely be a family pleaser!

Engineering: Jingle Bell Maze

This activity is wonderful for all kids, young and old. For the younger ones, you can help construct the maze, however older kids will be challenged in their problem solving and critical thinking skills.

What you'll need:

  • LEGO base
  • Red and green legos
  • Jingle bell
  • Timer/stopwatch

What next:

1. Use the red and green LEGO to build your maze.

2. Test your maze by running your finger through the hallways, making sure there is a definite exit/end and no obstacles to prevent you from completing the maze.

3. Place the bell at the start, and time how fast you can make the bell go through the maze by dipping and turning the LEGO base board.

Activity Extensions:

1. Who can roll the bell the fastest through the maze?

2. Who can roll the bell the slowest through the maze?

3. How large can you make your maze?

4. Who can use the most bricks/LEGO to create a maze?

5. How many turns can you make in your maze?