4 Winter-Themed STEM Activities Your Kids Will Love

When the weather turns colder and the days get shorter, it can be difficult to find fun activities to do with your children inside or out. With a little creativity and a few basic materials, you and your children can have a lot of fun this winter while learning more about science, technology, engineering, and math. 

Here are four of our favorite fun winter STEM activities that you can do with your elementary and middle school kids.

1. Ice Melt Experiment

Most kids know that water freezes at a certain point, but do they know what makes it melt (other than heat)? The Ice Melt Experiment lets kids test their ice melt hypotheses and see which melting style melts ice faster.

Materials:

  • Water

  • Up to 5 freezer-safe containers (similar in size)

  • Salt (1 tsp or more)

  • Sugar (1 tsp or more)

  • Sand (1 tsp or more)

  • Dish soap

  • Blow-dryer

  • Towels

  • Paper and pencil

How to play: With your child, begin filling up each freezer-safe container about half-full of water. Place in your freezer or, if it’s cold enough, place outside overnight. Check the containers in the morning to ensure they’re frozen and then gather all of your testing materials, including salt, sugar, sand, dish soap, and a blow-dryer. Ask your child which testing material they think will make the ice melt the fastest, writing their answer down on a lab report.

If possible, remove the blocks of ice from the containers, placing them on a towel on the table. Then, have your child test their hypothesis first, making sure to start a timer with each one. Record each method’s melt time on your lab report. Once each block of ice has been melted, review your lab report and see which one melted the ice the fastest. Hopefully, the results show that salt has one of the fastest melting times, which can lead to a discussion about why salt melts ice.

2. Snow Machine

If you don’t live in a place where snow is a frequent occurrence, or you just want to make your own magic snow, this Snow Machine activity is a fun, easy way to bring some of the magic of winter inside while also exploring how chemicals interact.

Materials:

  • Sodium polyacrylate (Insta-Snow brand works well)

  • Water

  • Shallow plastic bin or glass baking dish

  • Measuring spoons

  • Mixing spoons

  • Optional: Baking soda

  • Optional: Shaving cream

  • Optional: Watercolor paint palettes

Measure out the recommended amount of sodium polyacrylate into your plastic bin or glass baking dish, then add the recommended amount of water. Your child can see within seconds how the water interacts with the sodium polyacrylate, which foams and bubbles. Your child can also mix this “snow” with their own hands or with a mixing spoon, seeing how the texture changes as they touch it.

 

Play with adding a little bit of shaving cream to see how it fluffs up the snow and gives it a stickier texture. A teaspoon of baking soda can also provide more structure, making it easier to roll. If you want, you can mix watercolors with a small cup of water and let your child paint the snow with a paintbrush or sprinkle a teaspoon of the colored water into their snow dish.

3. Snowball Catapult

The Snowball Catapult is a great activity for older kids with a stronger interest in engineering and for younger kids who love doing activities with their parents!

 

Materials:

 

  • Small popsicle sticks – 8 per catapult

  • A wooden skewer or dowel

  • A straw

  • A small paper cup

  • Hot glue gun

  • Scissors

  • Cotton balls or pom-poms

  • Optional: real or fake snow (see activity above)

How to play: Starting with the small popsicle sticks, glue two separate triangles (3 popsicle sticks each). Cut the skewer or dowel to the same length as the remaining two small popsicle sticks and trim a piece of the straw to be about three-quarters of the skewer’s length. From there, slide the straw onto the skewer and hot glue the skewer to the top corner of the two triangles, using enough glue to secure it. Let the glue cool.

Next, secure the remaining two small popsicle sticks to the bottom of the triangles, creating the “platform” for your catapult. Place one large popsicle stick on the straw and dowel, figuring out where to glue it. Once you’ve found the right placement, glue the stick to the straw, making the base of your catapult’s arm. Trim your paper cup so it’s only about 1.5 inches deep and glue it to the second large popsicle stick. From there, glue the second stick to the arm of the catapult, leaving about 1.5 inches from the bottom of the first stick.

Once all of the glue has dried, it’s time to test your catapult. Gather small quarter-sized balls of snow from outside (or from your homemade snow bin) or use cotton balls or pom-poms. Make targets or see how far you can each shoot one of the snowballs. Keep in mind that your child may want to perfect his or her design of the catapult once they start playing with it, as the angle of their catapult may not get the snowballs as far as they like!

4. Frozen Bubbles

With this simple activity, you can explore the properties of frozen bubble solution indoors or outdoors! If you live in an area that drops below 0°F frequently, this can be a good way to spend a few minutes outside, but most people can do this indoors with the help of their freezer.

Materials:

  • 1 1⁄4 cups warm water

  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar

  • 1⁄3 cup liquid dish soap

  • Food coloring

  • Mixing bowl

  • Straw

  • OR store-bought bubbles

How to play: To get the full STEM experience, collect all of the above materials to make your own bubble solution. Mix the bubble solution (warm water, sugar, dish soap, and food coloring) in a mixing bowl and test how it bubbles by blowing into the straw. Once you get the bubble solution to the right consistency, try to blow large bubbles into the liquid. Slowly and gently, place the bubbled solution into the freezer, making sure there is space for it to sit flat.

If it’s below 0°F outside, you can place your bowl outside. Wait 15-20 minutes and retrieve your bowl of bubbles. Observe how the bubbles have crystallized and see what they do when you pop them!

These four activities are sure to keep your kids busy on those cold winter days and get them excited about STEM concepts outside of the classroom. Stratford School is dedicated to getting your children passionate about learning with our unique STEAM curriculum. Learn more by scheduling a tour of your local school today!