Summer STEAM Activites For Kids

Summer is my favorite season for STEAM kid’s activities (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) because it’s easier to clean up! Yes, I know. That’s maybe not the best reasoning. But it’s a very valid reason. STEAM activities can get messy, but taking them outside helps the cleanup process become faster and easier. Here are some of our favorite STEAM activities, along with a few cleaning up tips! 

Sunscreen Painting: I found this gem activity on Pinterest, but we’ve been doing it on repeat at our house! Take a dark sheet of construction paper (black, blue, deep reds, etc) and paint with sunscreen! Leave it out in the sun for a few hours to dry, then come back and see the work you’ve created. It was such a great conversation about sunscreen and how it can help our skin while we’re out playing in the sunshine. 

Oobleck: Such a classic, messy sensory activity. The non-newtonian substance is addicting for kids and adults to play with! I love playing with this in a plastic bin or bowl outside because cleanup is just a simple hose down of everything. Because it’s made of cornstarch and water, it’s safe to hose down into the grass or down the gutter. Please use your best judgment with this and verify if it’s safe for you to do so in your own area or not. 

Diet Coke + Mentos: We all know this activity is also for adult enjoyment, as well as kid entertainment and education. The science behind Diet Coke and Mentos is really fascinating. And if you’re still scratching your head about why it’s a physical reaction instead of a chemical reaction, we’ve got you covered! Check out our article on Chemical vs. Physical Changes.  

Egg Drop: A perfect excuse to use up all of that recycling that’s taking up a corner of your garage (I’m not the only one, right?) Find different ways to protect your egg at different heights of dropping them. The garden hose is also the MVP when it comes to clean up.  

S’mores with Tin Foil: Setting up a little stove with tin foil to make a s’more is not only a great STEM activity, but also a great snack!  

Ice Painting: Have you ever tried painting on ice? The effect is incredible! There are a few ways you can do this. Freeze your own ice cubes or pull cubes out of your ice maker and dump them into a plastic bin or bowl to paint. Freeze a block of water in a big container and paint on the ice chunk. Or buy a bag of ice from a gas station and dump it into a bowl or bin for painting.  

Sink or Float: It may feel boring and overused to you, but I’m willing to bet your child hasn’t done the experiment dozens of times as you have. Find random toys and items, place them in a bucket of water, and see what sinks and what floats.  

Make Your Own Bubble Solution and Wands: We typically make bubble wands out of pipe cleaners, but there are so many materials you can use to create bubble wands. Leaving out different materials and letting the kids come up with their own creations is exactly what STEAM is all about! There are dozens of bubble recipes online, but this one is our favorite: 

½ C. Dish Soap
1 ½ C. Water
2 tsp Sugar

Bubble Foam: Have you tried this yet? It’s a fun outdoor STEAM activity for your kids. I use Busy Toddler’s recipe and instructions. 

Stack Pool Noodles with Shaving Cream: Slice up a pool noodle into smaller discs and build towers by using shaving cream as the “glue.” This is one that is an “outside only” activity for me. Messy play is important, but I have limits too! 

What STEAM activities are you trying out this summer? What cleaning up tips do you have for messy outside play? 

So What Do We Say If We Can’t Say Be Careful?

When supervising risky play, it’s important to avoid saying “be careful.” I know, I know. This is hard to do, it’s a phrase deeply ingrained in our brains. I’m still working on it myself! Looking through the child’s lens, hearing “be careful” is such an empty saying. Be careful with what? How? Where? When?

The question I ask myself when I’m tempted to turn to the same phrase is instead, “Do they need advice or do they need awareness?”

Awareness: When I can see a bigger picture they maybe can’t or haven’t realized yet. 

Example: 3 year old climbing an apple tree, but doesn’t know that one of the branches is dead and not as sturdy as the rest of the tree branches. 

Situation 1: I call over- “Be careful!” The child grabs the branch, the branch breaks, the child falls out of the tree. I’m frustrated because I told him to be careful, he’s frustrated because he’s still not sure why he fell out of the tree. 

Situation 2: I move slightly closer and point out things he can make himself aware of. “Look at the branch you are sitting on, it’s so full of leaves and so strong! Is that next branch up also full of leaves? How does it feel when you grab it?” Child reluctantly grabs the branch, realizes it’s dead and not sturdy, then finds a new path to climb. 

Advice: The child is attempting a task for the first time and needs advice on how to find success. 

Example: A child walking along a fallen log to cross a slow, shallow river for the first time. 

Situation 1: I call over, “Be careful!” Child gets the footing wrong, falls into the water, and everyone is upset. 

Situation 2: I step closer and offer advice and coaching on how to help my child across the log so they can still perform independently and have this learning opportunity, but by adding in the coaching I just took the task from dangerous to risky. 

It’s a tricky mind shift and it takes a lot of practice, I know this from experience! However, choosing your words carefully when engaging children in risky play will turn out to become a huge benefit in the long run. 

Here are some other phrases that can help you make this conversation shift: 


“Do you notice how….”
“How is your body feeling?”
“Is this stable or wobbly?
“If you look up, do you see what I’m seeing?”
“What’s your plan?” 
“How do you want to accomplish this?”


“When I do this activity I like to…”
“You might want to try…”
“When using this tool, a good safety feature we need to know is…”
“The rules for using xyz include…” 

Now please do not get me wrong, if your child is in immediate danger, please take all necessary steps to keep them safe. But risky play is needed developmentally and is so good for the child in the long run. It’s forever a balance between risky and dangerous play! However, I can promise you that calling out, “Be careful!” will not make the activity any less dangerous. 

What phrases do you use with your child instead of “Be careful?” 

Cover photo by Mallory Wilcox

Risk vs. Reward: Risky Play for Children

Risky play is such a buzzword in the parenting/ academic world right now. It’s the idea that kids play in a way that has an added level of risk- they climb trees and ride bikes down big hills and give their bodies the opportunity to fail or falter, in order to learn how to change their course of action to find success eventually. 

Think of walking on a balance beam that’s positioned a few inches off of the floor. A 2-year-old may be fairly proficient at walking and running, but asking them to walk on a balance beam for the first time is a harder task for them, they have to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other in order to move forward. 

It’s inevitable that they will walk wobbly or maybe even fall off entirely. This is adding a layer of risk into play. 

Safe to them would be walking slowly on a flat, even surface. 

Risky would be attempting a balance beam a few inches off the floor. 

Dangerous would be attempting the same balance beam independently, but a few feet off of the floor instead of a few inches. 

Again, this is all for a two-year-old with no prior practice on a balance beam. The level of safe, risky, and dangerous play for any given child at any given age is constantly changing and evolving based on their experience level. 

What is the why behind risky play? Because it is one of the best things you can do for a child’s development. The list of skills that are developed during risky play is as follows, but is not limited to: 

Problem-solving skills
Cause and effect
Executive functioning skills
Brainstorming capabilities
Language development
Risk assessment
Life skills

Yes, you can get all of this and more by allowing your child to engage in risky play! It’s a no-brainer. 

But I know there are concerns surrounding risky play because I have those same concerns. When does risky play become dangerous play? How do you allow risky play while also avoiding trips to the emergency room with broken bones? It’s a delicate balance and with most things in life, becomes easier with time and practice. 

Your role as the caregiver or responsible adult over any number of kids is to determine where the line between risky and dangerous is… not for yourself. But for the child. 

Things to consider when supervising risky play:

-The overall situation. Are there any sharp objects, heavy furniture, or other dangerous factors that need to be avoided, pointed out, or considered? 

-The age, ability, and skill level of the child or children playing. 

-How much supervision you can allot to the risky play? Some risky play needs more supervision than others, and if your attention is divided too much at the moment for the child to engage in a certain activity that needs closer supervision, it’s okay to say no. 

Time and experience are on your side with all of these. Utilize it. It gets easier over time to analyze risky vs dangerous play. There is so much more to be said about risky vs dangerous play and even the language we should be using when supervising risky play. But those will be saved for another day! 

Until then, let the kids climb the apple trees and ride their bikes around the block. Take a breath (and probably a step back) the next time you see them scaling the rock climbing wall on the playground or turning the curb into a balance beam. Learning is happening. 

Tips You Need For Getting Outside in the Cold With Kids

Winter is well on its way; each day it’s getting colder and colder outside! The other morning it was a chilly 15 degrees out when I drove my daughter to school! No doubt about it, it is cold! Spending time outside in the cold weather is still just as important as spending time outside in the warm weather, and sometimes is arguably more important. Here are our favorite tips for getting out in the cold months and helping the whole experience become more positive and less awful. 

Base layers for clothing! Having a base layer of thin cotton PJs, thermals, wool, or something similar can make or break your experience when you’re trying to keep warm. It makes such a difference. We like to do our base layer, sweats, and a sweatshirt over the base layer, then snow pants and a coat. Waterproof gloves and boots also are ideal. The majority of the snow clothes we own are hand-me-downs or purchased secondhand. It doesn’t have to be expensive! 

On a relevant note, make “using the bathroom” part of your prepping to go outside routine. Trust me on this one, you won’t want to spend time undressing for a potty break five minutes into your time outside. 

Have a goal or activity set before you get outside, or as soon as you get outside. In the summer months when it’s warmer and doesn’t take as much thinking or prep to go outside, we can easily walk out the door and find entertainment fairly quickly. And even if we don’t find entertainment, it’s enjoyable to just spend time in the sun and nice weather, so it’s naturally easier to spend more time outside. When it’s cold, if there’s not a goal or activity waiting, it makes the time outside feel much, much longer and much, much colder. Have a game plan as you walk out the door on what you’ll be doing. 

A few fun outdoor activities we like to do when it’s cold outside- bike rides, walks around the block, soccer in snowsuits, shoveling snow, pushing each other around on sleds, and our personal favorite… ice excavating! To be honest, the majority of what we do in the summer, we can do in the winter too, but with a little adjusting. 

Enlist some friends for outdoor play. It’s much easier to stay outside and enjoy your time when friends are involved! 

Mind the time of the day when planning outdoor time. In the warmer months, we typically go out first thing in the morning and it becomes a big part of our routine. We obviously have to change this as it gets colder outside! Checking weather apps to know when the wind will die down or when the rain or snow will stop can be very beneficial in planning your outdoor time! Yes, it takes more work than just walking out the door and knowing it’ll be nice enough weather to stay out. But like I always say, the time spent outside is always worth it! 

Getting outside may take a little more time and effort, especially with little kids. However, you don’t need to read this blog post or some Pinterest quote on why time spent outside is beneficial. All you need to do is spend the time and you’ll see the benefits tenfold. 

Indoor Winter Activities: Specifically Gross Motor

This winter has proven to be particularly hard for parents everywhere while we are trying to entertain our kids during these cold months without the aid of indoor playgrounds/ activities that we’ve had in the past. Being stuck inside all day can be so hard to get those gross motor skills working! 

While I am a big supporter of outdoor play in the winter, there is still a need for good, safe, gross motor play in the home. Here are a few of the ideas that have kept us sane. 

Indoor obstacle course: I just add painters tape X’s on the ground for my kids to jump on, our kitchen bench to crawl over or under. Utilize your stairs in the obstacle course if you can! Tape papers on the walls for them to high five, stools to jump off of, and more! 

Grab some plastic cups: set up either like bowling bins OR in a pyramid and roll a ball at them. Watch the “crash!” and set them up again! Don’t worry about having to set it up over and over again, that’s a great job for your kiddos to get in on. 

Practice some tumbling: Show them how to do somersaults, cartwheels, handstands, and more. There are videos on YouTube for kids to practice as well! 

Dance party: Get up and moving with a dance party! Throw on your favorite music and get everyone moving.

Wastebasket Basketball: Crumple up some paper and shoot it into the garbage or recycling bin. You could also challenge them to search around for pieces of trash around the house to toss in. Cleaner house, fun activity, everyone wins! 

Sticky note find: this is one that is hard to describe without a picture, so I had to borrow this one from Busy Toddler’s website. Hide the sticky notes around the house and have them run around finding the sticky notes and running back to organize it where it goes! We’ve done this with colors, shapes, numbers, letters, or even just pictures! 

Treasure Hunt: Grab a clipboard and a piece of paper and draw pictures of objects around the house for your littles to find. Once they find them, they can color it in, put a checkmark over it, or if accessible, have them take a camera or phone around taking pictures of their findings! 

Paint in the bathtub: painting is typically a fine motor skill. But once it’s moved to the tub, it can become a gross motor skill! When the shower walls become your canvas, movement is inevitable, they’ll be using their arms to paint, not just their hands. Also the biggest bonus: easy cleanup! You can buy specifically bathtub paints, or I’ve found that regular washable paint does fairly well too. Use your best judgment. 

Painters tape road: lay down some painter’s tape for “roads” throughout your home for your kiddos to drive cards on them. The biggest success with this is- make them go throughout your home. This is how you’ll get them moving! Keeping the tape in one congregated area of the playroom will keep the kids there too. Have the roads weave through the bedrooms and hallways, getting them to move their cars all over! You can extend this activity by setting up houses out of blocks and creating a whole city throughout the entire house! 

To see more posts on play and early childhood ages, check out this page

Early Childhood Resources All In One Place!

Hi friends! A lot of my posts lately have been focused on early childhood and how we can foster this education as parents and teachers. It’s been my focus simply because it’s my daily life right now. I spend the majority of my day fostering the learning of a one-year-old and a three-year-old, so naturally, it’s where my thoughts have been centered.

Because I have been throwing this content at you so much, I felt like it needed a place where it’s all corralled for you for easier searching. Lo and behold! My early childhood page!

You can find the link to this new page here!

Featured on the page are sensory bin lists, tips, and recipes. Some thoughts on raising independent kids. Really great articles on PLAY. And bonus material on emotions in kids and using Myers- Briggs and Enneagram to understand your child better.

This list and page will be ever growing as I continue to create new content in this scope of ideas, so check back later for more articles. You can find this new page on our top banner under “blog”.

Let’s Play Outdoors This Winter!

It’s 30 degrees outside and there is snow up to your kids’ knees. The recess bell rings and you glance towards the pile of coats hanging on the coat rack; you can already picture the line of students standing next to you to do up zippers, tie snowboots, or pull on a mitten. Do you: 

A. Declare today an inside recess day and pull out all of the fun board games in your closet? 

B. Take a deep breath and start zipping up coats. 

Obviously keeping inside during the winter is easiest, whether you’re a mom of three kids or a teacher of 32 students, winter clothes will always be a chore. But rest assured, your hard work is not going to waste, the benefit these kids have by playing outside is well worth the work in the end. 

Many schools are moving to a stance where recess is not an option, it just happens, given outside circumstances are not extreme. Teachers are no longer permitted to use less recess and outdoor time as a consequence in many schools across the nation, so choosing to stay indoors during the winter months is less common. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t teachers out there wishing they could choose option A and stay in sometimes. 

Sending kids outside to play in the cold can boost their immune systems. Yes, really! Winter gets a bad rap on sickness because many think the cold weather brings the sniffles. But in reality, it’s us hiding from the cold that creates sick kids by cooping everyone up indoors and sharing more germs. Giving them a chance to be outdoors and in fresh air is just what we need to fight off sickness. 

Kids that play outside are resilient kids that will continue to have outdoor winter hobbies throughout their lives. When they have experienced being outside often and how to deal with cold weather, wind, and snow, they have those tools for life and are more likely to continue to use them into adulthood. Providing opportunities for authentic outdoor play as a child pays off well into the adult years. 

With warmer weather, it’s common to see teachers out with their students for various lessons, whether they are doing an activity for P.E. or switching it up with a math lesson on the basketball courts, being outside is a great change of pace for restless students. How often are we as teachers bringing our class outdoors in cold weather for lessons? It does take more time and effort to bring kids out in the winter, but again, the rewards are worth it. 

Something that often holds us back from outdoor play is the lack of proper snow and cold gear. It can be difficult to spend too much time outside with cold toes and fingers, so making sure our mittens, boots, and coats are weather appropriate can have a great impact on the duration we and our students are willing to stay outside. 

In this video, a school in Canada talks about how important outdoor play is. They even give multiple examples of things kids can do outside, such as paint in the snow or observe nature. Trees and ponds and even animals are not the same year-round and observing these changes can be very insightful to watch. 

In what ways are you facilitating outdoor play and learning with your students?