STEM activities are perfect for young kids because it combines learning with fun! Do you have a preschooler in your home? Try out some of these easy STEM activities for 4 year olds for some good educational fun.
Preschoolers are at the perfect age for STEM activities because they are old enough to follow simple directions, understand and think deeper about the world around them, and have a longer attention span than toddlers.
Using STEM Activities with Preschoolers
First, what does STEM mean? STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. You may also hear a similar acronym called STEAM. This one has an added A which stands for Art.
The activities you’ll find below are a combination of STEM and STEAM activities. Art is important too!
Let’s look at each of the different aspects of STEM and what kinds of activities might be included in each one.
Science includes many different subcategories such as biology, chemistry, physics, geology, environmental, botany, and more.
For preschoolers (which is 3-4 year olds), science is basically learning the basics of the world around them.
They are learning how plants grow. About objects they see in the night sky. About all the different types of animals. How our actions affect the environment and simple science experiments.
This is the perfect time to take advantage of your child’s love of farm animals or dinosaurs! Use what they love as a jumping off point for learning.
Don’t expect mastery at this point, but the beginning of understanding basic scientific concepts, exposure to vocabulary, and learning how to ask questions about what they see.
Technology may seem like an abstract concept for some- and maybe when you think of technology you think of computers, video games, and screen time.
While these are part of technology, there is a lot more to it.
Technology for preschooler may look like beginning robotics, coding, and cause & effect. As well as learning the basics of using things like calculators, cameras, computers, etc.
Engineering may seem like something that is too advanced for preschoolers, but remember that everything is built on smaller ideas and concepts.
Engineering for preschoolers is all about exploring how things are built, how things work, and problem solving.
Engineering for 4 year olds might look like building challenges with items such as legos, blocks, or random items from around the home or yard. It could be creating mazes or forts.
Basically giving them a potential problem and letting them figure out a way to solve it.
Math probably seems pretty self explanatory- we all know what math is, right?
But math in STEM activities is all about exploring numbers in a more hands-on way. There are no worksheets here!
They can explore concepts of addition and subtraction, measurement, patterns, and geometry.
Even though art isn’t part of STEM, it is part of STEAM, so I thought I’d include it here as well.
Art is an important part of building a creative mind. As you would expect, art includes things like painting, drawing, other creative mediums.
How to Do STEM Activities With Your Child
First and foremost, STEM activities should be fun and engaging. Even if you explain nothing to your child about the activity they will still be able to critically look at what they are seeing and make connections.
STEM activities should be hands-on. That means you may have to make some alterations to experiments to make them safe for little hands.
You want to allow them as much control in the activities as possible. Let them measure, build, pour, mix, feel, etc. as much as possible. This means you might have to fight the urge to make things perfect- remember it’s more about the experience than anything else!
While doing the STEM activities with your preschooler, be sure to fight the urge to lecture, but do encourage discussions and observations.
A big part of STEM for 4 year olds is learning how things work. This means encourage them to look closely at what is happening.
Ask open-ended questions like what do you see? What is happening here? What do you smell? As they get older they will eventually move on to writing their data down, but for now just get your preschooler used to observing.
Also encourage them to ask questions. You want them to be curious about WHY things are happening. WHY the experiment turned out the way it did.
There are no stupid questions, so encourage your child to ask whatever they want. And then encourage them to guess on the answer. This is the first step to learning to how to hypothesize and experiment using the scientific method.
Don’t know the answer to their questions? Do some research together!
And finally, kids love repetition. And, while it might annoy you to do things over and over again, it will help your preschooler solidify their understanding of STEM concepts. So do these STEM activities more than once- or as often as your preschooler wants!
42 STEM Activities for 4 Year Olds (and Preschoolers)
Now it’s time for the STEM activities! Below you will find all sorts of fun STEM (or STEAM) activities to do with your preschooler.
More Simple STEM Activities for 4 Year Olds
Here are a few more simple preschool STEM activities to try with your kids: These encourage critical thinking and natural curiosity, plus they are tons of fun!
Coloring Flowers: Place white flowers (like daisies or carnations) in vases filled with colored water. Watch the white petals change color!
Baking Soda and Vinegar Balloons: Blow up a balloon using the reaction between baking soda and vinegar! You can get the full instructions here: 7 Baking Soda and Vinegar STEM Activities for Kids
Make Rain in a Cup: Fill a cup with 2/3 with water. Fill the rest of the way with shaving cream (this is your rain cloud). Drip blue food coloring on top the cream and watch it slowly rain down into the cup!
Magnet Exploration Tray: Set up a tray with various magnets and metal pieces- and maybe some non metal objects as well. Let your child explore how the magnets work!
Make Rock Candy: Learn about super saturated solutions and crystal making- and get something yummy to eat! Here’s a simple recipe: Rock Candy
Grow Crystal Snowflakes or Ornaments: Make borax solution and place pipe cleaners molded into shapes in the solution, Watch the crystals grow! Here’s how: Borax Snowflakes. *Watch your child carefully around borax.
Pencils in a Bag: Fill a ziploc bag halfway with water and zip close. Carefully poke sharp pencils through the bag all the way to the other side. Does the water spill out? How many pencils can you add before it leaks or pops?
The Lego Challenge: Challenge your child to build something specific out of legos. Like a chair for a small stuffed animal, a bridge, or any other structure.
Marshmallows and Toothpicks: Give your child a tray of mini-marshmallows and toothpicks and encourage them to build and explore. What shapes can they make?
Sink and Float Tub: Give your child a tub of water (or just use the sink or bathtub) and collect various objects from around the house. Have them guess and test which will float and sink.
A Measuring Station: Give your child a variety of measuring devices- yard stick, ruler, measuring tape, etc. And explore measuring things- don’t forget to estimate the lengths and use things like your own hands or feet to measure too!
Non-Newtonian Fluid: All you need is cornstarch and water and you have this fun goop to explore with. Is it solid? Is it liquid?
Plant a Garden (or Some Seeds): Gardening is the best way to learn about the lifecycle of plants. Even if you can’t grow a big garden, plant some bean seeds, watch an avocado pit grow, or sprout some potatoes! Don’t forget to point out the different parts of plants!
Make Seed Bombs: Mix flower seeds in with clay and allow to dry. Throw them out in the yard and watch them grow!
Build a Volcano: This old school activity is always a fun science experiment for kids! They just love building the volcano out of mud, dirt, or clay. And watching the baking soda and vinegar eruption!
Make Your Own Ice Cream in a Bag: Get some cream, sugar, vanilla, rock salt, ice and some plastic bags and you can make ice cream! Here’s how: ice cream in a bag.
Walking Water Experiment: Watch water “walk” from one place to another and learn about capillary action! All you need if food coloring, water, and paper towels. Here’s how to do it: Walking Water Experiment
Mentos and Coke Explosion: Similar to a volcano you can make a big chemical reaction by dropping mentos candy into a bottle of coke! Maybe you could experiment with other sodas as well!
Make a Balloon Rocket: Place a straw on a length of string. Stretch the string across the room and secure so that it is taut. Blow up a balloon- but don’t tie it. Tape the straw to the top of the balloon and let it go- how far will it travel across the string?
The Building Challenge: Challenge your child to build something with uncommon building materials- such as plastic cups, rocks, paper, recyclables, etc. Let them explore and see how big or how high they can build. This is a simple STEM activity that builds problem solving skills.
And finally don’t forget the biggest STEM activity of all: Play. Playtime is how preschoolers learn. So surround them with learning opportunities and open-ended toys. Here are some of my favorite:
- Magnetic Tiles for building
- REAL tools in kids sizes- give them some scrap wood, a hammer, nails, screws, screwdrivers, etc.
- Doughs like playdough, kinetic sand, moon sand, etc.
- Exploratory tools like magnifying glasses, microscopes, bug boxes, butterfly nets, etc.
- Realistic animals
You want to give your child toys that can be used in many different ways to create and explore with!
Who Can Do These STEM Activities?
Even though the list of STEM activities is aimed for 4 year olds, really kids of all ages can have fun with these simple STEM projects. In general though, these activities will be good for kids preschool age to elementary school age.
Just remember to tailor them to your own child’s abilities. Kids don’t magically gain abilities when they pass their 3rd or 4th birthday- so some toddlers may be able to do these fun activities and some 4 year olds might not be ready for them. But with a little alterations even 1 year olds and toddlers can enjoy many of these fun activities- so go ahead and involve the whole family!
Older kids may also want to participate. They will be able to understand deeper concepts than preschoolers and may be able to help explain things to younger siblings!