A Crash Course in STEM: 10 Easy Ways to Introduce STEM Learning at Home


If you’ve got school-aged children or follow educational news, you’ve probably heard about STEM. But what IS STEM, exactly? And why is it suddenly so important? Read on for answers to some of your most pressing STEM questions and ideas for simple STEM activities you can do at home with your kids this STEM-tember.


STEM is an American educational curriculum implemented in 2009 by President Obama, emphasizing Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering in public schools. Rather than teaching these subjects individually, STEM is a blended approach that integrates the subjects into single lessons in an attempt to teach real-world, scientific, problem solving and strategic thinking skills.

Chemistry Lab and Kitchen Experiments

Why is STEM important?

America grew to be a global super power based, in part, on our superior science and engineering skills. The role STEM careers will play in our country’s continued success is growing exponentially. However, the number of students interested in and qualified to pursue these fields has diminished drastically over the years. By the year 2018, the U.S. will need 8.65 million workers trained in STEM fields*, but currently, according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 16% of American high school seniors are proficient in mathematics and interested in a STEM career. As a result, there is a push to increase the number of teachers trained in STEM instruction and to encourage students’ interest in pursuing STEM careers, in hopes of enabling America to continue to compete in the future global marketplace. This effort is so important to the U.S. government that the President’s 2015 Fiscal Year Budget Proposal included $170 million in new funding just to support the STEM initiative.

STEM Learning

What can I do to reinforce STEM learning at home?

There are tons of fun ways you can support STEM learning at home, with FUN being the key word. Introducing the STEM subjects in playful, real-world ways increases the chance that your kids will want to continue to study them through school and beyond. Think scavenger hunt—not flash cards! Below are 10 ideas to get you started:

  1. Block play—Building with blocks is a great way to introduce key STEM principles. How many bricks will you use? Why did the tower topple? How can you build a bridge? An arch?
  1. Baking—Whipping up a sweet treat isn’t just together-time fun—it’s also an easy way to slip in a yummy lesson on measurement. How much is a tablespoon? A cup? What units do we use to measure liquids? Solids?


  1. Kitchen chemistry—Kids love to measure, pour, mix, and add some more. Explore the basic principles of chemistry with a kit designed just for little ones, like the GeoSafari® Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set including 10 hands-on activity cards.

GeoSafari Jr. Jungle Crew Lab Set

  1. Active math—Make math fun with movement! Take turns counting your steps or hula hoop spins and timing your races. Subtract to see who wins and by how much.


  1. Nature collections—Take a walk and collect natural fall objects, like leaves, grass, nuts, and seeds. Discuss where they came from, why they look the way they do, and what purpose they serve. Google any unanswered questions when you get home.


  1. Board games—Card games are a great way to hone strategic thinking skills. Koala Capers is a fun strategy game for younger kids; Crowded Waters develops problem solving skills and teaches older kids to think a few steps ahead.


  1. Coding games—Introduce the basic concepts of coding with fun on-line games designed just for kids. Websites like Code.org feature games with familiar characters like Anna and Elsa and tutorials starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds, and Plants vs. Zombies to lure in older kids.


  1. Upcycled art—Engineering meets art! Provide a pile of recycled materials and let your kids go crazy building upcycled structures. Be sure to include a variety of materials, from egg cartons and empty milk containers to paper scraps.


  1. Stargazing—An evening of stargazing is a wonderful way to introduce astronomy. Start simple, by locating the moon through an easy-to-use telescope like Nancy B’s Moonscope, then move on to constellations and planets. Click for 7 Simple Tips for a Night of Stellar Stargazing.

  1. Marble Runs—Put your kids’ math, engineering, and scientific know-how to the test by building your own marble run! Follow our step-by-step instructions to learn how.

CHANGE IT UP! Relay For Life – American Cancer Society

Working Toward a World with More Birthdays!
Relay For Life

Jennifer Jens, Educational Insights’ eCommerce team member, chose the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, a cause close to her heart, to receive EI’s monthly charitable donations in August.

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event, occurring annually in communities around the world to celebrate those who have survived cancer, remember those we’ve lost, and fight back for a world with more birthdays. Participating teams take turns walking or running a track or path at local high schools, parks, and fairgrounds. Because cancer never sleeps, Relay for Life events last up to 24 hours, with at least one participant per team on the track at all times.

Funds raised at Relay for Life events fund cancer research; the Hope Lodge, a free and comfortable place for patients and their caregivers to during treatments; Look Good… Feel Better, a free service that teaches women battling cancer beauty techniques to help them improve their appearance and self-image during chemotherapy and radiation treatments; the Road to Recovery, a transportation program for patients; and Reach to Recovery, a support program for breast cancer survivors.

Having beat Hodgkins Lymphoma more 14 years ago, Jen participated in her first Relay for Life in 2005 – the year shelost her father to pancreatic cancer. Impressed with the organization and results of the event, Jen joined the team and has been a part of the event planning committee for the last nine years.

To learn more about Relay for Life or to make a contribution, visit www.RelayForLife.org.

Ready For School Superheroes: Optical Illusion Metric Worksheet


Nancy Balter is our math and science product developer here at Educational Insights. Not only is she brilliant in developing educational toys and games in her area of expertise, but she was also a teacher for 11 years! Today she has graciously shared with us a very helpful worksheet to help your kids learn their metric system.

A word from Nancy:
This fun worksheet helps students learn the Metric System. The Optical Illusions worksheet has students using a ruler to practice measuring in metric (using centimeters and millimeters).  Kids love optical illusions so it’s fun to do.

We hope you enjoy them!

Download Ready for School Superheroes: Optical Illusion Metric Worksheet here

Optical Illusion Metric Worksheet

Stick It! Simple Ways to Encourage Your Kids Best Efforts

We All Need a Little Motivation…

A sincere compliment, a kind word, a pat on the back… a little bit goes a long way toward motivating grown-ups. The same is true of kids! Everyone likes to be acknowledged (and rewarded!) for their hard work and contributions. Whether your kids are acing their homework, showing real improvement on that big test, or trying their hardest to tackle a challenging new concept, the final installment of our ABC’s of Back to School series features three easy incentives to—“C” celebrate— and reward kids’ academic efforts and achievements all year long.

  1. Stickers and Stamps – Who doesn’t love stickers? A silly sticker or positive stamped message means a lot to kids. Check your local big box store, teacher’s supply, or dollar store for some fun stickers and stamps.  And don’t forget to share our Facebook post for your chance to win one of our Positive Reinforcement Stamp sets with a new stamp pad!
    Share and Win
  1. Points System – Institute a points system and post it at your designated homework spot. Offer points for whatever you want to encourage – best handwriting, completed homework, improved test scores – and track them toward goals you and your child set together. Your child’s points might earn him a trip to the ice cream shop or movies, a special toy like our Design & Drill® BrightWorks™, or an end-of-year day at the amusement park!Reward Chart
  1. Cold, Hard, Cash – By second or third grade, your child may become especially motivated by money they can spend any way they choose. Work together to set up clear expectations and exact amounts earned when those expectations are met. This is also a great lesson in financial responsibility and literacy.


Preschool and Kindergarten Milestones

Growing Up! 3 to 5 Milestones

Growing Up! What to Expect in the Early Years

Your little one’s brain is growing at an incredible rate in these early years – it’s no wonder she’s so active and inquisitive! In fact, a toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s—forming 700 neurons per second in the first five years of life. All this growth and development enables young kids to do some pretty amazing things! Read on for some of the marvelous milestones to look forward to in the coming years. (Important caveat: every child is unique.  If your kiddo is behind on any of the milestones in our infographic below, it doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong —he or she simply may be developing at a different rate!)

Your Theatrical Three-Year-Old

Three-year-olds are natural explorers, using all of their senses to get a grasp on the world.And with a vocabulary of 900-1000 words, they’ve got plenty to say about it, too! Our infographic highlights some of the wonderful discoveries your three-year-old will make this year.

Your Fact-Finding Four-Year-Old

Watch out! Four-year-olds are curious, creative, confident, and opinionated! You’ll be hearing quite a bit of “I can do it” and “Let me help,” this year. With kindergarten on the horizon, it’s helpful to encourage arts and crafts, math, and reading—you can also help increase your child’s growing vocabulary by simply talking together about anything and everything. Check out just a few of the learning milestones you can expect your four-year-old to achieve in our infographic.

Your Curious 5-Year-Old Kindergartener

Kindergarteners delight in creative problem solving. They also tend to be more social, and they’re not afraid to speak up. In fact, they know more than 2,000 words and they’re not afraid to use them! Discovering the ability to make and vocalize their choices will both delight and empower them.Find out what else these super-smarties can do in our infographic.

Be on the lookout for next month’s post outlining key milestones for bigger kids, ages 6-8!

Preschool and Kindergarten Milestones