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Inspire Creativity in Your Kids Using a STEM Center at Home in 3 Easy Steps

Do you want to encourage learning, develop creativity and foster independence in your kids? Here are a few simple steps to creating a STEM center that will have your kids creating and discovering in no time.

Children making a robot at home.

STEM centers are a great way to engage kids in learning. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Sometimes, they also include art and are called STEAM centers.

As a middle school science teacher, I used to joke with my students that I should send a list home of supplies parents could fill their kid’s stockings with at Christmas, based on how difficult it was for students to keep their hands off the supplies while I was introducing a lab. Kids love to tinker, explore items, and create! If you read about inventors from the past, they usually had a childhood filled with time and materials to tinker with.

There are endless ways to create a STEM center in your home, from simple to elaborate. You can start small and add different items as your child grows and interests expand. STEM centers can be as basic as a container of supplies to an entire room devoted to exploration.

Here are the basic steps to create one in your home.

STEM/STEAM Space

Step 1: Find Your Space

First, determine where you want to locate your STEM center Workspace.

Things to consider:

  • Do you want a designated area set up so kids can explore whenever they choose or do you want to use a table or desk you already have in place and transport materials when you want to use them? Kitchen tables, craft tables and desks all work great as a work surface.
  • What types of activities will your kids do in your STEM center? Will they be completing science experiments or art projects that involve liquids that can spill or stain? What type of flooring is in your work area? Hard floors are much easier to clean up than carpeting.
  • How old are your kids? Do they need a lot of supervision or are they capable of working by themselves? Do they like working with other people around or do they prefer to work in a quiet area away from others?
  • If you are using your kitchen table, is there a place your kids could store a work in progress when you need your table for a meal?
  • Will you have multiple work areas, depending on the activity? Are some activities more suitable for the garage or tool shop?
  • What is your tolerance for messes?

What has worked in my home:

Our STEM center workspace is often the kitchen table. We have now added IVAR shelving units with a foldable table and RASKOG stools, both from IKEA, to our center. This has worked well for us and is used on a regular basis. There are also projects that my kids work on in the tool shop, with adult supervision.

Step 2: Choose Your Supplies

There are many products for STEM centers on the market today, from basic supplies to pre-made kits.

Things to consider:

  • Do your kids have specific interests?
  • What supplies do you already own that could be used in your center? Basic things like cotton balls, glue sticks, rulers, art supplies, paper, etc. can all be included. Legos, Lincoln Logs, Magna Tiles, and other building materials are also great.
  • What is your budget? Birthdays and holidays are a great time to add supplies to your STEM center.
  • Try a combination of individual supplies and kits. Following directions from a kit and creating from scratch require different skills. Both have value.
  • Do you want to include activities that require a computer?

What has worked in my home:

Over time, we have collected an abundance of supplies and kits. Besides basic art and craft supplies, building materials, math manipulatives and science kits, we have some basic science equipment such as magnifying lenses, binoculars, and a microscope. We have added a rock tumbler and basic telescope after interests developed in those areas.

Learning Resources has excellent Primary Science and STEM kits for younger kids. Snap Circuits, K’NEX, and Elenco kits have been some of our favorites as they grew older.

If you don’t keep the supplies manageable, you may become frustrated and not want them to use them. Regularly purging some items will help with this. Limiting how many things they have out at one time and training them to put things away on a regular basis will make the STEM center more enjoyable for everyone.

STEM Storage

Step 3: Provide Storage Solutions

To prevent overwhelm and encourage the use of your STEM center, you will want some kind of storage system to organize your supplies in.

Things to consider:

  • Is there a closet, shelf or cabinet in your home that could be used to store materials?
  • Do you want to use a rolling cart that is easy to move to your workspace?
  • What kind of containers do you want to sort and store materials in? Basic storage containers and craft or tool storage items work well. Clear containers allow you to see what is inside.
  • Do you want open or closed storage? Will your kids be more likely to put things back if there is an open top?
  • Do you want your kids to be able to access materials on their own or do you want them stored out of reach?

What has worked in my home:

We have used various storage solutions over the years. When the kids were younger, we kept messy items out of reach but allowed unlimited access to some items. We kept items in a cabinet and others in open storage on a shelf that the kids could reach. Basic things like wood building blocks and legos were also in bins that were always accessible.

Our current set-up includes a combination of open and closed storage bins with labels stored on shelves. The materials are roughly organized into categories. There are art supplies, math manipulatives, and science supplies. We also include musical instruments and blank music sheets in our STEM center. My kids regularly find things from nature or the recycle bin to add to their creations. Those hardware or craft storage cabinets with the clear drawers work great for storing small items.

Put it all Together

Creating a STEM center at home can be a great way for your kids to learn new concepts, develop skills, foster creativity and find a passion. STEM centers don’t need to be elaborate and can change over time. You need a surface to work on, supplies, and a place to store those supplies.

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