West Berkshire Family Life

simple stem activities to try at home

It’s half term week but being in lockdown means our usual places to visit and activity ideas are unavailable to us this year. Maybe you’re just looking forward to taking home-schooling out of the equation for the week and not having to keep so many plates balanced. Inevitably the cry of “I’m bored!” will hit our ears though so let me show you some simple STEM activities you can try this week.

Challenge 1: Using just three sticky notes (or three pieces of paper measuring 15cm x 15cm and some tape) can you support the weight of a food can off the floor?

I am not going to reveal the answer to this! However, if you look at the photo, it might just inspire your investigations. There is more than one solution to the problem though, so let your creativity run wild!

Challenge 2: What is the longest paper chain you can make using just one sheet of A4 paper?

(You tube link: https://youtu.be/5ihJgYTMaEU)

You will need to think about the width of paper you wish to use to make each link in the chain. You can turn it into a competition if you like!

Challenge 3: Make a bird feeder and see which species come to visit.

We love to spend time watching the birds who come to visit us, especially our resident Fat Robin who visits multiple times a day! This simple bird feeder will be really helpful for your local birds in the cold winter months, where it’s harder for them to find the food they usually eat, like fruit and insects. Bird feeders will attract a wider range of birds (and other animals!) to your garden- perfect for pulling out your binoculars and bird spotter’s guide (download yours for free here) to see who has come to visit!

You will need:

  • Paper plate/ foil tray
  • String
  • Bird Seed
  • Peanut Butter and a knife (optional- watch for allergies!)
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch


  1. Punch four holes around your paper plate/ foil tray (one hole in each quarter)
  2. Measure out 4 equal lengths of string- 30cm should be perfect
  3. Tie each length of string through the holes you have made
  4. Spread the base of your plate/ tray with peanut butter (so the seeds stick)
  5. Tie up all four pieces of string together so you can hang your feeder outside
  6. Pour on a handful (or two) of bird seed onto your feeder
  7. Your feeder is ready to hang outside

Challenge 4: Can you build a raft?

  1. Begin by searching your house for materials, anything from spoons and stones to straws and corks.
  2. Test each item in a bowl of water to see whether it sinks or floats, using what you’ve found out can you create a raft that will float? You’ll need some string, tape or elastic bands to secure your chosen items together. 
  3. As an extra challenge, will it support the weight of a toy?

Hint: lolly sticks, corks, straws, plastic bottles and Lego all make great raft building material!

Challenge 5: Can you inflate a balloon without using your breath?

(YouTube video: https://youtu.be/1y5qbpJ-sRQ)

To blow up a balloon you need to fill it up with gas. In this activity we are creating a gas called carbon dioxide by mixing together an acid (vinegar) with a base (bicarbonate of soda). This is a neutralisation reaction, and it is an irreversible change. Once we’ve mixed the vinegar and bicarb together we no longer have either substance- they have been chemically changed by mixing them.

You will need:

  • Old plastic bottle x 2
  • Balloons
  • Teaspoon
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Vinegar
  • Ruler or timer


  1. Make a funnel by cutting the top off a plastic bottle (ask a grown up to help!)
  2. Stretch the neck of your balloon over your funnel
  3. Add 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into your balloon
  4. Pour 30 ml of vinegar into the bottom of your bottle
  5. Remove the balloon from your funnel and carefully stretch it over the bottle with vinegar inside (be careful not to tip the bicarb out while you do this)
  6. Once the balloon is securely sealed around the bottle, tip it up so the bicarb falls into the vinegar.
  7. Watch the balloon inflate- you can either time how long it takes to inflate or measure the height of the balloon.

The Virtual Explorers Club is an online STEM activities library, created by Ruth Tsui, an experienced primary school teacher and STEM educator. Designed to engage and excite primary school children in hands-on STEM learning, supporting you to develop key life and learning skills e.g., resilience, collaboration, critical thinking and many more. The library itself is full of hands-on activity ideas, linked in themes to support you as you explore- all the background information, written guides and supporting videos using household supplies or items available in the supermarket. For more information visit www.thevirtualexplorersclub.com

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