Six STEAM Activities to do in A Screen Free Week
Televisions, computers, phones and tablets are totally ingrained into our daily routines at home, at school and at work. While apps, games and videos have their place in education, and are a huge part of life - both at home and the classroom - it is becoming increasingly important that children (and adults) engage in daily screen free time.
Whether you're dreading the idea of a Screen Free week, the six activities in this post will be perfect for keeping the tablets away for a little longer. But first:
Why is Screen Free Time Important?
Screen Free time is incredibly important for physical, mental and emotional well-being and comes with a number of important benefits.
Firstly, removing screen time - even if it's for a little bit - is important to give brains a bit of a break. It is well documented that screen time causes adrenaline and dopamine to be released in the brain. These chemicals have an almost drug-like effect on your child's brain
Removing screens can also be an important method of promoting physical health. It is thought that the increase of sitting (and slouching) in front of the TV or computer can cause issues with posture and cause aches and pains. Furthermore by removing screens, children engage in other activities that can help to develop new and important skills.
Finally, some screen free time every day would provide the opportunity to spend time and connect as a family. Moving away from screens means that you can all do activities together as a family
Six Screen Free STEAM Activities
A Screen-Free Week is an annual, international event where children and adults turn off their screens and get involved in activities away from the screen and that is why we have come up with 6 simple STEAM based activities that you and your children can do away from our screens:
1. Explore Nature
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to get daily screen free time is simply going outside. There are so many things you can do outside - both educational and physical.
A nature walk is a great way to explore nature and the wider world around us. There are so many places to explore and you don't even have to go far to do it - even in urban areas there's places to explore and nature to be found.
There's an endless number of things you can do when you're out exploring including:
- Scavenger hunt - Before heading out on your nature walk you can compile a list of things to look out for when you're out. This could include types of animal, birds, insects or plants. Turn this into a competition and see who can find certain things first!
- Observation - Go a step further on your scavenger hunt and observe and identify nature when out and about. Take a notepad and write down what you see!
- Collect - A great way to combine two STEAM activities. While on your walk you can collect different objects such as leaves, acorns and sticks to use in some nature art. You could also pick some pretty flowers to create pretty flower presses.
- Drawing - Why not take some paper and drawing materials outside with you and get drawing what you see.
- Challenges - Set challenges for who can find certain items first or who can find the biggest stick.
- Explore other senses - Listen to see what sounds you can hear (birds, water, leaves rustling etc), explore the textures of the world around and see how things feel to touch, and use your nose to smell the flowers.
To accompany you on your nature walks, we have a number of different products available in our online shop. Including the comprehensive Outdoor Adventure Kit comprising of a number of different items designed for bug hunting, bird watching and more...
2. Home Science Experiments
Prior to starting up the STEM Club UK, our founder, Martin was a Secondary School Science teacher so no wonder we had to include science experiments on our list of screen free activities.
Here are some simple activities you can do using two household ingredients - baking soda and vinegar:
- Basic Vinegar and baking soda experiment - A chemical reaction happens when you mix these two ingredients and carbon dioxide is released. Start by adding baking soda to a glass (add food colouring here if using). Now pour in your vinegar and watch the eruption happen. You can go a step further and create your very own volcano.
- Dancing Raisins - Mix a spoon of baking soda with half a cup of water and add a small amount of raisins. Next pour in your vinegar and see what happens to the raisins. The bubbles of carbon dioxide from the reaction between baking soda and vinegar cause each raisin to rise to the surface. But once there the gas is released and the raisin sinks.
- Balloon inflation - Use the chemical reaction and the carbon dioxide it releases to inflate a balloon. Start by adding 3tbsps of baking soda to your balloon using a funnel. Next, fill a plastic bottle around 1/3 full with vinegar, and fit the balloon onto the opening of the bottle without releasing any of the baking soda. Once secured, lift the balloon and let all the baking soda drop inside the bottle. Now watch your balloon inflate.
Head to our Instagram page, @thestemclubuk and check out our reels for more simple home science inspiration.
And, if you want even more science at home then check out our online shop for science kits including the Stepping into Science Kit and this really cool That's Gross Science Kit. You can also check out our growing Etsy Store for singular science kits
3. Reading and Imaginative Play
Without the use of screens, reading is undoubtedly the best method for children to not only develop their imagination, but also to gain a greater understanding of the world around them. Books provide the opportunity for children (and adults alike) to focus on something, develop their imagination, develop a greater understanding of the world around them, focus, language acquisition. Even children who are unable to read can use books to develop their own imagination through looking at the pictures and creating their own stories.
Small world play based around books is a great way to engage children in using their imaginations. Choose one of your child's favourite books, see what you have around the house and create your own small world play tuff tray set up. Don't be afraid to think outside the box.
Three Little Pigs Tuff Tray
We set up our tuff tray based on the story of the Three Little Pigs but rather than using the straw, wood and bricks used in the traditional story, we have added the materials for the little pigs to build their houses from Card, Magnetic Tiles, and Duplo. Which building material can withstand the huff and the puff of the big bad wolf?
You can read more about screen free reading in our 'Five Ways to Shake Up Bedtime Stories' blog.
4. Get Arty
Another way to introduce imaginative play into screen free time would be through arts and craft activities. These can be so simple to set up and the opportunities for creating pictures, models and other things are endless.
Getting arty doesn't just have to be done with ready made craft supplies, you can also make your own. Fizzy painting is a great way to get arty outside whilst also adding a scientific twist:
You Will Need
- 100g Baking Soda
- 200ml Warm Water
- 75g Cornflour
- Food Colouring
- Vinegar - in a spray bottle/water pistol or with pipettes
Step By Step
- Mix your baking soda and cornflour in a bowl
- Stir in your water and mix until there are no more lumps
- Divide your mixture into different containers - the amount depends on how many colours you want to use. Then add a few drops of food colouring to each container, the better quality the food colouring the less you will need to use!
- Get painting the ground outside.
- Now spray your pictures with your vinegar and watch the pictures fizz.
For rainy day craft activities, WaxiDoodles are a versatile and mess free way to create pictures and structures. They can even be used to create structures (see activity 5) and discuss engineering principles.
5. Building Challenges
A great way to enjoy some screen free time is through building challenges. Building and engineering challenges are a great way to encourage children to develop a wide range of skills important in various different aspects of daily life including:
- Fine motor skills
- Problem solving and analytical thinking
- Imagination and creative thinking
- The ability to evaluate their work and overcome disappointment when things go wrong
- Confidence to express themselves
With building challenges, the possibilities are endless due to the range of resources and projects available.
For example, one of our favourite building challenges is to create a structure stable enough to withstand the weight of an object. Here is a quick sweet structure building challenge for you to try at home:
You Will Need:
- Toothpicks/Cocktail Sticks
- Hardback book
Step by Step
- Start by laying out your sweets and toothpicks
- Next try to build a cube by connecting the cocktail sticks to the sweets.
- Once your cube is made, test the structure by placing your book on top.
- If your first cube is not successful, try building it again to with more or less sticks or sweets. OR you could build another shape, such as a pyramid.
- Build 3 pyramids out of the cocktail sticks and sweets. Test by spreading them out and placing the book on top.
- Adjust your structures until they can hold the weight of the book.
6. Computer Free Coding
Coding in it's essence is telling a computer what to do but did you know you can practice it without even touching a computer?
Coding is a very important skill for children to have. It teaches problem-solving, logic, critical thinking and communication among many other skills. These skills are transferable to many other activities and so important in many aspects of daily life.
Before you write code you need to create an algorithm. This is a list of rules that need to be followed in order to solve a problem. To get the coding correct, your algorithm needs to have all the steps in the correct order. A fun way to learn the concepts of coding (and algorithms) is to get outside and create your own code using a hopscotch board. The aim is to complete the maze by following a series of directions and if anyone goes wrong then they have to start over, and all you need is 2+players, an outdoor space and some chalk!
- Start by drawing a hopscotch board on the floor and label the boxes 1-10.
- Draw a box next to your hopscotch board for your 'coder' to write their instructions.
- Decide who will be the 'coder' (the person giving the instructions) and the 'computer' (the person following the instructions).
- To begin 'coding' the coder will now need to draw an arrow in the instructions box to show the direction that the 'computer' will need to travel.
- The aim is for the ‘computer’ to remain on the hopscotch board. The 'coder' could do this either by programming the 'computer' to travel from numbers 1 to 10, or by choosing a unique path.
- Each time the coder draws an arrow, the computer should move in that direction. The coder should start by giving the computer instructions one at a time, however once they are more confident in their abilities they can start to give multiple directions at once.
- FURTHER, explore the concepts of loops in creating an algorithm that can be repeated. The computer will perform the algorithm by following the instructions. Now, they should try to perform this loop without looking at at the instructions. Loops allow computers to be more efficient, as they repeat the steps without needing to be told all of the individual steps more than once.
We also have a range of products where you can code your own household items, such as this Build Your Own Voice Assistant.
If you've got to the end of this post, thank you! We would love to hear how you spend your screen free family time - let us know!
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