top of page
  • Writer's pictureAngela Russ-Ayon

15 Ways to Introduce STEM to Preschoolers | Early Childhood

Updated: Sep 15

sTEM Water Play - An African American child playing tossing a toy in water
STEM for Preschoolers - Water play

STEM in Preschool - Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. Making strong connections in the early years with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is essential for laying the foundation for future learning. Early exposure can help dispel fear and apprehension related to science and math as children grow. Continued instructional guidance and support help keep them interested. With age-appropriate STEM activities, parents and educators can observe children's problem-solving strategies, communication skills, and their ability to apply knowledge in different areas. Foster a lifelong interest in STEM by making learning playful and engaging with these strategies:

1. Encourage Hands-On Exploration and Experimentation: Provide hands-on, interactive experiences that allow young children to explore STEM concepts through play and experimentation. Use age-appropriate materials and tactile activities that engage their senses and curiosity. Provide supervision, space, time, and age-appropriate materials, then be prepared for the messes children will make.

  • Water play: "How does the water feel in your hands? What do you think will happen if you add soap?"

  • Leaf collecting: "Why do you think these leaves feel the same/different?"

  • Sensory bins: "How can you determine which container holds more water?"

  • Sand tools: "How do you think this strainer works?"

  • Sticks and mud: "What can you do to make the stick stand straight up in the mud?"

  • Rubbings in nature: "What do you notice about the texture/pattern of the bark?"

  • Frozen toys: "How can you get the toy out of the ice?"

  • Collages: "Why do you think these beads feel different than the tissue paper?"

  • Clay | Playdough: "What tool can you use to make this shape?"

2. Incorporate Real World Context: Introduce STEM concepts that relate to the children's real world.

  • Next to an arroyo: Can the children build a waterway out of natural or recycled material to explore the flow and redirection of water? Can they examine how objects sink and float?

  • Next to a train track: Can the children extend train tracks over bridges, through tunnels, around obstacles, or up and down ramps? Can they craft a train out of cardboard?

  • Near a farm: Can the children build enclosures out of blocks for different toy farm animals? Can they build a house for the three little pigs that will withstand strong wind and then test their structure?

3. Encourage Children to Think Like Scientists: observe, predict, research, experiment, question, discuss, conclude, record, problem-solve, adapt or make changes, have fun, and repeat.

4. Tailor STEM Activities to Children's Interests: Find ways to involve measurement, classification, and exploration when participating in activities in which the children are interested.

  • Sort dinosaurs by type, size, color, diet, etc.

  • Describe sounds different instruments make and explore how the sounds are produced

  • Design and build an instrument

  • Measure the growth of plants

  • Mix colors in shaving cream

  • Build a floating craft

  • Make a puzzle using a cereal box

  • Blow bubbles using different tools

  • Bake cookies by following a simple recipe

5. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Open-ended questions promote exploration and inquiry. They help guide children to their next level of learning, introducing more complex concepts they may not have considered. Give young children time to examine and observe. Encourage them to ask their own questions and seek answers through observation and experimentation.

6. Integrate STEM into Play-Based Learning Activities: When children engage in pretend play or play with building blocks, puzzles, and other manipulatives, encourage them to…

…problem solve. “How can you make your car roll faster?” (ramps)

…problem solve. “How can you make your tower more stable?” (blocks)

…think critically. “How does this zipper work on your dolls clothes?” (pretend play)

…think critically. “How do you know which clothes will fit your doll?” (pretend play)

…use spatial reasoning. “How can you build a bridge that will reach the other side?” (blocks)

7. Integrate STEM into Songs, Stories, and Nursery Rhymes: Create narratives that involve scientific exploration or engineering challenges, sparking children's imagination and interest.

  • Humpty Dumpty: "How would you keep Humpty Dumpty from breaking when he falls?

  • Pat-a-Cake: "How do you make a cake?

  • Pat-a-Cake: "Why do you think the cake will be marked with a B?"

  • You are My Sunshine: "Why do you think the skies are gray?"

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat: "Why do you have to row the boat gently?"

  • Rocka Bye Baby: "Why does the cradle rock when the wind blows?"

  • Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons: "How do buttons work? What can you use to close Pete's shirt instead of buttons?"

8. Outdoor Exploration: Take learning outdoors to explore the natural world. Engage in activities like observing insects, examining plants, or studying the weather, all of which naturally incorporate science and math concepts.

  • "What different shapes can you make with these sticks?"

  • "What will happen to the snow when it gets warm? Why?"

  • "Why does the Pill Bug roll into a ball when you touch it?"

  • "Why do you think this leaf is green and this one is brown?"

  • "How does a pinecone differ from an acorn?"

  • "Why do you think there are rings in the tree trunk?"

  • "Why do you think the water splashed on your shirt?"

STEM for Preschoolers - Outdoor Exploration
STEM for Preschoolers - Outdoor Exploration

9. Plan for Project-Based Collaborative Learning: Design simple, playful, age-appropriate projects that involve problem-solving and teamwork. Children can work together to:

  • use a pulley to lift a bucket

  • design and build a bridge

  • map out the room

  • create an edible garden

  • build windsocks

  • build and launch paper planes or rockets

  • play with lights and shadows

  • excavate the sand for hidden items

  • build an animal habitat (ocean, desert, forest)

10: Involve Parents, Role Models, and the Community in STEM Activities: Expose children to diverse STEM role models. Invite professionals such as plumbers, scientists, doctors/nurses, engineers, chefs, and contractors to visit and participate in hands-on workshops or share their expertise, such as demonstrating simple science experiments.

  • Connecting PVC or metal pipes

  • Taking a temperature or testing sugar levels in the body

  • Constructing a birdhouse

  • Manipulating a robot

  • Baking bread

  • Making a rain gauge

  • Examine how gears work

11. Introduce age-appropriate technology to enhance STEM learning, such as educational apps, computer programs, simple robotics, or interactive simulations. Balance screen time with hands-on activities and ensure technology use meets developmental needs.

12. Encourage Journaling: Provide paper and writing implements in all areas, indoors and outdoors. Encourage children to document their observations with drawings, questions, and findings, even if they scribble (preschool/early childhood). This promotes observation, reflection, and deeper engagement with STEM concepts.

13. Embrace Challenges: Towers will topple. Water will spill. Ice will melt. Sand will cave in. Bikes will get stuck. Encourage children to embrace experimentation and resilience in the face of difficulties. Emphasize that challenges and mistakes are opportunities to problem-solve and learn something new.

14. Make Connections: Integrate STEM with multiple subjects, tying it to different activities and all aspects of life in early childhood.

  • Read or make up stories and sing songs that support children's STEM interests.

  • Act out the sequence of a story or a lifecycle: a caterpillar crawls, eats, grows bigger, balls up into a chrysalis, and flies like a butterfly.

  • Physically interpret what is noticed or learned: - roll like a ball - make a human shape or pattern - squat down and take off like a rocket - move like different animals or insects

  • Introduce food in a way that relates to an activity. For example, make a rocket skewer out of cheese and fruit.

  • Engage young children in age-appropriate experiments.

  • Role-play STEM careers

  • Encourage designing, engineering, and building no matter where they're playing.

  • Create art inspired by STEM using familiar, unique, homemade, or recycled materials and tools.

15. Use STEM Language to expose preschool children to new vocabulary, best complemented by experiential learning. Don't be afraid to sprinkle technical or complex terms into everyday vocabulary.

  • "Let's explore buoyancy and predict whether this egg will sink or float."

  • "We are going to look for things in nature that are rough/smooth/bumpy/sharp/dull/long/short/heavy/light."

  • "Today, we will learn about a simple machine called a wheel."

  • "Why do you think the caterpillar formed a chrysalis?"

  • "Why do you think the water evaporated from the puddle?"

  • "How can we make these balls bounce higher?"

STEM for Preschoolers - Parachute play
STEM for Preschoolers - Parachute play

By using these strategies, educators can create a strong foundation for STEM learning in the Early Years, fostering a love for exploration, discovery, and inquiry that will benefit children throughout their educational journey.

Feel free to share your ideas with me, and I will add them to this post.


Author of: The BIG Book of Open-Ended Questions to Intentionally Support Young Children in Learning: Topics for Preschool thru 1st Grade

Angela Russ-Ayon is a mom-preneur, children’s author, interactive trainer on the subject of early childhood, and an award-winning artist/producer of music for young children. She presents educational strategies to child care providers, parents, and educators nationwide for AEYCs, R & Rs, child care agencies, and the like. She is a member of the Recording Academy and is the sole owner of Russ InVision Company. For more information on Angela, her workshops, keynotes, and accomplishments, you are welcome to visit © 2021, Russ InVision. All rights reserved.

Find out more about Angela Russ-Ayon and her affordable interactive keynote and workshop presentations coast-to-coast on the subjects of early childhood development, STEM (science and math), open-ended questions, and family engagement. Visit her training page. offers fun music and movement songs and physical activities for distance learning, virtual classes, webinars, childcare facilities, after-school programs, homeschooling, preschools, daycare centers, kindergarten classes, or rainy-day recesses.

All music and book titles are available in bulk for early childhood and nutrition programs, conferences, non-profit initiatives, licensing, or grants that promote healthy eating, fruits and vegetables, gardening, farm-to-table, STEM initiatives, and anti-obesity. Contact Angela directly for discounted pricing, quotes, and orders. Allow for at least 2-3 weeks to process orders and ship. We accept purchase orders.

For information: Contact: Angela Russ-Ayon

Phone: 562-421-1836


bottom of page