Once again, it’s time for fall fun in Northeast Ohio. Between trips to the apple orchard and pumpkin patch, your family can enjoy seasonal festivities at home, too. With a little planning, some educational activities can be so fun, your kids won’t even realize they’re learning at the same time. Find inspiration with these 10 fall-themed STEAM activities for kids of all ages, arranged from those that appeal to younger children to those best suited for older kids.
1. Pumpkin Sensory Bags. With this simple activity, even babies and toddlers can get in on the fall fun. Simply scoop some pumpkin insides and place in a plastic gallon-size zip-top storage bag. Be sure to include seeds, slime and bits of pulp for textural variety. Then seal the bag and let your kiddo feel the ooey gooey stuff from outside the bag, all while keeping hands — and your house — clean. For babies, tape the bag to a tray or table so it stays put.
2. Apple Sensory Slime. Toddlers and preschoolers will love this sensory experience, which uses a basic recipe for fluffy slime (courtesy of steamsational.com), plus a seasonal color and scent. In a large bowl, place two 4-oz. containers of Elmer’s school glue and add red food coloring (gel works best). Add two cups of shaving cream to the glue mixture and stir. Add about half a cup of liquid laundry starch to the mixture and stir. If your slime is still sticky to the touch, add a bit more laundry starch until you can stretch and play with it without the fluffy slime sticking to your hands. When the slime is the right texture, add apple essential oil for the perfect fall scent.
3. Leaf Creatures. Make use of all the colorful autumn leaves, plus sticks, acorns, berries and any other of nature’s art supplies, to create leaf people or animals. Take a walk to collect items, then let your child’s creativity go wild arranging their subject over a piece of paper. Use clear tape or glue to secure all the objects to the paper, and hang on display once dry.
4. Dancing Corn. Even little kids can get in on the science fun with this super simple experiment. All you need is a glass jar, popcorn kernels, a base liquid (water, oil or vinegar) and a reactant (baking soda or Alka-Seltzer tablets). Fill the jar with a base liquid and drop in enough kernels to cover the bottom. Next, add the reactant and watch the kernels dance! Experiment with using different base liquids and reactants to see which works best.
5. Magic Jack-o-Lantern. This experiment, perfect for preschoolers and early elementary-aged children, uses a chemical reaction to quickly inflate a balloon. Before starting, use a marker to draw a jack-o-lantern face on an orange balloon for a festive touch. All you need is an empty water bottle, vinegar, baking soda, a funnel and your balloon. Use the funnel to fill the bottle about 1⁄4 full with vinegar. Rinse and dry the funnel, then use it to add 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda inside the balloon. Place the lip of the balloon securely over the top of the bottle, with the balloon hanging loosely to the side. Next, lift the balloon above the bottle so that the baking soda falls down into the vinegar. The chemical reaction will inflate the balloon, making the jack-o-lantern spring to life.
6.Candy Bar Sink or Float. This simple sink or float experiment gets a sweet, festive twist by using your kids’ favorite Halloween candy. Choose several different fun-size candy bars and have your kids predict which they think will sink and which they think will float. For example, will a Snickers’ peanuts weigh the bar down, while a Kit Kat’s lightweight wafers keep the bar afloat? Fill a large glass or bowl with water and test each bar’s buoyancy one at a time, then record the results.
7. Candy Corn Catapults. Put your family’s knowledge of physics to the test by seeing who can create the most successful candy corn catapult using items found around the house. Let your kids experiment on their own, or find plans at frugalfun4boys.com. Building materials can include pencils, craft sticks, tape, rubber bands, plastic spoons, bottle caps and more. Once each catapult is built, test your aim by placing boxes or buckets for the candy corn to land inside, or try a distance competition.
8. Pumpkin Volcano. Elevate the classic vinegar-and-baking-soda experiment by using a pumpkin as the vessel — just remember, the larger the pumpkin used, the more of each ingredient you’ll need and the bigger the mess. Gather vinegar, baking soda, water, dish soap, food coloring (optional) and a pumpkin (the following measurements are for a “baking” or “pie” pumpkin). First, hollow out the pumpkin and carve a face, if desired. Fill the pumpkin about half- full with warm water, a few drops of food coloring, five drops of dish soap, and a few tablespoons of baking soda. When you’re ready for the eruption, add a quarter-cup of vinegar and watch the reaction!
9. Building with Candy. From houses to roller coasters to skyscrapers, this activity will make everyone feel like an architect. Use toothpicks and your favorite gummy candy (jellybeans, gummy bears or gummy pumpkins work well) at each stick’s intersection to build 3D creations. For older kids, give small prizes based on categories, such as tallest structure, most toothpicks used, etc.
10. Dissolving Pumpkin Peeps. Every kid loves these sweet spring treats, but did you know there is a fall version, as well? Use pumpkin Peeps for this interactive experiment that compares how different liquids affect the marshmallow treats. Fill five glass jars or cups with different liquids (milk, water, oil, vinegar, tonic water, etc.) and place a Peep in each. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes — however long your children’s attention span may be — and make notes of your observations. After the time is up, use a slotted spoon to remove each Peep and lay them side-by-side. Compare their size, color and consistency, then talk about how the different liquids affected the Peeps. Prior to the experiment, older kids can make their predictions for what they think will happen.