Series: About Early Math

Going to Great Lengths: STEM Activities for Preschool

Children are naturally curious about many topics relating to STEM. The challenge for parents and educators is to bridge their curiosity into learning opportunities.

This blog post details a great STEM activity that builds off of children’s natural fascination with animals. The blogger’s daughter was curious about the size of various animals, particularly the massive blue whale. Together, they grab a tape measure and chalk and create accurate measurements of animals of vastly different size. Then they compare their own heights to their findings.

STEM activities such as these can be implemented in classroom settings as well. This preschool teacher used a book featuring life-size animal images to get children thinking about just how large a Tyrannosaurus rex is. After hearing their estimations, she had the children lie head-to-toe to give them a more personal idea of its size.

This brings about early ideas of unitizing: “12 preschoolers long” is setting the stage for working with more standard units of measurement in the future.

Another preschool classroom was curious whether they were taller than emperor penguins. The teacher turned their natural questioning into a measurement activity, in which the children drew life-size images of penguins on reams of paper and measured themselves against them. The teacher pushed them to make precise statements, such as “I am the same size” and “I am a little bit taller.”

These children also began to think about unitizing. The students created their own measurement system using square- and rectangle-shaped blocks to quantify their findings.