Here’s a Clever Way to Turn Everyday Tasks into STEM Challenges

How to Turn a Typical Task into a STEM Challenge

Let’s say you’re boiling water in the microwave or on a cooktop.

You might ask your child, “How long do you think it will take to boil this cup of water in the microwave? What can we do to figure this out? How many minutes or seconds should we try?”

It is important to try out different amounts of time according to what your child thinks and give your child time to respond. This encourages discovery and trial and error, which are important life skills. After trying the microwave to boil water, you can ask the same questions about using the cooktop to boil a cup of water.

After you have tried both methods, you may ask, “Which is a better way to boil water? Why did you choose that way? Why do you think an engineer designed the microwave or why do you think it was invented?”

Now incorporate this learning into everyday life. The next time you need to boil water, ask your child, “We have 10 minutes before we have to leave for practice and I want to make a cup of tea. Which appliance should I use to boil the water? Explain your thinking?” Easy!!! Remember we want to encourage our children to think and be independent thinkers, discover new ways to do things, take risks and be motivated to learn!

STEM Challenges for kids


STEM-Minded Questions to Ask Your Child

Here’s 16 STEM-minded questions that you can ask your child to promote higher order thinking when using STEM activities or simply when the opportunity arises during everyday life and believe me – it will!

  1. How will you begin _______?
  2. Did your idea work?
  3. What can you do to figure this out?
  4. Describe the challenge or what you are about to do or discover.
  5. What problems did you encounter?
  6. How did you solve the problems encountered? Note: Questions 5 and 6 build confidence and stamina because when completing these types of activities, the question acknowledges that problems are expected and it is okay!
  7. Why is it working or not working?
  8. Do you need to make changes? If so what changes are you going to make? Explain why.
  9. How did these changes work out for ________ (building the tower, etc.)?
  10. Do you need to make more changes?
  11. What have you learned so far about __________ (Building a bridge, flying a paper airplane etc.)?
  12. Was it harder or easier than you thought it would be? Why?
  13. When you started, what did you expect to happen?
  14. How many changes or trial and errors did you make before it worked or was completed?
  15. Explain what worked for you and what didn’t work and why.
  16. What did you learn from this challenge?

STEM Challenges for kids

Here is a quick and easy STEM challenge that you may or may not have tried with questioning techniques provided to facilitate learning.


At-Home STEM Challenge – the Paper Plane

Give your child a piece of paper and some paper clips. Ask your child to design a paper airplane that will fly a distance longer than 6 feet.

STEM-Minded questions for this challenge:

  • How will you begin this challenge?
  • Did your idea work?
  • Do you need to make changes to get the paper airplane to fly more than 6 feet?
  • What did you try? (Answer may be adding a paper clip to the nose of the plane.)
  • How did that work out?
  • How did adding the paperclip to the nose of the plane help?
  • How did adding a paperclip to the body of the plane work out?
  • Why do you think that worked?
  • What did you learn from this challenge?

Remember the key is to ask how and why questions, which facilitate trial and error, discovery, higher order thinking, build stamina and make learning fun.

This post is sponsored by Know Yourself – Know Yourself is a Self Literacy company on a mission to prepare young people to understand their self worth.

About the All-Star Blogger

Kathy BloggerKathy is a retired 1st and 2nd grade looping teacher, who taught full time and part time in her hometown of Springfield, PA for 30+ years. She is wife, mom of three grown children and as of today a Mimi of three with one on the way. Kathy volunteers in her daughter’s Kindergarten Special Education classroom weekly. She loves to create, write and has an obsession for shoes and chocolate.