How To Make a DIY STEM Kit – 3 Methods & Project Ideas

A man and two children working on balloon powered cars.

STEM kits are an amazing way to stimulate excitement about learning while incorporating several subjects at once in a cleverly designed project. 

Not only are children taking a hands-on approach to learning, but they are also exposed to key principles in the subjects that have shown to be fundamental in today’s increasingly high-tech world: science, technology, engineering, and math.

How do you make a DIY STEM kit? You can make your own STEM kit by gathering various everyday items that could be used for multiple learning activities. Basic craft items, components for construction projects, and supplies for science activities form the basis of a simple DIY STEM kit.

As you read through the following, you’ll learn how easy it is to put together your own STEM kits that can be used over and over again to save money and spare yourself the hassle of constantly buying new kits.

DIY STEM Kits

There are basically three ways you can go about putting a STEM kit together for your kids to use at home:

  • Make a general-purpose kit.
  • Put together a new kit for each project.
  • Make a few different kits for various subject matters.

DIY General-Purpose STEM Kits

With this type of STEM kit, the idea is to gather a wide variety of supplies and materials that children can use in self-guided learning/play or that you can select from for guided, specific projects. 

First, you’ll need a large box or bin to store all of the supplies. Think big here (and sturdy enough to handle little ones climbing inside – because you know that’s inevitable). 

A large cardboard box could work temporarily, but as it is pulled out and used over and over, it will not hold up for very long. 

A better option is to find a large plastic bin, preferably with a lid, like this heavy-duty tote from Amazon.

It’s definitely strong enough to handle the occasional knocks and bangs and sturdy enough to hold up when your youngest kids transform it into a boat or rocket.

With a 20-gallon storage capacity, there’s plenty of room for all your educational supplies too.

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Now, let’s get that bin full of supplies that you’ll actually use one day.

A lot will depend on your children’s ages and interests, but there are plenty of basics that will be useful for a huge variety of STEM projects.

Obviously, some of the items on the following lists are geared for older children only.

Use your best judgment when filling your STEM bin, as no one knows your children and their capabilities better than you do.

Keep in mind that the older your children are, the more complex materials you’ll need.

Items such as electronic components, solar panels, and coding software can be difficult to piece together on your own, and you may find that purchased STEM kits are a better choice.

You’ll find some fantastic resources and examples of terrific kits in this article and discover how much you can expect to pay here.

Note: If you have very young children in the home, be sure that your supplies are stored in an inaccessible location when not in use and that you supervise at all times when the bin is available.

Basic Craft Items

  • Construction paper, scissors, glue, and tape
  • Pens, pencils, and markers
  • Notebooks
  • Ribbon, glitter, and string
  • Cardboard
  • Cotton balls

Basic Construction Items

  • Pipe cleaners and drinking straws
  • A variety of building blocks
  • Craft sticks 
  • Rubber bands, string, and/or rope
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Foam balls and/or blocks
  • Gumdrops and/or marshmallows and toothpicks
  • Paper clips and alligator clips
  • Simple tools, such as a small hammer, screwdriver, level, etc.
  • Nails, screw, and scrap wood

Basic Items for Experiments

  • Baking soda, salt, vinegar, and lemon juice
  • Dish soap
  • Food coloring
  • A variety of containers – yogurt cups, glass jars, egg cartons, plastic cups, etc.
  • Magnifying glass and/or microscope
  • Safety goggles, gloves, and aprons
  • Measuring spoons, measuring tape, rulers, calculator, and a kitchen scale
  • Tweezers, cotton swabs, and pipettes
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • A variety of magnets (this set is ideal!)
  • Bug nets, balloons, dice
  • Old household appliances – toaster, radio, VCR or DVD player, etc.
  • Insulated copper wire and batteries

DIY Specific-Project STEM Kits

Some parents prefer to put together STEM kits on an as-needed basis, particularly for heavily involved or stand-alone projects. 

You will want to have done your research in advance and have a clear plan in place for your child prior to piecing together the project kit.

That way, your child will know what is expected and have everything needed, and there will be no need to stop in the middle so you can run to the store for more gear.

Of course, DIY STEM kits such as this will vary tremendously based on the current project. My advice here is to plan ahead. 

  • Know what you want your child to learn while completing the project. 
  • Make a list of all the necessary supplies.
  • Check off each supply as you add it to the bin.
  • Have a clear set of instructions (if necessary) to guide your child as he or she works.

DIY Subject-Based STEM Kits

Another option is to have a different STEM kit for each of the subjects you cover routinely.

For instance, you might have one kit specifically for science experiments, one for construction/engineering lessons, and another for math-based projects.

This method is often ideal for those who thrive on organization.

Keep in mind that STEM projects are supposed to incorporate several key subjects, so you’ll likely find yourself pulling out several or all of your STEM kit bins for each project you plan for your child.

Just make sure that everything is put back into the right bin when the project is complete so you’ll always be ready and organized for the next lesson.

Ideas for DIY STEM Projects

Really, you’re only limited by your own creativity when it comes to designing STEM projects.

There are thousands of ways to incorporate learning within the STEM subjects into everyday activities and games.

Here are a few ideas to get your imagination up and running:

  • Create a small garden or window box and let your child participate in every step – mixing soil, planting seeds, recording daylight hours, tracking growth, watering, etc.
  • Turn an ordinary metal object into a magnet with copper wire and a battery (instructions here).
  • Have your child plan, shop for, and prepare a meal for the family.
  • Build a catapult and test its weight capacity, launch distance, etc.
  • Baking provides lots of opportunities for science and math.
  • Make a boat out of straws, rubber bands, and household items.
  • Build a bridge out of toothpicks and miniature marshmallows (or similar items).
  • Make magnetic slime (instructions here).
  • Mix oil and water in a container and provide different materials for your child to clean up the “oil spill.”
  • Create a cloud in a jar with water and hairspray (instructions here). 
  • Make bath bombs and experiment with ingredients.
  • Compare the weight of various items on a DIY scale made out of a coat hanger, string, and two cups.
  • Construct a potato battery (instructions here).
  • Challenge your child to come up with five ways to protect an egg when dropped from various heights.

Turn a STEM Project into a STEAM or STREAM Project – Easily

While most parents are familiar with the concept of STEM learning, many are unfamiliar with STEAM and STREAM approaches. 

I explain both in more detail in this article and show you some terrific kits for a variety of age groups. 

For now though, it will be enough for you to know that STEAM simply adds arts (think drawing, music, dance, painting, etc.) to a basic STEM kit and STREAM goes a step further and incorporates reading and communication skills as well.

So, turning a STEM project into a STEAM or STREAM lesson simply involves adding an additional element or two to an existing project.

For example, you could have your child create illustrated instructions for the project he/she just completed so that anyone could replicate the lesson with ease.

There – arts and communication done! It really is that easy!

Last update on 2021-05-18 at 01:48 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API