Holidays give me a reason to find some fun new activities to do with my toddlers, and Valentine’s Day is no exception!
Instead of focusing on arts and crafts, I decided to branch out and find some educational STEM activities that are more open-ended. I read a recent Facebook post about the overuse (and misuse) of toddler crafts from Cuddlebug Kids, and it really hit home.
Here is my favorite takeaway from their post:
- Craft Misuse: You’re doing more work than the child.
- Craft Misuse: You’re rearranging/ “fixing” their work.
- Craft Misuse: Calling crafts “art,” and primarily offering these experiences over child-led, developmentally appropriate experiences.
So, instead of forcing my 3-year-old to recreate a perfect Valentine’s Day handprint flower, I’m embracing more open-ended activities that allow her to explore and reach whatever end result she’s interested in.
It’s less stressful and helps my kiddos do more independently.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. You’ll also sometimes see STEAM, which is the same thing with art added in.
STEM also generally refers to a way of doing things that involves asking questions, exploring, and problem-solving. A whitepaper from Too Small to Fail explains that with young children, we can focus on STEM through:
- Building curiosity about the natural world and the way things work
Real-life skills kids can develop when learning STEM helps make them better learners and problem-solvers.
STEM concepts include measurement, counting, shapes, spatial relations, patterns, engineering skills, observation and predictions, and technology.
All of the Valentine’s Day-themed activities on this list involve STEM concepts, and most of them are super simple to prepare. I hope you love them!
1. Jelly Heart and Toothpick Towers
Practice engineering skills by making towers and structures with jelly hearts and toothpicks!
I love this idea from The Simple Homeschooler blog because your kids can use their imagination to take it in any direction.
It’s completely open-ended, and all you need to supply is a bag of candy jelly hearts and some toothpicks.
There are some great extension activities included in the full article, such as:
- Who can build the tallest structure?
- Give a time limit to see who can build the tallest structure.
- Limit the supplies to see how creative your child can get with a small number of toothpicks or candies.
- Include a weight-bearing component with a white sheet of paper on top of the finished structure. See how many gummies the finished structure can hold!
We tried to do this activity using marshmallows and pretzel sticks, which didn’t work out perfectly. The pretzels kept snapping, so my kids ended up just using them to stab a marshmallow and eat it. 🙂
So definitely use toothpicks and try to snag those jelly hearts if you see them!
2. Heart-Shaped Patterns with Pattern Blocks
If you have any of those wooden pattern block toys, you can use the shapes to create a heart.
And if you don’t, I highly recommend getting one! We love these pattern block sets. This one from Melissa & Doug (available on Amazon) is amazing. My sister gifted this to my daughter for Christmas and it is definitely a favorite!!
See if your toddler can come up with a heart shape on their own. There are surely dozens of ways to put the shapes together to form a heart, and exploring that is half the fun!
Alternatively, you can use this photo from The Kindergarten Connection as a reference and see if your toddler can mirror the pattern.
My daughter and I did this together, but I didn’t snap any photos. It’s actually a challenge as an adult trying to come up with different ways to form a heart. We had a lot of fun together!
3. Valentine’s Day Flubber Project
This DIY flubber project from KiwiCo is a fun way to bring science and math into playtime.
You will need borax to make the flubber, but you probably have everything else on hand (warm water, white glue, food coloring).
Sidenote: you can use your leftover borax to make homemade laundry detergent! I’ve done this and it was a fantastic way to cut costs.
My 3.5-year-old loves helping me in the kitchen, and a simple “recipe” like this one is a great way to include her. You can talk about the measurements and introduce STEM language words like more, less, bigger, and smaller.
And what toddler doesn’t love pouring and mixing?
Dye your flubber pink and use heart-shaped cut-outs to make this fun STEM activity Valentine’s Day themed.
Store it in an air-tight container when you’re done stretching and playing!
4. Valentine’s Day Coding Bracelets
A fun way to introduce technology to your kids is through this Valentine’s Day coding activity.
Note: Kids as young as age 7 can start coding and learning programming basics. This activity may be too challenging for a toddler, but there are ways to simplify it and use components from the project to make it work for your little one! Practice patterns and introduce the concept of a color representing a number: “red stands for 1 and white stands for 0.”
And for as young as age 2, just give them a pipe cleaner and some beads and let them explore and have fun!
To do this coding project, all you need is pipe cleaners, pony beads, and the 8-bit binary alphabet.
Pick a color to represent 1 and another to represent 0. Then, your kids can choose a simple word or phrase like “Love” or “XOXO.”
Finally, reference the 8-bit binary alphabet to “spell” your word using code!
As an example, here’s the word “Love” in code:
- L: 01001100
- O: 01001111
- V: 01010110
- E: 01000101
If you assigned the color red to 1 and the color white to 0, then your bracelet would look like this (with pink beads between each letter):
5. Valentine’s Day Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Chocolate-covered pretzels are a delicious way to involve your toddlers in the kitchen. There’s no baking required – just melt your chocolate and have fun decorating the pretzels!
I recommend getting melting chocolate (sold at most grocery stores) and adding the Valentine’s Day components with sprinkles.
Recipe from Love from the Oven
Helping in the kitchen is a great way to develop STEM skills. Believe it or not, elements of math, science, and technology are found in even the simplest of recipes.
This handout from Truce Teachers explains more about STEM in cooking, but some concepts you can work on with this particular recipe include:
- Measuring instruments: use measuring cups and talk about fractions
- Sequencing: follow the order of instructions in the recipe
- Adding: combine ingredients to see addition principles in action
- Physical science: watch the chocolate go from solid to liquid when heat is applied
- Scientific method: kids use skills like observing and hypothesizing while cooking (what will happen when I dip this pretzel in the chocolate?)
- Simple machines: when you microwave or melt your chocolate over a double-boiler (or the Instant Pot), show your child how the machine works to be exposed to technology
You may not have realized it, but cooking is a fantastic way to help your kiddos develop STEM skills at home!
6. Dissolving Candy Hearts Science Experiment
A fun science project from Little Bins for Little Hands involves a bag of candy hearts, vials, and whatever liquids you can find around the house.
You can even do this experiment with water at different temperatures. Will hot or cold water dissolve the candy heart faster?
This test tube set makes these kinds of experiments a lot easier, but you can use whatever you have around the house.
7. Make Pipe Cleaner Hearts
A really simple Valentine’s Day themed activity for toddlers is forming pipe cleaner hearts. All you need is pipe cleaners, and you can model how to form them into a heart by shaping and twisting.
This activity combines engineering skills with fine motor practice, making for a great STEM activity that’s not too complicated to set up!
8. Stacking Hearts Challenge
Another very simple STEM activity, perfect for Valentine’s Day, is stacking candy hearts. Literally, all you need is a bag of candy hearts. If you have a ruler around, you can incorporate that, too.
Toddlers love to stack, and you can incorporate so many STEM concepts as they do it!
- How many centimeters or inches tall is the candy heart tower?
- Which of the two towers is taller? Which one is shorter?
- Can you count how many hearts are in this stack?
You can also introduce patterns – green, white, purple, green, white, purple – and you can watch your child as they experiment with different stacking options. Engineering at its finest!
9. Color Changing Flowers
I don’t know about you, but my kids are obsessed with flowers! My daughter will pick all the dandelions from our yard in the spring and bring me bouquets, and one of my son’s favorite toys is the Lovevery felt flower set.
If you can pick up a bouquet of white flowers, set up a weeklong color-changing experiment for your kiddos!
Primrose Schools has some easy instructions on their website. Just split the flower stems down the middle. Then, fill cups with water and add food coloring. Place the flowers in the dyed water and have your little ones observe the changes over the next few days.
They can predict what they think will happen and enjoy watching the changes.
10. Strawberry Brownie Kabobs
I couldn’t help myself – I had to include one more recipe! Helping in the kitchen is SO fun for toddlers, and there are a lot of lessons to learn about science, technology, and math.
These strawberry brownie kabobs are simple as can be, and you can make the brownies ahead of time so your little ones can be a part of the easy assembly process. I know that for my kids, their favorite part would definitely be cutting the stems off the strawberries with some kid-safe kitchen knives.
You can practice making patterns on the kabobs, they can watch a solid (chocolate) turn into a liquid when heat is applied, and you can introduce lots of counting and comparison vocabulary. Which strawberry is bigger? How many marshmallows are on this kabob?
BONUS: DIY Fine Motor Pouch Caps Activity
OK, I HAD to include this activity, which was shared in a Montessori group I’m in on Facebook. The original poster, Kyra D., gave me permission to share her DIY activity, which repurposes the caps from those baby food pouches!
If your child is obsessed with screwing the caps back onto their pouches, this is the perfect DIY project for you.
Here’s what you need:
- Heart-shaped wooden board (Kyra found hers in the Walmart craft section, but here is an Amazon link if you need it)
- Hot glue gun
- Caps from baby food pouches (Plum Organics was always our favorite – here is red, green, blue, and here is yellow, orange, purple!)
All you have to do is cut off the caps, hot glue them to your heart-shaped wooden board, and let it dry overnight.
Your toddler will have a blast screwing and unscrewing the tops, and you can also introduce tons of STEM concepts, including counting and technology (how does this thing work?).
Thank you for this innovative idea, Kyra!!
You don’t have to do Instagram-worthy holiday activities with your toddlers – especially if it’s going to stress you out. Just have fun!
I hope this selection of 10 STEM activities inspires you to get out some simple supplies and try something new this Valentine’s Day.
Whether it’s stacking candy hearts or making towers out of jelly hearts and toothpicks, there’s something here that you can 100% accomplish with no sweat or tears.
Have a fantastic Valentine’s Day!