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Introducing STEM to Toddlers – Top Tips

Fennies Graduate, Danielle, explores introducing STEM to toddlers.

Two young children wear white lab coats and safety goggles while conducting a science experiment. They are focused on their task, holding various tools and containers filled with colorful liquids. The background features shelves with scientific equipment and bright classroom decor.

What is STEM? 

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

Introducing STEM concepts to toddlers can provide immense benefits for their overall development and learning. The early years are a critical period for brain development. Toddlers are naturally curious and inquisitive about the world around them, they are natural scientists. At that age they are starting to ask more questions about the world around them through speech, investigating and exploring new experiences etc.

Capitalising on this curiosity through purposeful STEM activities can nurture a lifelong love of discovery and problem solving.

Experts recommend integrating STEM into everyday play and routines. Simple activities using household materials allow toddlers to explore foundational concepts in science, maths, and engineering. Measuring ingredients for play dough or building towers with blocks introduces STEM in a fun, hands-on way.

How does STEM promote vital skill development and support the 7 areas of learning?

STEM promotes essential skill development across the 7 areas of learning. In terms of Personal, Social, and Emotional growth, it encourages turn-taking, social interactions, and environmental exploration. Communication and Language skills are enhanced as children pay attention to their chosen activities, understand sentences, and express themselves using diverse vocabulary. Physical development through sensory experiences, hand-eye coordination, and independent hand movements. 

STEM also contributes to Literacy by encouraging mark-making and material exploration, while mathematical concepts are reinforced through spatial awareness, counting, and structural creation. Understanding the World is enriched as children explore objects and their varied uses, while Expressive Arts and Design flourish through experimentation with different media and imaginative representation. Through activities like pouring, scooping, stacking, and experimentation, toddlers refine both their cognitive and motor abilities, laying a strong foundation for future learning and development.

How to introduce STEM activities 

The best part about STEM activities is that they can happen in all areas of a setting at any time of the day! STEM learning happens naturally through a toddler’s everyday play and interactions. As practitioners, we can look for opportunities to introduce STEM concepts during routine activities.

Another great wait to expand STEM play is by adding a  sensory element as toddlers use their senses to try and understand the world around them.

  • Mealtimes: Comparing amounts, sizes, weights, textures. Counting pieces, sorting utensils. Predicting if a cup will fill or overflow.


  • Getting dressed: Noticing textures and materials. Working closures like buttons, zippers, snaps.


  • Outside play: Observing weather, seasons, plants, animals. Investigating textures like grass, dirt, leaves. Experimenting with ramps, balls, bubbles.

Introducing STEM during the toddler years through informal, play-based activities provides a wealth of developmental benefits. Nurturing curiosity and exploration builds a life-long love of learning and discovery.

Two young children play with water. One child, wearing a striped shirt, yellow pants, and a hat, pours water from a pan into a container. The other child, in a red shirt and blue shorts, watches and helps by holding the container steady. They are outdoors.

Bring the learning home! 

Now we know what Toddlers like to do, how can you create opportunities within your setting and at home? 

Activity 1:  Tea Set/Water Pouring

Resources: cups of different sizes, jugs, towel, paint to colour the water, spoons, bowls, measuring jugs

Step 1: Lay the towel over table to help with spillages, set up cups, jugs, bowls and spoons on the towel, (make sure the amount you have out is manageable).

Step 2: Bring over jug with warm water and start to half fill the jugs on the table (can add the paint to the water before filling up the jugs if want to explore colour mixing)

Step 3: Demonstrate to the children how to hold the jug when pouring.

Step 4: Support the children when they are pouring, be encouraging, doesn’t matter if they spill.


  • The more jugs you have out the less manageable the activity will be.
  • If a large group of children want to participate, look at having another member of staff to support you.
  • Be mindful of how much water is in the jugs, so the children can lift them easily. 

Why is this great for Toddlers? Toddlers love role play experiences that they have in everyday life, water play is a great sensory experience, meaning this activity is just perfect.

A toddler wearing a navy blue sweater and jeans stands next to a wooden water spout, touching the flowing water with one hand. The background features a green metal fence and a paved surface with colorful bricks.

Activity 2:  Spaghetti cutting

 Resources: cooked spaghetti, tuff tray, play dough scissors (are plastic).

Step 1: Fill the tuff tray with the cooked spaghetti

Step 2: Demonstrate to the children how to use the scissors (they may use both hands at first to work them).

Step 3: Allow them some time to use both hands, before encouraging them to use one hand when cutting.


  • Maybe limit the activity to 3 or 4 children at a time, maybe less if scissors are a new experience.
  • Think about the language you can use e.g., big, small, soft.

Why is this great for Toddlers? Toddlers love messy play activities, as well as learning and developing new skills that offer a challenge. Messy play also provides open-ended opportunities for toddlers to problem solve. For example, how can they transport water or sand from one container to another? What happens when they mix two textures together? Can they build a tower with glue and sticks that doesn’t fall down? 

Activity 3: Cup Building

Resources: plastic or paper cups, lolly sticks, pegs, tape.

Step 1: Lay the resources out on the floor space.

Step 2: Demonstrate to the children how they can use the resources to build.

Step 3: Allow the children to build and create themselves, support them when ask, encourage them to try first. 


  • If lolly sticks or pegs break, put them in the bin.
  • Where can their creations be placed to show off what they have made.

 Why is this great for Toddlers? Toddlers love being creative and building, and enjoy using different materials for this, as this supports their imagination, and they start to develop their problem solving skills.

A group of children gather around a rectangular tray filled with blue liquid. They are sitting on the floor, observing a seated adult demonstrating an activity with wooden blocks. A basket of blocks and a toy dinosaur are nearby.

Activity 4: Playdough station

Resources: mixing bowls, large and small spoons, flour, oil, jugs, paint, herb plants, spices, recipe cards.

 Step 1: Using the recipe card with pictures helps the children follow what needs to go in next/ lay out in the ingredients in the order they need to go in.

Step 2: Allow the children to help make the play dough by adding in the ingredients and mixing them together. Allow them the choice of colour and smell.

Step 3: Encourage them to use what materials to use with the play dough.


  • Look at the language that can be used e.g., big, small, more, less.
  • Be mindful of any allergies or intolerances e.g., gluten free 

Why is this great for Toddlers? Toddlers love being helpful and being given responsibilities and being asked what type of play dough they would like to play with.


Fennies Graduate

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