Three Fun STEM Activities to Get Infants & Toddlers Learning Fast

Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. It is the job of parents and caregivers to facilitate this curiosity with engaging activities that promote learning. During the infant (birth to 12 months) and toddler (12 months to 36 months) stages, children experience developmental growth cognitively, physically, and emotionally. A great way to enrich these areas of growth is through STEM activities.

STEM represents four areas of learning: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Science represents a way of thinking, technology represents using tools, engineering represents problem-solving and math represents measurements. STEM is learned through hands-on experience and children’s active use and collaboration of all senses.

Below are sample STEM activities that you can do with your infant or toddler to help enhance the developmental changes that are already occurring.

Activity for 0-12-month-old

Rolling Ramp (Science, Technology, Math)

Materials Needed:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • various objects of different shapes and sizes.

Setup: Cut open one cardboard box to create a long open box. Tape or glue this box to the top of another to create a ramp. Roll objects down the ramp and discuss how each shape rolls.

What is being learned?

Simple concepts such as force and motion. Help your child understand how an object needs force to be put into motion. Also, discuss how different forces produce different speeds.

Ideas to expand learning

  • If objects begin to roll off the ramp, challenge your child to find ways to keep the objects from rolling off.
  • Try experimenting with rolling the objects from different angles.
  • Try rolling the objects at different speeds and discuss how this changes the way the object rolls.
  • Since different shapes will roll differently discuss which shapes are “easier” to roll.

Activity for 24-month-old

Sink or Float? (Science, Technology)

 This activity can be done in a sink or bathtub.

Materials Needed:

  • Plastic tub
  • Water
  • various objects of different shapes, sizes and weights (Legos, coins, stones),
  • paper
  • pencil

Setup: Fill a plastic container with about 1-2 gallons of water. Place different objects in the water. Record on paper what happens to the objects when placed in water. Discuss the findings with your child.

What is being learned?

A basic understanding of density and buoyancy, simply put, that some objects “weigh” more than water and some weigh less.

Ideas to expand learning

  • Discuss with your child why he or she thinks some objects float while other objects sink.

*Before starting, write down predictions for each object and then compare those predictions with the results after the activity.


Activity for 36-month-old

Nature Scavenger Hunt (Science)

Materials Needed: paper, pencil, basket/plastic bag, plastic container (for bugs) lots of open space

Setup: Parent creates a list of (bugs, leaves, items) that can be found in nature. The child accompanied by a parent will search for these items and check off when each item is found. When an item/insect is found place them in a basket/plastic bag.

What is being learned?

Using the senses to explore items commonly found in nature. Describe the texture, smell, and look of items and insects. Understanding things that can be found in nature.

 Ideas to expand learning

  • What insects or items are found during certain seasons and not others?
  • Discuss why leaves change colors and why they fall off trees.
  • Discuss the flower cycle.
  • Compare and contrast items found.

STEM is important in helping to foster early developmental processes. Typically developing children naturally ask questions about life’s most common phenomena. STEM is a great way to use thinking, tools, problem-solving, and measurements to help them understand their world. Parents and caregivers can easily incorporate simple STEM activities to continue to engage infants and toddlers in exploring the natural world.