Discovery Building Sets contains affiliate links and is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase using one of these Amazon or other links, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. See our Disclosure Policy for more information.

Easy STEM Activities: Quick & Exciting Engineering For Toddlers

STEM activities, STEM Preschool, and STEM toys for toddlers are the trendy topics of today. And for a good reason! Yes, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects are the way of the future.

When you hear the word STEM, you might think about expensive high-tech toys or STEM kits. Today, we will look at STEM activities for toddlers that use simple items found around the house or at a local discount store.

No need to wait until grade school; you can introduce STEM activities for toddlers now. Remember that these easy STEM activities will not resemble the complicated science experiments you remember from school. The principles will be the same, but we keep things easy, simple, and fun with readily available materials.

Before we get started, for clarification, when using the term “toddler,” we refer to children ages 2-3 years old.

stem activities-engineering for toddlers-toddler girl building a tower with wooden square blocks
Introduce Exciting Stem Activities For Toddlers

STEM Play For Toddlers

At this stage, STEM activities for toddlers are all about curiosity and play. Give your toddler the freedom to explore their surroundings, see how things work, and investigate cause and effect.

You will see a lot of observation, questioning, experimenting, analyzing, concluding, and sharing. Remember, toddlers learn best through exploratory play and hands-on experiences!

Play is vital to your toddler’s learning and development. Fortunately, toddlers come by it naturally and are drawn to STEM activities because they are curious! You might not have thought of play as part of the STEM-based learning process, but it is crucial.

The best way to support STEM learning is through play and by making available materials, tools, and resources. For example:

  • Keep open-ended supplies on hand that may be used in multiple ways, like building sets and materials. Building teaches toddlers various concepts and skills, all while they play and create.
  • Select resources and materials that encourage creativity and play while helping toddlers understand STEM ideas.
  • Encourage their play and curiosity through open-ended questions. Ask “Why?” and “What?” to start them thinking about building and playing in exciting new ways.

Incorporating quick STEM activities into your toddler’s routine is quite simple. Let them be inquisitive, and most importantly…Let Them Play!

What Are STEM Activities For Toddlers?

STEM projects for toddlers support the concept that science, technology, engineering, and math work together to help them become innovators, creative problem solvers, and critical thinkers!

In other words, a toddler STEM activity is simple and structured but open-ended, allowing your toddler to explore instinctively and curiously, which is essential to their growth and development.

Furthermore, they learn to use their thinking skills to increase logic and creativity while boosting their fine and gross motor development.

The best part about STEM activities is that they focus on the process rather than the results. STEM projects for toddlers work by incorporating STEM thinking into their daily activities.

stem activities for toddlers-magnetic blocks 3 toddler girls building with magnetic blocks
STEM Activities For Toddlers With Magnetic Blocks

For example, your toddler might:

  • Experiment with various materials.
  • Explore with their senses, such as taste, touch, and smell.
  • Investigate the basics of geometry and physics, including motion, gravity, and balance.
  • Measure, weigh, and count as part of their exploration.
  • Physically manipulate, connect, and shape objects to see how things work together.
  • Test cause and effect.
  • Utilize tools like a magnifying glass to investigate their surroundings.
  • Use STEM building materials to create something new.

The following STEM activities for 2-3 year olds can be easily adapted to your toddler’s skill level. Use them to encourage STEM thinking and inspire your own STEM ideas.

Since toddlers’ development is as individual as their personalities, your child may or may not be ready for the more challenging STEM activities. Start with the simplest STEM challenges, and slowly increase the difficulty when your toddler is prepared for more complicated STEM activities and projects.

How To Support Successful STEM Activities for Toddlers

Like any toddler project or activity, you want your STEM activities to be successful. Your parental role is to support this exploration that leads to curiosity and discovery.

To facilitate STEM activities for toddlers and STEM learning:

  • Engage with your child.
  • Explore with them.
  • Foster investigation using their senses.
  • Encourage adventure and discovery.
  • Connect past experiences with recent experiences.
  • Create opportunities to seek and question.
  • Supply materials for organic learning.
  • Provide a welcoming and safe play environment.

Additional tips for handling expectations, reducing frustration, and boosting your STEM activities experience.

  1. Foresee that errors and messes will happen.
  2. Be sure to have all materials on hand and ready.
  3. Be flexible, but know in advance how to perform the activity.
  4. Before bringing out the hands-on supplies, describe the STEM concept.
  5. Go step by step, introducing the materials one at a time.

Engineering Activities For Toddlers

Engineering for toddlers is all about solving real-world problems using math and science. In other words, it is viewing things in creative ways to foster problem-solving. Therefore, quick engineering activities are some of the most comprehensive, hands-on STEM activities your toddler can enjoy.

Engineering STEM activities are about exploring, designing, creating, and building. Toddlers love to build, especially something BIG! They naturally want to figure out how things work, which introduces creative thinking and problem-solving.

These STEM building and engineering STEM activities will thrill your toddler.

STEM Building Sets & Materials For Toddlers

What makes building structures a fantastic STEM play activity? STEM building activities introduce basic math, science, and engineering skills that require your toddler to focus on design. They must think about a solid base, what type of blocks to use, and how many. These are all essential elements of STEM!

Explore these building materials that inspire STEM-building activities.

  • Cardboard Boxes (Variety of sizes)
  • Cardboard Tubes (All sizes)
  • Giant Building Blocks
  • Gift Boxes
  • Magnetic Blocks
  • Marshmallows (All sizes)
  • Plastic Cups (All types and sizes)
  • Playdough
  • Pool Noodles
  • PVC Pipe Pieces & Connectors
  • Seasonal Candy (A great time to stock up is after the season clearance)
  • Skewers (Wooden)
  • Snap Together Blocks For Toddlers
  • Spaghetti (Dry)
  • Sponges (Cut into different shapes and sizes)
  • Straws (All types and sizes)
  • Toothpicks (Plain or colored)
  • Wooden Building Blocks

STEM Building Activities With Blocks For Toddlers

Block play is a natural STEM activity, and block activities let toddlers experiment with science and engineering. They learn about balance, stability, and gravity with every tower or structure they build.

Furthermore, they hone their engineering skills with each design and creation. STEM activities with blocks can be as simple or complicated as you want; remember to keep them fun and led by the child and their interests.

stem building activities-blocks for toddlers-toddler boy building with building blocks for toddlers
STEM Building Activities With Blocks For Toddlers

Easy ways to engage your toddler in block play:

  • Ask them, “What would they like to build?”
  • What kind of blocks do they want to use?
  • Help them gather the blocks.
  • Build with your child, letting them lead the way.

play icon symbol Shape And Color Match

This is a quick STEM activity that requires two identical sets of blocks. Start small and add more blocks as your toddlers’ skills develop. You are going to have them match up all the pairs of blocks.

Be sure to demonstrate how some may be the same shape or color, but the pairs must exactly match the shape and color.

play icon symbol Match By Color And Count

An easy STEM challenge that introduces math and color recognition. You have your toddler match all the blocks by color only. Then, count the number of blocks for each color. Explore more color activities for toddlers.

play icon symbol Largest To Smallest

Your toddler will work on size contrast and fine motor skills in this activity. Challenge your toddler to build a tower, beginning with the largest blocks and ending with the smallest blocks. In this activity, we are focused on size, NOT color.

play icon symbol Build A Tower

This activity’s goal is for your toddler to try to build a tower as tall as they are. Use some of the previous activities, like the largest to smallest, to help give them a jump start.

play icon symbol Engineering Challenge

Again, you will need two identical sets of blocks. First, you create something and then let your child recreate it. Start simple and show your toddler how to complete the challenge the first time through.

play icon symbol STEM Blocks For Toddlers

For this quick STEM activity, you need just two simple supplies: a basket of blocks and some painter’s tape. Create a rectangle or square on the floor. The goal is to have your toddler fill the space, covering the floor with the blocks without going outside the tape.

play icon symbol Independent Build

Invite your budding engineer to the benefits of block play. Studies suggest that constructive play or playing with blocks builds spatial awareness and creative problem-solving.

constructive play- stem building activities-toddler playing the sand with their dump truck and shovel

Edible Engineering Activities

Let the fun toddler engineering activities begin. Building and engineering activities are fantastic for STEM and hands-on STEM projects. But what could be better than an edible structure?

Your toddler can build towers, sculptures, and geometric shapes while designing, testing, and problem-solving. When finished, they can enjoy the “fruits” of their labor one piece at a time.

What a great way to start snack time!

STEM Food Activities

Who says we can’t play with our food? How exciting to gather up a few edible materials and enjoy some STEM activities with food. Your toddler can build structures, steeples, columns, and bridges using these hands-on STEM activities.

Due to the variety of building materials, your child can experiment with what shapes and pieces make the sturdiest base and design. Expand the STEM play by adding Popsicle sticks or paper. The possibilities are endless!

play icon symbol Toothpick Marshmallow Tower

You will need a box of toothpicks, a bag of marshmallows (regular or mini), and a flat surface; trays work nicely for this toothpick and marshmallow tower. We recommend starting with a limited amount of toothpicks and marshmallows to avoid overwhelming your toddler. Then, add more if you see they are really engaged.

Before you begin this marshmallow toothpick tower challenge, you might talk about building a tower. “How high should we make it?” “What does it need to help it stand tall?” Then, let your toddler jump in and get hands-on experience, which is how they learn best.

Start the marshmallow STEM challenge with the base. Encourage your toddler to build simple shapes like triangles and squares. Picking up the marshmallows and sticking the toothpicks into them is also great for fine motor development.

Once they have built together a few shapes, you can work on connecting them to create a more expansive, stable base. Now comes the fun part: up you go!

Have your toddler work on building up as tall as they possibly can. Be prepared for some trial and error. They may have to design and redesign, all of which is why this is a STEM activity. In the end, measure the height, maybe take a picture, and enjoy a tasty marshmallow snack.

play icon symbol Gumdrop Toothpick Tower

Here is one of many variations on the toothpick marshmallow tower. Replace the marshmallows with gumdrops or any seasonal candy and build away, encouraging their creative thinking skills.

You might also try these other candy STEM projects. You can replace the gumdrops with any other seasonal candy. Here are just a few ideas.

stem activities-edible engineering activities-candy stem project-bucket gummy candies
Other Candy STEM Projects
  • Valentine’s – Gummy Hearts
  • Easter – Jelly Beans
  • Halloween – Pumpkin Candies or Candy Corn
stem activities-stem food activities-cranberries for thanksgiving
Cranberries At Thanksgiving For Toothpick Towers

Want a healthier version? How about?

  • Grapes
  • Apple Pieces and Cheese
  • Cranberries at Thanksgiving

play icon symbol Apple STEM Activity

How many apples can your toddler stack? This activity can be exciting. Have them try stacking as many apples as possible before they fall—test stacking one on top of the other. Explore building a more significant base with multiple apples before building up.

Once they have completed the activity, cut up the apples for a snack or make applesauce. After all the testing and retesting, the apples will be quite bruised.

play icon symbol A S’Mores STEM Tower Challenge

Build a tower using graham crackers, regular marshmallows, and chocolate pieces. Give them a set number of materials and see how tall a tower they can create. You can use a time element to make it more complicated if you also have older kids. For example, in 10 minutes, build the tallest tower possible.

edible engineering activities-stem tower challenge-graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate bars
S’Mores STEM Tower Challenge Materials

When finished, roast them over a campfire, or wrap them in foil and melt them in the oven for a fun treat!

play icon symbol Conversation Tower

Use a bag of large Valentine’s conversation hearts to build a tower. You can incorporate estimation, for example, “How many hearts do you think you (we) can stack?” Or add sorting, counting, and patterning activities.

stem food activities-edible engineering activities-valentine conversation hearts for fun stem activities
Fun STEM Activities With Valentine’s Conversation Hearts

Other ideas to explore when building a tall, sturdy tower are, “Does it work better if the hearts are all lined up or twisting in different directions?” “What if we build two towers next to each other? Can we make it taller?” It’s so easy but so much fun! Let them use their imagination and creativity.

STEM Activities With Household Items

We have pulled together some fun STEM activities for toddlers that use everyday household items or can be purchased inexpensively at your local discount store. These STEM activities for toddlers are special because they open up a whole new way to use ordinary materials.

play icon symbol STEM Spaghetti Tower

What about replacing the toothpicks in previous challenges with dry spaghetti? This adaptation will require a more delicate touch as spaghetti easily breaks.

Here is the spaghetti tower STEM challenge: In 15 minutes, build the tallest tower possible.

You might begin this activity with a spaghetti strength test. First, have your toddler test the spaghetti’s strength by breaking it, starting with one piece and adding 10 additional pieces each time to the bundle until they can no longer break it with their hands.

Great for investigating and discussing “stronger together” like the strands of a rope.

play icon symbol Cup Tower STEM Challenge

This is a low-prep STEM challenge that produces a quick STEM activity. All you need is one to two bags of cups. They can be paper or plastic; using a small shot glass size or drinking cup size works best. This activity can be a timed cup stacking STEM challenge or NOT.

stem cup challenge-cup stacking stem challenge-tower of colorful stacked cups
Cup Stacking STEM Challenge

Try one or more of these quick toddler engineering challenges, depending on your toddler’s skill level.

  • Cup Tower Challenge 1: Who can stack the tallest cup tower?
  • Cup Tower STEM Challenge 2: Can you build a tower as tall as (X)? Let your toddler decide what X equals, for example, as tall as the couch, door, or your toddler.
  • Cup Tower Activity STEM Challenge 3: Who can build the tallest (X) cup tower? You determine the number for X based on the number of cups you have.

Optional: Index Card STEM Challenge: Add playing cards, index cards, card stock, cardboard pieces, or Popsicle sticks between stacking cups to make a stable base that disperses the weight of the cups. Can you build an even taller tower with this extra support?

play icon symbol Boat Float STEM Challenge

This simple boat-building activity is a blast.

You will need:

  • A container of water to act as a lake or sea.
  • Each boat will require a 6″ x 6″ square piece of foil.
  • Have a pile of pennies available for testing.

Ask your toddler to shape the foil into a boat. Now, test to see if the boat floats on the water.

To add dimension to the activity, you can add pennies to the boat one at a time.

  • “How many pennies will the boat hold before it sinks?”
  • “Does the shape of the boat’s bottom make a difference?” For example, if they made a wide or narrow bottom boat.

To further STEM-based learning, try two water containers, one with tap water and one with salt water.

  • “Does the type of water matter with regards to floating and sinking?”
  • “Which container of water and boat holds the most pennies?”

Playdough STEM Activities

Building with playdough is loads of fun and offers many benefits, from fine motor development to encouraging easy STEM toddler activities. 

Playdough is simple to make and inspires exploration, building, creativity, discovery, and imaginative play. Look at these STEM activities with playdough.

playdough stem activities-stem activities for toddlers-toddler at table with 6 piles of rainbow colored playdough
Roll The Playdough Into Balls And Build A Playdough Tower

play icon symbol Playdough Towers

STEM playdough projects are fun, versatile, and easy to set up. All you need is some playdough and one or more of the following building materials. Use the list below as inspiration and encourage open-ended play, letting your toddler take their building to new heights.

  • Wooden Skewers
  • Toothpicks
  • Dry Spaghetti
  • Popsicle Or Craft Sticks
  • Wooden Beads
  • Small Wooden Blocks
  • Straws (Paper and plastic. Long and short. With and without flexible bends.)

Inspire your toddler to create a tower, bridge, or other 2-D or 3-D structure by using playdough as the “glue” to hold the building materials together.

They could also forgo the optional materials and use the playdough to build a tower.

  • Roll it into balls and pile them as high as they can.
  • Create cubes and stack them.
  • Roll it out into one long piece and coil it.

Encourage your toddler to test, observe, and retest various methods and materials to find the best options.

STEM Building Activities With Pool Noodles

Pool noodles are so readily available, reusable, versatile, and inexpensive. The following STEM activities will require you to prepare the pool noodles beforehand.

For these cool STEM projects:

  • Pick up a few pool noodles in various colors, if possible.
  • Slice the pool noodles into discs with a long serrated knife, like a bread knife.
    • You can either cut them in varying widths or all the same width. We prefer a variety of sizes to maximize fun and STEM-based learning.
    • Cut some discs in half for added appeal, creating semi-circle shapes. These make fantastic roofs!
stem building activities-toothpick tower challenge-stem tower challenge-pile of pool noodles in a variety of colors prior to cutting into stem building blocks
Pool Noodles For The Toothpick Tower Challenge.

Ready? Set? Let’s Build!

play icon symbol Pool Noodles & Toothpick Tower Challenge

This STEM tower challenge is simple to set up once you have cut all the pool noodles. Grab a box of toothpicks and your cut pool noodles, then let your toddler get building.

Challenge them to build the tallest tower or the largest (not necessarily tall.) Encourage them to use their imagination and creativity. What about using all the materials available or making it a timed challenge?

No matter what, let your toddler play and have fun!

play icon symbol STEM Tower Challenge With Pool Noodles & Shaving Cream

Toddlers love this messy but “clean” STEM building activity.

For this fun engineering project, you will need:

  • STEM building blocks (cut-up pool noodles.)
  • Tray for building (optional but nice to have for stability and to contain the mess.)
  • A bowl of shaving cream.
  • Spreader (paintbrush, plastic spoon, or knife.)

The challenge is to build with the STEM building blocks, using shaving cream as mortar between the blocks.

Your toddler will use the spreading tools (which develops fine motor skills) to “glue” the blocks together, building towers, structures, bridges, or whatever their imaginations create!

During this time, you can ask your toddler, “Does shaving cream make a good mortar for your blocks?” “What else might we use to hold the blocks together?”

wooden building blocks for toddlers-stack of blocks and packaging
Wooden Building Blocks For Toddlers

Whether your goal is to spend time with your toddler playing and having fun, these playful STEM activities for toddlers will enhance their imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Want to expand your STEM activities further? Check out these playing with magnets toddler STEM activities.

Why not grab a set of wooden building blocks for toddlers and enjoy some fun engineering activities?

STEM Activities For Toddlers FAQs

What is STEM for kids?

STEM for kids involves educational programs and activities that introduce science, technology, engineering, and math concepts in a fun and interactive way.

What does STEM stand for in education?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, emphasizing an integrated approach to teaching these subjects.

Why is early STEM education important?

Early STEM education lays the foundation for critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration skills, fostering a love for learning for future academic success.

What are STEM activities?

STEM activities involve hands-on projects and experiments that engage children in science, technology, engineering, and math and promote inquiry-based learning and creativity.

Are STEM activities suitable for all toddlers?

STEM activities are not one-size-fits-all. The right approach and materials can be adapted to suit different interests and developmental levels, making them suitable for all toddlers.

Can STEM activities be done outdoors?

Yes, outdoor STEM activities include exploring nature, observing animals, gardening, and simple experiments like sinking and floating objects in water.

What are engineering activities?

Engineering activities for toddlers involve building, designing, and problem-solving, such as constructing towers with blocks or creating simple machines with everyday materials.

What is STEM learning for toddlers?

STEM learning for toddlers focuses on introducing science, technology, engineering, and math concepts through play and exploration, fostering curiosity and critical thinking from an early age.

How can I introduce STEM to my toddler?

Introduce STEM to your toddler through simple activities like counting objects, exploring nature, building with blocks, and asking open-ended questions to spark curiosity.

What are STEM toys?

STEM toys are educational playthings that expose kids to science, technology, engineering, and math concepts through interactive and engaging activities, such as building kits and coding games.

Are LEGOs STEM toys?

Yes, LEGOs can be considered STEM toys. By building and designing structures, they promote creativity, problem-solving, engineering, and math skills.