Play and learning are natural partners. Kids' activities that promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) concepts do not have to be complicated and simple STEM projects are perfect for play dates so friends can learn and play together.
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One of my older son's best friends is another boy his age who lives in our building. They are great friends but I would venture to say that their ways of working and learning are very different. Sometimes this means they have trouble agreeing on an activity if we are having an indoor play date. When one of our recent impromptu play dates (impromptu play dates is the best thing about apartment living) was about to take a turn for the worse it was miraculously saved by a simple STEM activity: paper airplanes.
During the play date I remembered I had an unopened Klutz Book of Paper Airplanes in the closet. I had originally bought it as a birthday gift for a party we ended up being unable to attend. It was the perfect distraction for the boys.
Watching the boys work together reminded me of the lessons I learned making paper boats with Kiddo. During that activity I was focused on the craftiness aspect of paper engineering. I had never considered the perfection of paper airplanes in teaching STEM concepts before. Best of all, the boys' collaboration benefitted from their different learning styles.
My son is very exacting and likes to follow instructions to the letter (sometimes he is so precise, it drives me bonkers!) while his friend is a more creative and crafty type. My son could help with the exacting folds and interpreting the instructions, the neighbor was excited about crafting and both enjoyed zooming planes around the apartment.
Here's are some of the skills I witnessed the boys working on:
- team work
- following instructions
- fine motor
My kids have worked on paper airplanes before, but nothing was ever as successful as working with this Klutz book! One thing I loved about this particular paper airplane book is that the planes were categorized not just by difficulty but by how they fly, such as "stunt planes" or "gliders". There are detailed instructions for folding but also several pages devoted to how to fly the planes and troubleshooting if things go awry. It also includes good quality paper.
Once the planes were folded according to the instructions, the boys needed to troubleshoot if the planes did not fly exactly as planned. The book included suggestions such as adjusting the elevators and ailerons on the planes, or aiming the planes from different angles or heights.
They ended up making 3 different planes and it was great to see them have a non-Pokemon centered play date!
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