With the month of December comes Christmas, and Christmas brings jingle bells to our math and science centers in preschool. I haven’t met a preschooler who doesn’t love to shake a jingle bell, so why not turn that jingle jangling into a fun Christmas STEM activity for your preschooler?
While at a dollar store in early November, I happened upon the Christmas aisle. I know what you’re thinking, “But you don’t like anything Christmas before Thanksgiving!” And that’s true. Er, um…mostly true.
When seasonal items find their way to the dollar store, you have to snatch them up fast, because they never last long.
Sometimes not even until the actual season they celebrate.
So when I saw bags and bags of green, red, silver and gold jingle bells hanging all in a row, I snatched up several bags of each color and different sizes. Because I knew if I waited until December they would no longer be available.
And I didn’t want to risk the wait because I already had a Christmas STEM activity planned for my preschoolers.
I just needed those jingle bells!
Christmas STEM Activity
The set-up is simple. Place the jingle bells in some attractive containers on a tray. Invite your child or preschoolers to explore them at their own will, giving no guidelines other than to treat them respectfully as they would any other learning material or toy.
My preschoolers immediately dipped their hands into the containers, grabbing bells to shake, shake, shake. Whenever I give my preschoolers a new material, or a material we don’t get to use very often, I always allow them time to just play first. This helps them focus their attention when I am teaching, making it easier for them to listen, rather than them thinking, “When can I get my hands on those? I want to get my hands on those bells…Those bells…” and not hearing a word coming out of my mouth.
So I let them just play and explore and share for a few minutes first.
Do all jingle bells sound the same?
The first question I presented my preschoolers with was if all jingle bells sound the same. When I asked the first time, my preschooler shouted back with a resounding “Yes!”
“Are you sure?” I asked. I didn’t want to give the answer away and just tell them they were wrong, so I asked, “How could we make sure we are right that they all sound the same?”
Excitedly, they all beamed as they said, “We can shake them!”
So that’s what we did. We shook the bells, one at a time. First, we just shook them in random order, and I asked between shakes if the two of the bells sounded the same. If the answer was no, the bells were separated. If the answer was yes, the bells were sorted and placed together on a mat.
Each preschooler got to shake a set of bells and decide if they sounded the same. We quickly realized that the answer to our question was no, not all bells sound the same.
Answering this first question led us to our next question.
What makes the bells sound different?
Remember, as the preschoolers jingled each bell, they placed the bell with other bells with a matching sound.
So, our bells were sorted by their sound.
Now it was time to look at the physical characteristics of each bell to identify what made them sound different.
For this activity, I only offered traditional jingle bells. But this could have been extended to include all different types of bells.
The preschoolers took a good look at the different bells in front of them, and they saw that each group of bells had something important in common. (Not their color, although that was certainly brought up). That’s right, their size. The preschoolers discovered that the sound of the bell was dependent on the size (since shape was not a variable).
Offering your preschooler a Christmas STEM activity can be as simple as placing some jingle bells in some bowls and asking some questions. While I was available to my students to guide them and facilitate their learning, the process they went through to answer our questions was of their own making. That’s what makes this science center so effective. Going through a questioning and answering process in science and math is far more beneficial to children than simply giving them answers. Playing with jingle bells was simply our mode. And with all those bags of jingle bells hanging all in a row, what was I do do than to turn them into a fun Christmas STEM activity for my preschoolers?