Make STEM a Festive Part of Your Holiday Break

By Jill Krause of

Middle School

Sylvan Learning partnered with Jill Krause of Baby Rabies for this post.

If you have school-age children, chances are you know that STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. You may also already know that this isn’t just an important group of skills for high schoolers. In fact, the earlier kids start engaging in STEM activities, the better chance they have of competing with their peers at the college and workforce level.

But let’s not be so serious, because STEM activities for kids don’t have to feel like something that’s only preparing them for college and a better paycheck. I’ve partnered with Sylvan Learning to show you how we can get our kids doing something educational without them even knowing it, all while using stuff you’ll probably have laying around the kitchen over holiday break.

Here’s what you need:

  • Fresh cranberries
  • Toothpicks

That’s it!

What I recommend doing, especially if you have more than one child wanting to participate, is to divide the supplies up and place them on individual baking sheets (the kind with shallow edges) to keep the cranberries from rolling onto the floor.




Start by showing how to make a basic structure, which is pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a pic of my first attempt.




All you’re doing is inserting the toothpicks into the cranberries, and building out from there. This is a good time to talk to the kids about things like what “center of gravity” means and why structures with larger bases can remain stable at greater heights.




Once they had the basics down, I let mine get creative, and encouraged them with questions like, “Can you build a Christmas Village? What about a rocket for Santa?”

Feeling adventurous? Challenge them to see if they can work together to build a structure taller than the table, or maybe to build something taller than they are!




It’s not about perfection! If the structure falls, talk to them about some reasons why that happened. I loved taking this moment to tell them that making mistakes is a part of the process.




The best part is I didn’t have to babysit this too much. I was in the kitchen, yes, but I was making dinner. I was available for questions and guidance, but not to micromanage, making this an awesome activity for active kids while we’re cooking turkeys and pies in a few weeks. Assuming few rogue cranberries roll away, it’s not very messy at all. And you all know how much I love a mess-free activity.




We’ve been trying to get our kids more involved with STEM activities, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that we can take our kids to a nearby Sylvan for their EDGE program. These are hands-on, cutting edge classes for kids that focus on programs like Robotics, Engineering, Coding and Math.

If your kids enjoy this activity and you want them to continue learning STEM through more activities like this one, check to see if there’s a Sylvan Learning EDGE program near you. Not only are they fun after-school programs, but they’re also preparing kids for success in the global workforce down the road.