Top 5 STEM Challenge Materials You Need - momgineer

Top 5 STEM Challenge Materials You Need


Top STEM Materials To Keep on Hand 


Must-have materials for any STEM challenge! Find out which other items may be useful for you, too, and download the shopping list to keep on hand when you run to your favorite dollar store, craft store, or Target! | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

There are hundreds of STEM challenges you can easily do with your kids (find many of them on this Pinterest board). After leading dozens of STEM activities, I found out that there are a handful of materials I needed for almost every challenge. These are all simple materials that are very easy and inexpensive to acquire.


STEM materials you can't live without

Each of these items has a slightly different use but these are the ones I always come back to. Disclaimer: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you downloads of value and information about educational resources. The link below is an Amazon affiliate link. You can read my full disclosure here.
  • aluminum foil: good for structures, impermeable, and far easier to work with then plastic/cling wrap. Twist it, fold it, make a solar oven with it, or shape it into a boat. This stuff has got you covered!
  • index cards: smaller than card stock so final projects won't overwhelm your space, index cards can be rolled into tubes, folded into various shapes, made into accordions, paper airplanes, cones, or whatever your kids can imagine. Use either 3 x 5 cards or 4 x 6 - whatever you have on hand.
  • cardboard tubes: any STEM teacher could write an ode to cardboard tubes! The versatility of these things makes them completely invaluable. While toilet paper tubes are by far the easiest to come across, paper towel tubes are better, and industrial tubes (ask at your hardware store) or tubes you find in plastic wrap or aluminum foil are pretty much the best ever. Use for structures, marble runs, and more.
  • pennies: you can't beat the cost of this material! What you need to know about pennies: they weigh approximately 2.5 grams. They are also easy to store, count, and hold. They are my go-to material when testing for strength. They also work well to give stability to printable characters. The bonus is that if you lose some, you aren't out a whole lot of money.
  • masking tape: I am partial to Blue Painters Tape. Not only is it vibrant, I find that it is a bit sturdier than regular masking tape. Fair warning: kids can sometimes go overboard with tape. The best way to get around this is to rip off 5-10 small pieces and stick them to the side of the desk/workspace. 

STEM materials that will make your life easier


I have used every single one of these items in multiple challenges. Some of my favorites:

  • pipe cleaners - not only are they great on their own, they are AWESOME to slide through straws and create better stability but also the ability to link together easily.
  • craft sticks - opt for the jumbo ones! If you can get colored ones, they are always well-received (but not worth too much extra $). You can use these for kazoos, structures, splints, and more.
  • rubber bands (one of the most useful items ever. It almost made the cut for the top 5. It was clearly #6!). Get a giant pack! You will use them all in time.
  • string/twine - my personal favorite is this butcher's twine. It has a built in blade to cut that is very narrow, so you would have to try really hard to cut yourself on it. Bonus? When you finish, the cardboard cone it is wrapped around is amazing for STEM projects.
  • pool noodles or pipe insulation - fun for a variety of challenges and one of the cheapest ways to purchase foam (otherwise foam can be crazy expensive). You can even make really fun sculptures with this material.

Shopping list for STEM materials

Maybe you are lucky and scored a STEM grant, or it's educator week at your favorite local craft store and you are ready to stock up on STEM supplies. Maybe you just have a soft spot for the local $1 spots and can't resist. I find that sometimes I just can't remember what would be useful when I find I have somehow autopiloted my way to Target. Keep this file on your phone or print it out - you can then restock as needed. There might even be a few you hadn't thought of trying before:
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Even better than having to purchase materials is using what is already there. Don't forget to ask everyone for their recyclables like empty yogurt containers, plastic takeout containers, cardboard rolls, and newspapers. Every once in awhile you may even score something unusual and cool from your school cafeteria or custodian. 

What STEM material could you not live without?

I'd love to know what you use most or find indispensable. Comment below!


Clip art and fonts by KG Fonts, Digital Mojo, and Photo Clipz.
momgineer Meredith Anderson

STEM education is my passion!

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