Moms love making plans to create amazing hands-on learning experiences with their kids. Just pop open a mom blog, scroll through the pictures of kids and their happy, engaged faces, and the wheels start turning.

Of the ideas that have inspired you, how many were turned into actual projects? We can relate. We’re all running short on time. One way to defeat that barrier is borrowing from the artist/crafter playbook. They’re smart, and they keep a cache of supplies handy so everything’s ready and within reach as soon as inspiration hits. Why not do the same for your kitchen counter science lab and put together a STEM kit?

Even better, there’s no need to limit this kit to specific projects that you initiate. Give the kids access to age-appropriate materials, so you don’t have to be concerned about constant supervision, and let them create and build on their own.

Pick up some sorting trays from the dollar store, make space for storage, and load it up with materials found around the house, using this list to get you started.

What you’ll need

Empty food containers: Washed and rinsed gallon jugs, individual beverage bottles, egg cartons, empty sour cream containers, pot pie tins

Rubber bands

Pipe cleaners

Marbles

Empty tissue and paper towel rolls

Duct tape

Glue stick

Rubber cement

Small notebook and writing utensils

Craft sticks

Clips

Ruler

Straws

Empty shipping boxes and shoe boxes

Tape (Especially Scotch tape; always buy this stuff in bulk)

Foam swimming noodles

Magnets

Scissors

Foam

Paper shopping bags

12-quart dish pan or an old baby bath

Sand

Get busy!

Here’s a fun project to launch your newly built STEM station: baking soda- and vinegar-powered mini-boats, courtesy of the blog The OT Toolbox. What you’ll need is a Styrofoam egg carton, the lid from a beverage bottle, straws, tape, plus baking soda and vinegar. Once they’re put together, set them in a bin of water, activate the baking soda-vinegar reaction, and let ’er rip!

For other fun at-home STEM projects, take a look in the archives of the Bricks 4 Kidz blog. You’ll find activities that highlight science and engineering, such as building your own marble run, experiments with buoyancy, and more bubbly fun with vinegar and baking soda as well as gravity. There’s simply no better way to cultivate that passion for learning and exploration.