10 sneaky fun STEM activities to keep kids learning all summer long

Monday, July 8, 2024

Summer’s here, and it’s the perfect time to keep young minds engaged with educational science, technology, engineering and math activities. These 10 STEM projects and experiments are so much fun your children won’t even realize they’re learning through the summer break.

With minimal materials, these STEM projects for kids aged 7 through 14 offer a mix of indoor and outdoor fun. Get ready for budget-friendly projects that combine independent and parent-involved activities.

Balloon rocket

Balloon rockets are a popular science experiment for kids. Building a balloon rocket offers explosive summer fun and requires four simple supplies: balloons, string, straws and tape.

Run a string across a room or outdoor space. Then, thread a straw onto the string, tie both ends of the string to something sturdy and tape the straw to an inflated balloon.

Release the air from the balloon and watch it zoom along the string. This high-energy experiment teaches Children about propulsion and Newton’s Third Law of Motion.

Homemade ice cream in a bag

Does your household include food-motivated kids? If so, consider making ice cream.

“Cooking or baking is a great way to keep kids learning in the summer,” says Heidi Bruaw, teacher, mother and owner of the vintage recipe site Real Life of Lulu. “Measuring ingredients incorporates fractions. Chemical reactions occur during baking and cooking, and kids can practice reading a recipe. It’s so fun that they don’t even realize they’re learning.”

For this delicious summer STEM activity, you’ll need plastic bags, ice, salt, sugar, vanilla and milk or cream. Fill a small plastic bag with milk, sugar and vanilla . Next, place the bag inside a larger bag filled with ice and salt.

Shake vigorously for about 10 minutes until the mixture turns into ice cream. This activity demonstrates the principles of freezing point depression and physical change.

DIY solar oven

If you’re looking for STEM activities for middle school students, consider creating a solar oven using a pizza box and basic supplies. You’ll need a pizza box, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, black construction paper, tape, scissors and a sunny day.

Line the box with aluminum foil and black paper to absorb sunlight. Then, use plastic wrap to create a window on the lid. Next, place a marshmallow or a piece of chocolate inside and watch the sun’s rays cook it. Building a solar oven teaches children about harnessing solar energy and heat transfer principles.

Egg drop challenge

Challenge kids to design a gadget that can protect an egg from breaking when it is dropped from a height. Grab a few eggs from the fridge, and use bubble wrap, straws and tape to create the machine.

This summer fun STEM activity is also suitable for children of all ages and adults. It’s engaging and a great way to explore physics, engineering and problem-solving concepts. The project can span several days as the kids refine their designs.

Growing crystals

Growing crystals at home could be the answer if you want an activity to get kids excited about chemistry. For this experiment, you’ll need a box of Borax, pipe cleaners, jars, water and food coloring.

Shape pipe cleaners into fun designs and suspend them in jars of hot water mixed with Borax and food coloring. Leave them overnight.

If all goes well, your children will find beautiful crystals at breakfast. This activity introduces kids to the process of crystallization and chemical reactions.

Nature scavenger hunt

Combine STEM learning with outdoor time by organizing a nature scavenger hunt. Use a printable scavenger hunt list that includes items found in a garden or park, such as different leaves, insects or flowers. Children will learn about biodiversity and ecosystems while enjoying fresh air and the outdoors.

Code a story

For an indoor STEM activity, turn screen time into learning time and Introduce your kids to coding using free online platforms like Scratch. They can create interactive stories or games, learning the basics of programming, logic and creativity. This activity requires a computer or tablet with internet access, can be done independently and can span several days.

DIY Weather station

Build a simple weather station with tools to measure temperature, rainfall and wind speed. Materials needed include a thermometer, ruler, plastic bottles, tape, paper and markers.

Track the weather over several days and compare it to local forecasts. This STEM activity helps kids learn about meteorology and data collection, enhancing their observational and analytical skills.

Nature walk and leaf classification

Take a nature walk and collect different types of leaves. Back home, classify and identify them using a field guide or a plant identification app. This activity teaches children about plant biology and taxonomy, encouraging curiosity about the natural world.

Simple machines scavenger hunt

Here’s another scavenger hunt idea with a STEM focus. Create one where kids find examples of simple machines such as levers, pulleys or wheels.

Try it around the house or even in your neighborhood. This form of scavenger hunt helps children of all ages identify common simple machines and learn about the basic mechanical principles that help make work easier.

Disguise STEM education as summer fun

These activities blend learning with fun, ensuring kids stay mentally active throughout the summer. Whether building, coding or exploring nature, each project offers valuable educational outcomes, from critical thinking and problem-solving to creativity and scientific inquiry.

Sarita Harbour is a busy freelance writer and homeschool parent. Visit Thrive at Home for her tips, tools and printables for working homeschool moms.

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