Find 15 FUN summer STEM activities right here! Read on for hands-on science, technology, engineering, and math ideas that will keep your kids learning through the summer – inside and out!
It’s time to say goodbye to the rainy days of spring and welcome summer! This summer, I’m planning for less screens and more FUN. But that means I have to be ready with quick and easy activities that I can whip out at a moment’s notice.
STEM activities are great for that! If you’re not familiar, STEM focuses on hands-on learning for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
Most of the activities we do are open-ended and can be done independently. That means no more spending 15 minutes to set up a project that is over in two…
Ready to go? Bookmark this page so you can get back to all the ideas all summer long!
Summer STEM Activities with Sidewalk Chalk
It seems like a great idea at the beginning of summer – just throw some chalk their way and they can draw for hours. Ha! More like 5 minutes. The novelty wears off quickly, and then the summer anthem of “I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m hungry, I’m bored,” begins to play.
So if you’re a family who also ends up with buckets of broken sidewalk chalk laying around (where does it all come from?!?), here are a few fresh new ways to use it.
…or if you are fresh out of sidewalk chalk – have a big pack of chalk delivered to your house for about five bucks.
Regular sun dials are a bit of a meh summer STEM activity. Meh. Unless your kid is super into telling time, it’s not going to get the “Oooooo science is fun!” reaction you’re looking for when you take the time to incorporate STEM.
BUT Rhythms of Play brings us a fun new spin – the human shadow sun dial! Kids LOVE seeing what their shadows are doing, and this experiment will have them tracking it around from morning to night. If you have more than one kid, show them how to do it and they can do it together for the rest of the day.
2. Outdoor Games with Sidewalk Chalk
Games are a great way to get kids working on mathematics, strategy, and social skills like taking turns and being a good winner/loser – plus a variety of other skills depending on the game.
You can enlarge any simple game board with chalk, but since this is a STEM round-up, here are a few simple math-related games to get you started:
- Number line games: adding, subtracting, and skip-counting
- Outdoor math game: great for a summer refresher
- Sideawalk Simon: a chalky twist on the classic memory game, make it mathy by practicing repeating and growing patterns
- Hopscotch: make it a challenge by using addition/subtraction/multiplication problems instead of simple numbers
Creekside Learning brings us a fun activity for a follow up to your summer planetarium field trip – or to do with any kid interested in the night sky. See how to build real or imagined constellations in the daytime with rocks and chalk.
Side note: If you do have a kid interested in astronomy, I’d highly recommend the Everything Kids Astronomy Book and Nancy B’s Telescope for kids (so durable). We have gotten SO much use out of both of these over the last 3 years.
This is a fun way to use chalk to set up an outside exploration activity. Nurturestore shows us a simple way to get little ones involved, but I could see this becoming a much more intricate challenge for bigger kids. And if you have a range of kids (or if you happen to be the house where all the neighbors end up) they can take charge of this project and challenge each other. Use sidewalk chalk to challenge your kids in an outdoor nature scavenger hunt.
Does someone in your family love to blow stuff up? In mine, it’s my husband. So this is an activity that I’m going to pass off this summer and let him lead. “Here, honey, go blow stuff up with the kids…” Hey, it’s safer than bottle rockets.
While this technically doesn’t have chalk as an ingredient, you’ll see that it’s the same basic coloring-the-sidewalk idea. Check out the physics team from Rutgers do their thing.
A few tips: An alternative to the Tempura paint is adding washable liquid watercolor paint instead. Might be a little easier to spray off.
Also, seeing as it’s the digital age and all, you might not have film canisters laying around. You can find film canisters for your rockets on Prime for about six bucks, and have them in 2 days.
Edible Stem Activities for Summer
Did I mention my kids have a summer anthem? Do your kids know it? The lyrics are really easy: “I’m hungry, I’m bored, I’m hungry, I’m bored.”
Add a few kitchen science treats to your summer STEM activities. Here’s something interesting and exciting to do, and then you can eat it. Problem solved. At least until they start asking for 2nd lunch.
Putting this one right up top because it’s the one I want to do the most. In fact, we might be rolling this one out a couple times this summer…
If you love s’mores but you have a straight up panic attack when your kids get near fire, you will love making solar s’mores. You’ll need all the regular ingredients plus foil and a pizza box (if you don’t have a pizza box you can come borrow one of ours, we always have extra).
This mix of cooking and science will take about 15 mintues +eating time. Do it once and bigger kids (like 7 or 8) will be able to get out the ingredients and set it up all by themselves. Great idea and instructions from Growing a Jeweled Rose.
I feel like every kid should make rock candy at least once in their lives! This one is a fun way to encourage observation over the course of a week or so and spark some conversations about the science of what they’re observing.
They’re uh… interesting to eat at the end, too. I have one kid that is always very excited to make it, and at the end he gives it away because he doesn’t like to eat it. Kids are silly.
This particular rock candy recipe from 123 Homeschool for Me is made with a summer staple – Kool-aid. We always seem to have a few packets floating around.
Navigating by Joy brings us a fun, summery twist on the ice cream in a bag experiment. This sorbet in a bag recipe is great for a rainy day inside or to keep little hands busy for a few minutes while you gather the swimsuits and towels to get out the door.
Another fun exercise in observation, this raisin experiment is an interesting project that you can look at over a few weeks. Long-term experiments give us a unique opportunity to naturally open up new conversations.
This project can spark questions about where our food comes from, what dehydration means to plants, animals, and humans, and how dehydration changes the taste, texture, and look of grape. Extend this project by taking these questions to the library or Google and finding out the answers together!
If you’re a STEM activities veteran, you’ll recognize this engineering challenge. The reason it’s repeated so often is that 1) it’s super simple to set up, and 2) this challenge will grow with your kids over time.
You’ll probably notice little ones making simple 2D shapes and building letters of the alphabet. When they get a little older their shapes will turn into more and more complicated objects – sometimes 3D shapes, animals, buildings, or whatever happens to be on their minds that day.
It’s a really cool progression to watch. So don’t be afraid to pull this same STEM challenge out again and again. You can use a huge variety of materials – from toothpicks and gum drops to straws and Peeps.
This particular version of the STEM challenge uses the jumbo marshmallows left over from your solar s’mores project and some pretzel sticks. See it in action over at The STEM Laboratory.
I’m looking forward to the heat in Ohio this year, but after living in south Florida (with a red head baby in tow) I understand the need to cool off! In that kind of heat, if it didn’t include water or air conditioning, we weren’t able to do it in the summer.
So hats off to you all braving a southern summer. Here are some water and ice summer STEM activities to cool you off!
11. Boat Engineering
An engineering boat challenge is fun for a hot day outdoors. Bring your boats to the creek or kiddie pool to see how they do. You can use any recycled materials that float to make a boat, or here are a few more structured ideas to get you started:
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, challenge your kids to build a cardboard box boat that they can really ride! Check out a cardboard box boat example from Instructables, and then create your own.
12. Floating Flowers
Teach Beside Me shows you how to make these simple origami flowers that will bloom when they are set into water. If you have a kid that’s into flowers or origami (or both, like me) this is a fun one.
This is also a good one for a rainy day because you can create them inside and bloom them in a pan, sink, or puddle.
Green Kid Crafts has the right idea with this water slide engineering challenge! Drag your recycle bin outside along with some tape, a stapler, and a bouncy ball. You already have everything you need to build a super cool water slide.
Set it up next to the hose for some extra wet experimentation or carefully build it first and wait to pour the water in at the end.
14. Ice Excavation
Life at the Zoo has a fun idea for dinosaur lovers – an icy dinosaur excavation activity. We ended up with tons of dinosaurs like this when my oldest went through his dino phase.
But this excavation activity would be great with almost anything! Lego bricks, mardi gras beads, and just about any little plastic toy can be frozen and excavated on a hot day.
15. Outdoor Float or Sink Activity
An outdoor float or sink activity is great for little ones. Use a large bowl, clear plastic tub, or a little pool filled with water. OR take this one to the beach, lake, or pool and find materials to experiment with that are unique to each setting.
Don’t set this one up for them. Have your kids go out and find what they want to use for the experiment. Make it a challenge! For example, tell each of your kids to find, say, three things that will float and three things that will sink. See what they come up with!
I hope you enjoy these summer STEM activities! Thanks to all the fabulous websites that contributed to this article and our summer of less-screen-time FUN!