As we enter the most unique summer we’ve seen in some time and retire our homeschooling materials (at least for now), it’s important to begin making summer plans to keep the kids engaged and busy while learning during all of their free time!
The best part of summer learning is that we can take many of our activities outside in order to get some sunshine and fresh air while we learn about the world around us.
Related post: 32 Cool Science Experiments for Kids
Summer STEM Activities
1. Bottle Rockets
The ultimate classic, bottle rockets combine chemistry and explosions to create the ultimate summer experience!
- Build a launchpad. We recommend using some of those leftover LEGO littering your floor to create the perfect launchpad for your rocket!
- Prepare the launch area. Find a wide-open area with solid ground where your explosion won’t bother your neighbor.
- Fuel your rocket. Pour one to two cups of vinegar into a liter soda bottle. Place a heaping tablespoon of baking soda in a paper towel and fold it snugly into the mouth of the bottle. Insert a wine cork and initiate blast off!
2. Galaxy Oobleck
We know that all kids love slime, but how often do we have the time to supervise their fancy gack creations? Use that extra summer quality time to create some out-of-this-world galaxy oobleck!
- Add blue, purple, and pink food coloring to separate jars. (We like mason jars as they are nearly impossible to stain).
- Add one cup of cornstarch along with enough water to create a near liquid. We recommend about half a cup.
- Stir the mixture until the liquid should be stiff enough to be resistant when you stir.
- Pour the three colors together onto a cookie tray and add glitter for dramatic effect.
3. Create a Discovery Jar
Although somewhat less hands-on than some of the other options on this list, a discovery jar leads to the potential for your child to discover everything they are curious about. Best of all, if you set up strong structures to teach your child what to do with their discovery jar, they can gain a repetitive, independent activity that continues their STEM learning all summer!
- Sit down with your child to brainstorm everything they are curious about. Consider jogging their memory with various topics. If your child doesn’t perform well on the spot, track their questions over a couple of weeks leading up to your jar.
- Put all of the questions into a mason jar and pull one out each day.
- Teach your child safe ways to research the answers to their questions. Ask them to keep a journal of their learning throughout the summer to build on their literacy skills!
4. LEGO Building Challenges
If you haven’t learned by now, we’re big fans of the LEGO world around here. You can use these challenges from Little Bins for Little Hands or create your own challenges! And be sure to check out this list of our favorite LEGO STEM activities!
- Set up a building area for your child. Discuss your expectations for how long inventions can be left out and how you’d like the area cleaned up.
- Print your LEGO challenge cards or create your own on index cards. Consider asking for simple machines like catapults, zip lines, and more.
- Compare challenges with friends to see how you’ve interpreted the work in different ways!
5. Build a Solar Oven
Nothing is better than an experiment that ends in a snack! Let your child practice their survival skills in the backyard or take this one on an actual camping trip.
- Using a straight edge, cut a three-sided flap out of the top of a closed box. Leave a one-inch border around the outside.
- Cover the bottom of the flap with aluminum foil. (You’ll use glue to do this and you’ll want the tin foil to remain as smooth as possible).
- Tape two layers of plastic wrap across the opening of the box and the bottom side of the lid.
- Use a stick to prop the lid up.
- To use the oven, you’ll want to take it outside on a day with a temperature of eighty-five degrees or more. Then you’ll want to allow the oven to preheat for about a half-hour before putting your ingredients in it.
- Cook and enjoy your snacks!
6. Paintball Bombs
Teach Beside Me is the absolute queen of educational, messy experiments. Truly, what’s better than something that allows your child to come in a different color than how they began the day?
- Start with a separate cup for each color bomb you intend to create.
- Mix one tablespoon of tempera paint, three-quarters cup of water, and a teaspoon of sodium alginate in each cup.
- Mix the ingredients well and allow the mixtures to sit for two hours.
- Mix two tablespoons of calcium chloride with a few cups of cold water in a large glass pan.
- Drop tablespoons of the mixture into the water. They’ll harden on the outside and turn into the perfect ammunition for backyard fun!
7. Make Sun Prints
Looking for a lower mess print option? Use the power of the sun and objects you find around and outside of your home to create classic designs.
- Send your child throughout the house or outdoors to collect flat items that you can use to create your art.
- Next, place colorful construction paper in the sunlight. A driveway works best, but anything will do!
- Help your child create designs on the paper using the items that they collected previously.
- Cover the items with clear plastic wrap (or plexiglass, if it is available) and weigh the edges down.
- Leave your items in the sun for three hours. At the end of the time, remove all items from the paper and check out your beautiful art!
8. Design Your Own Maze
Children will create a marble maze in this activity! Consider preparing your child for this activity by allowing them to play an old school pinball game, either in-person or online, to understand what they are trying to replicate.
- Teach your child how to create simple arches using strips of construction paper or pipe cleaners.
- Give your child the above materials, alone with one paper plate, and have them create their best maze!
- Provide your child with a marble to test out their handheld marble run.
9. Create Flipbooks
Have you ever been tricked by an optical illusion? Has your child ever asked you how their favorite cartoon works? Create your own animated graphics by making flipbooks this summer!
- Cut a set of lined index cards in half. Attach them using a binder clip.
- Draw an image that tells a story. Repeat that image on each subsequent page with small, slight differences. (An arm raise could take a whole ten cards — no difference is too small if you want a fluid feel to your flipbook!)
- Flip your book and don’t be afraid to add cards to edit your work!
10. Water Drop Race
Sometimes you’re running low on materials and low on ideas. This activity is perfect for those kinds of days! All you need is wax paper, a straw, some water, and some eager kiddos!
- Drop water onto the wax paper — no specific size is needed.
- Ask your children to race by blowing the water drops across the paper.
- Kids can experiment by blowing on bubbles of different sizes or testing their lung capacity by marking lines on the endpoint of their water droplets. Enjoy the simplicity of this one!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should kids learn STEM?
STEM, or learning that contains science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, is beneficial to children for a number of reasons. First, STEM facilitates language development through a discussion of hypotheses and results. Additionally, STEM encourages independent and collaborative learning while children hone their problem-solving skills through experimentation. Finally, STEM teaches children learning through self-discovery — your child will grow and learn about themself as they grow in their knowledge of the world around them.
What are some good ways to learn over the summer?
There are a variety of ways to learn throughout the summer! You are welcome to try one of the STEM activities listed above. If such an activity does not appeal to you, or better yet, you’ve exhausted the complete list, you can consider learning through day trips, learning through dramatic play, practicing entrepreneurial skills through a lemonade stand, or volunteering at a local non-profit.
Why does my kid need to keep learning during the summer?
Children need to continue learning during the summer in order to prevent summer slide. Summer slide is the loss of reading and math skills that occurs over the summer as children stop devoting their time to learning. Fortunately, studies have shown that families who even dedicate so much as twenty minutes a day to their children’s academic skills over the summer escape summer slide.