The sun is shining and the weather is warm, so it’s the perfect time to get the kids engaged in fun summer STEM. These hands-on activities are designed to teach kids crucial skills, like problem solving and critical thinking, while also encouraging them to play and have fun with maths and science experiments. These STEM activities for kids will ensure they’re developing all-important skills and also keep their brains and hands active.

Water Balloon Sink or Swim

Keep your child across their school’s COVID safety plan to put their mind at ease

We love this project – it’s the perfect activity to set up outside on a sunny day and it teaches kids an interesting lesson about density and buoyancy. Fill several water balloons with different substances, such as tap water, salt water, sugar water, detergent, oil and vinegar. Next, test them in a big tub of water. Do they sink or float? Draw up a table and get your mini scientists to record and compare their results.

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Ice Excavation

This simple STEM activity teaches kids motor skills, as well as captures their scientific imagination.

Here’s a fun idea to keep them cool on a hot day. You’ll need to do a little prep work the night before but it’s definitely worth it. Freeze plastic bugs and other small toys or treasures inside ice block moulds or large ice cube trays. Leave them to set overnight and, once frozen, get the kids to embrace their inner palaeontologists as they uncover fossils. Encourage them to free all of the toys from the ice. Provide some tools to help them with the job, such as spray bottles and droppers of warm and cold water, as well as straws and paintbrushes.

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SEE ALSO: 12 Easy Summer Craft Ideas for Kids These School Holidays

Balloon-Powered Sponge Boats

Balloon-powered sponge boats teach kids an important STEM lesson on aerodynamics.

Prepare to set sail on the high seas with these homemade mini boats. Using sharp scissors, cut kitchen sponges into boat shapes. Next, use a craft knife to cut a small slit in each sponge and poke through a straw (depending on the age of your sailors, adults may need to do the cutting work). Attach a blown-up balloon to the straw and release it to see the boat glide across the water. Fill your bath, or a large plastic tub, with water and challenge your kiddos to race their boats. There’s a STEM lesson to be had here, covering topics including buoyancy, lift, force and aerodynamics, as well as the measurement involved in making the boats.

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Exploring at the “Beach”

Take STEM outdoors with this sandy excavation that teaches kids about temperature.

Simple outdoor STEM activities are brilliant for kids of all ages, but especially preschoolers – littlies thrive when all five senses are engaged and stimulated. Bring along a magnifying glass to your next beach day and, together, closely examine the sand, shells and rocks. Give kids an infrared thermometer to test the temperature of the sand and water. Let them experiment with wet and dry sand, making sand castles and little “cakes” decorated with shells and sea glass. All of these activities are fun, and encourage exploration, creativity and scientific thinking. And if you can’t get to an actual beach, you can create a pretend one by adding sand and found objects (pasta shells, stones, small toys, etc.) to a tub or a sandpit.

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SEE ALSO: STEM 101: Unexpected STEM Learning Activities Kids Can Try at Home

A Wave in a Bottle

This STEM science experiment will give kids an insight into waves and ocean currents.

Take an empty plastic bottle, add some water, vegetable oil and food colouring and you’ve got yourself an amazing science experiment. Kids can roll, shake and wiggle the bottle and examine how the water behaves. Stoke their curiosity further by investigating YouTube and bookmarking some short informative videos on waves, currents and the ocean.

What You'll Need

  • plastic bottle
  • vegetable oil
  • food colouring

Popsicle Stick Launcher

A DIY rocket launcher is a great introductory STEM lesson into engineering.

Make cool “rocket” launchers with the kids. Using a hot glue gun, stick two popsicle sticks together, one on top of the other, to make a double thick stick. Then repeat to make a second double thick stick. Once those are dry, glue the two together in the form of a little T-shape, with the crossbar closer to one end. Next, attach buttons to the “wings” of your launcher and a 7cm length of straw to the “body” at the top end, between the wings. Once the glue is dry, twist a rubber band around the buttons and pull back behind the straw – now it’s ready to launch cotton buds through the straw at a target. While they have a giggle and enjoy building and firing their launchers, they’re also engaging with important engineering and propulsion principles.

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Nature Walk and Count

STEM activities include learning about science and nature.

Plan a family walk at the park or the beach and collect interesting items you see such as rocks, flowers and leaves. When you’re back at home, line up all the items you’ve collected and use A3 paper and a permanent marker to count and tally what you’ve found, and even create a graph. This is a great way for kids to learn about graphs, counting and other essential numeracy concepts, as well as getting to know the flora and fauna of their neighbourhood.

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SEE ALSO: Inspiring Eco Craft Kit Ideas for Kids

Underwater Film and Photo Project

A DIY rocket launcher is a great introductory STEM lesson into engineering.

The next time you visit the beach or pool, take a waterproof camera for the kids to use on a fun film project. See how many snaps they can take of the family doing handstands or diving for toys. Or, using an action camera like a GoPro, make a family movie about mermaids or pirates and nail those underwater shots. You could even make an action movie featuring plenty of swimming, surfing, snorkelling, wakeboarding and paddleboarding. Once you get home, commission the kids to make a scrapbook featuring all the best snaps.

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Squishy Soap

Teach kids STEM concepts such as measurement and fine motor skills with this soap recipe.

Is it playdough? Is it soap? Well, it’s a little bit of both. You can mould and sculpt it, have a play, then pinch off a tiny piece and get busy washing those hands. In a bowl, combine ½ cup cornflour with ⅛ cup of liquid soap or detergent and 4 teaspoons of sweet almond oil. Add a few drops of liquid watercolour, then mix together with a spoon. Get the kids to knead the soap with their hands until it’s smooth and no longer sticky.

Make a few batches in different colours and have a ball, squishing, pulling and rolling it into shapes. This activity teaches kids how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients, while the messy fun play develops their fine motor skills.

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A spin-off activity that is good clean fun is “germ scaring”: grind some fresh black pepper over a plate of water. When your littlies dip their finger in the mixture, some of the pepper will stick to their finger. You can explain that this is like how germs get on your skin. But if you now put some liquid soap on your finger then dip it in the pepper water, the grinds (aka “the germs”) run away. It’s a cute activity to illustrate how washing hands regularly or using hand sanitiser helps keep nasty germs at bay.

SEE ALSO: Easy STEM Activities for Kids to Set Up at Home