As a teacher, I love finding ready to use resources to send home with my students to help prevent the dreaded “summer slide.” As a mom, I really appreciate easy ideas to keep kids busy during the summer without over reliance on a screen or my over involvement, but with cheap materials that I probably already have on hand.
Here are 30 relatively cheap and easy ideas that will engage elementary age kids in STEAM activities over the summer. Keep reading, or get this fun, free printable in your email to send home with students or to hang on your fridge.
- Make your own bubbles:
Mix 4 cups very warm water, 1/2 cup light corn syrup, and 2/3 cup liquid dish soap. Bend pipe cleaners to make bubble wands.
- Build a solar oven to cook hot dogs & marshmallows:
Search for different design ideas online. Use plastic wrap and aluminum foil to trap heat inside a box.
- Plan a fantasy vacation:
Use travel websites to plan a trip anywhere in the world. Create an itinerary and a budget. Where will you stay? What will you eat? What fun activities will you do? How much will the whole trip cost?
- Track and graph the temperature:
Create a table and a line graph to record and track the daily high and low temperatures for a week or the hourly temperature throughout one day.
- Build a fort:
Inside or outside, use your creativity and materials you can find to engineer a fun hideout. Can you make a roof, a door, and windows? Enjoy a snack and a book inside your fort.
- Build a marble run:
Collect lots of cardboard tubes. Use painters tape to attach them to a wall in a zig-zag pattern. Release a marble into the top tub. Can you make it land in a bucket at the bottom of the marble run? Look online for lots more fun marble run ideas, like in these videos!
- Take and edit photos:
Learn how to make the most of the functions on your digital camera or the camera on your electronic device. Try turning the flash on or off, locking the focus, and changing the exposure. Learn about composure techniques like leading lines and the rule of thirds. Then use the camera app on your device or another online app like Snapseed or Pixlr to enhance your photos.
- Track your exercise:
What’s your favorite way to move? Make a chart or a graph to track activities like how many minutes you walk each day, how many pushups you can do without stopping, or how many times you visit the pool each week.
- Create sun art:
Place a new sheet of dark construction paper inside a clear plastic bag. Use another piece of paper to cut different shapes. Tape or glue those shapes to the outside of the plastic bag. Hang the bag in a very sunny window with the shapes facing outside. Leave the bag there for several days or weeks until the paper begins to fade. When you remove the paper from the bag, you should see “shadows” of the shapes.
- Mail a letter:
Handwrite a letter or make a card for someone special. Write the recipient’s address on an envelope and send it via “snail mail” as a special surprise.
- Design a new musical instrument:
Use recycled materials to design and make your own musical instrument. Can you make an instrument that can play at least three notes? Can you create a new percussion instrument?
- Make play dough:
Mix 1 part salt, 1 part warm water, and 2 parts flour. Add food coloring. You can harden your creations by baking them at 200° F for 1-3 hours, or until they are dry.
- Host a summer tournament:
Invite friends or family members to compete in events like a water balloon toss, three-legged race, or obstacle course challenge. Use your measurement and math skills to keep score and crown an ultimate champion.
- Engineer an new water park ride:
Build a model of a fun new water park attraction. Make a miniature model with recycled materials or a larger model to test outside.
- Earn some money:
Host a bake sale, start a lemonade stand, do some yard work, or think of another way to provide goods or services to paying customers. Keep track of your business costs, earnings, and profits!
- Create a sculpture using only recycled materials:
Can you create works of are that are -made from only one material? -taller than you? -weather proof?
- Observe the night sky:
Look for the moon each day or night. Can you predict when you’ll be able to see it and what shape it will appear? Use an app like Night Sky or Sky Map to identify planets and stars. Summer is a great time to see meteors and comets!
- Learn to code:
Go to scratch.mit.edu to program your own game.
- Spend some cash:
If you’ve earned some money, how will you spend it? When you make a purchase, can you calculate how much change you’ll receive?
- Write and perform a play:
Adapt a favorite story, or write your own plot. Make fancy costumes, scenery, and props, or keep things simple. Perform for a live audience, or produce a video recording.
- Use a map:
Track your movements and plan your route around town, at an amusement park, or on a long trip. Can you determine how far you’ve traveled?
- Make a sundial:
Stand outside in a large, sunny spot in the morning. Use chalk or stones to mark your standing spot and your shadow. Stand in the same spot and mark your shadow several times throughout the day.
- Make scratchboard art:
Fill an entire piece of paper with colorful shapes using crayons. Then color over your entire design with a black crayon. Press hard! Finally, use the end of a popsicle stick to scratch off some of the black. You can create beautiful pictures or abstract designs.
- Determine the best paper airplane design:
Does “best” mean farthest distance, longest flight time, or something else? Look up several patterns for paper airplanes, or create your own. Set up a fair experiment to see which design flies best.
- Plant a garden:
Plant seeds in small cups to keep on a window sill, or care for plants in pots or in the ground outside. Keep a journal of observations about your plant.
- Cook a fun recipe & double it:
Put your measurement and fractions skills to use in the kitchen!
- Try reading a new genre:
Visit your local library to check out some books. Enjoy reading your favorites, but also try something new, like historical fiction or graphic novels. Ask a librarian to recommend something you’d like!
- Go on a nature hike:
Explore a new place in your community or visit a new park. Look for places where humans have impacted the environment in both positive and negative ways. Is there anything you can do to take care of nature?
- Make a treasure map:
Choose a hiding place for a special treasure. Make a map and write some riddle clues that lead to your treasure. Can a friend or family member find it?
- Learn to count in a new language:
Ask a friend or neighbor to teach you to count to 10 in a different language, or look up the words online. Practice anytime you count or add.
Click here to have a free printable and an editable version delivered to your email now!
I’d love to hear in the comments below if you use any ideas from this bucket list! Happy summer!