The 70 BEST Elementary STEM Activities: STEM Fun for Your Little Ones!

Elementary STEM Activity Happy Child in Space helmet holding a rocket
young children bored at a table in need of stem activities
“Can’t we do some SCIENCE?!”

The kids are home and they are BORED! Like many parents and primary educators, you find yourself in desperate need of fun elementary STEM activities. Your darling children, who look so sweet in their photos, are now running around the house like track stars, coloring on walls, and fighting with their sibling over who got more sprinkles and if dogs can look up.

 

 Calm the chaos and put that creative energy to good use by channeling your munchkins into STEM activities. These quick STEM hands-on projects are quick to set up with minimal prep. To save you time, we’ve organized by level of mess, as well as a bonus section for your future engineer. If your daughter is busy building bridges and constantly changing the iPad language to mandarin, that section is for her. Stay with us to the end for some more fun and educational activities that also help you with your own STEM exploration and application.

 

Three Siblings in a tent Elementary STEM Activity Children The Great Indoors

On indoor days, check out these low-mess, engaging, hands-on activities you can easily do with minimal prep for your elementary-aged children.

 

Build a Robot Hand

Engineers dedicate countless hours to developing prosthetics for those without limbs. In this activity, you’ll build a simple robotic hand with common household materials. High five!

Key Concepts

    • Robotics, engineering, prosthetics

 

Invisible Ink

Channel your inner spy by passing secret messages back and forth using this age-old trick of chemistry.

Key Concepts

    • Chemistry, acid, base, chemical reactions

 

Golden Treasure Inside is Hid

There’s nothing worse than cracking open a hardboiled egg to discover you were wrong and it was raw! Use physics to tell the difference.

Key Concepts

    • Solid, liquid, rotation

 

Pigment Composition

Can you discover which substance has been poisoned? Using the power of chromatography, sus out the imposter and save the day.

Key Concepts

    • Chromatography, inks, color molecules, primary colors

The Strongest Piece of Paper!

Paper may seem flimsy but lacquered together, it’s strong enough to serve as armor! Use folded paper as building blocks, just like Shigeru Ban, an architect!

Key Concepts

    • Engineering, material science, geometry

Paint With All The Colors of E-coli

This activity requires more prep work and purchasing a kit, but the investment is super worth it. Using genetically modified E-coli, you can create vivid images on a plate of agar. Gross AND cool! Don’t worry though, these modified versions of the common bacteria are non-pathogenic so they can’t make you sick. For the educators- free lesson plan here!

Key Concepts

    • Microbiology, biotechnology techniques, genetic engineering

Salty Cucumbers!

You might have noticed that when you buy beef jerky or a new purse, that often there is a little package inside that says “silica gel, do not eat.” This little bag of silica gel protects the product from water damage because it’s a desiccant. Test out some common household equivalents on cucumber

Key Concepts

    • Water absorption, osmosis, plant cells, cellular membranes, properties of water

How strong are eggshells

Arches have been used in structural engineering since ancient times. In this activity, you will test the strength of a naturally occurring arch shape: the shell of an egg

Key Concepts

    • Arch, load, structural engineering, mass

Milky Rainbow

Why DOES soap work? Why do you have to wash your hands with it? Answer? Surface tension! The same thing that makes this experiment so fun. 

Key Concepts

    • Physics, chemistry, liquids, molecules, surface tension

Build a Cell Phone Stand

Why buy it when you can build it? Design and build your own working phone stand so you can watch more YouTube videos and rest your arms. It is summer after all!

Key Concepts

    • Engineering design process, prototype, iterate

Sweet to the Core!

Geologists use core samples to get more information about what was going on millions of years ago. Find out what WILL be going on in a few minutes after you eat your candy bar core sample.

Key Concepts

    • Geology, core samples, geologic deep time, the principle of original horizontality

Lift ice with salt

You can do a lot with salt. In fact, we can’t really do anything without salt. We need it! Now, you can even lift up ice with it.

Key Concepts

    • Freezing point depression, freezing, melting, adhesion, cohesion, state of matter

Young black girl in kitchen with mother cooking summer elementary STEM activities

 Let’s Head to the Kitchen

Some projects are best done on the tile. Prepare for more mess but also prepare for more fun. STEM activities for elementary students are meant to be messy and full of exploration. These ideas are no different!

Crystal Sun Catchers

Crystals are geometry in stone. They’re beautiful to look at and, better yet, easy to create! Try this creative method of capturing beauty with your elementary-aged child. 

Key Concepts

    • Solutions, solubility, saturation, homogeneous mixtures, evaporation, nucleation

Mac and cheese thick sauce

Mac and cheese is likely the best food in the entire world, and your kid probably thinks so too. Bring them into the kitchen with you and teach them the science behind their favorite noodles.

Key Concepts

    • Viscosity, starch, emulsion

Marinades

It’s summer and that means barbeque! And barbeque means marinades, sneaky science sauces that make your main dish tender and flavorful with minimal effort on your part. Bring your student in on the action and help them understand the reason behind all that lime juice. 

Key Concepts

    • Cooking, marinades, BBQ, acids

 

Distillation

The water aisle in the grocery store can be overwhelming. Springwater, sparkling water, alkaline water, distilled water?! What even is distilled water?!? Let’s find out and see how this process can be done and explored with your curious elementary student in your very own kitchen.

Key Concepts

    • Boiling point, condensation, distillation

 

Marshmallow secret messages

Everyone knows that brown food is delicious. The perfect golden brown on warm toast is a result of something called the Maillard reaction and boy does it taste good. In this activity, help your elementary student explore this reaction and send a secret message at the same time. All the best spies communicate via marshmallow. It’s a fact. 

Key Concepts

    • Acids, bases, Maillard reactions, organic molecules

 

Make your own Ice cream or slushies

If you’re from up north, you probably have a bag of rock salt in your garage somewhere. While rock salt is used for melting ice on roads in the winter, it is also a great way to make your own ice cream. Doing this in a bag takes a little bit of time, but during that quality time your elementary student is learning about science and where one of their favorite foods comes from. 

Key Concepts

    • Chemistry, freezing, phases of matter, solutions, freezing point, solutions

 

Make plastic from milk

Plastic is ubiquitous in our lives and that feels very recent, but plastics are much older than you might think! Use this as an opportunity to teach your elementary STEM fiend about synthetic plastics and the role they play in the environmental stewardship of our home. 

Key Concepts

    • Polymers, organic molecules, chemical reactions, acids

 

Strawberry DNA

DNA is everywhere. It’s in every cell of your body, and every cell of every living thing. But it’s so small! That can make DNA a very abstract concept for elementary students. If they could see it for themselves with their own two eyes, it might feel more real. So let’s extract DNA from strawberries!

Key Concepts

    • DNA, genome, genes, biochemistry, DNA extraction

 

Marshmallow microwave map

Have you ever bitten into a microwave burrito, and the first bite is way too hot, whereas the second bite way too cold, nearly frozen? If you’ve experienced this, then you know that microwaves have hot and cold spots, which is why they usually have a rotating tray to ensure that your food is evenly cooked. Map out this modern marvel with everyone’s favorite summer confection: Marshmallows!

Key Concepts

    • Electromagnetic waves, electromagnetic spectrum, wavelength, frequency, energy, energy conversions

 

Make your own “sherbet”

Acid-base reactions are the balancing act of the chemistry world, their opposing chemical natures can cancel each other out. But when they’re out of whack you can really see some cool reactions. We make use of these reactions extensively in the kitchen and in our bodies to keep us going. In this STEM activity, explore these reactions in a delicious experiment using your sense of taste to gather your data. 

Key Concepts

    • Acids, bases, acid-base reaction, ions, electrons

 

Make Marbled Cards Using Science!

If you go to a fancy hotel or an expensive building, you’re likely to see a beautiful stone with intricate ripples and folds. Touch it, it’s cold and very smooth. Marble is a metamorphic rock that is often used in buildings because it is very durable. As it should be, after millions of years deep beneath the surface of the earth’s crust! Marbled paper mimics the beautiful ripples and colors found in marble stone. You can see marbled paper in many old books as lining for the inside cover. With a little shaving cream, food coloring, and a deft hand, you can make your own! Once the cards are dry, use them to send to loved ones so they know you’re thinking about them, and doing awesome science while you’re at it. 

Key Concepts

    • Chemistry, Surfactants, Miscibility, Hydrophobicity, Hydrophilicity, The Rock Cycle

 

Iodine in salt

Have you ever noticed that the salt you’re using says it’s “iodized”? Iodine is a micronutrient, which means we need it in small quantities to be healthy. Because iodine is relatively rare in many people’s normal diets, it’s added to table salt. Ask your grandparents about what could happen before the manufacturers started adding it. Use this activity to share this bit of medical history with your elementary STEM fiend and investigate which types of salt have iodine and which don’t.

Key Concepts

  • Nutrients, diet, food, health, chemical reactions, thyroid, endocrine system

 

Hollywood Glass

You’re watching an action movie, and suddenly the hero dives through a glass window! When they warn you, don’t try this at home, LISTEN! They’re not jumping through real glass, they’re jumping through candy! Luckily, you can make your own.

Key Concepts

    • Solubility, temperature, saturation

 

Kinetic dough

Kinetic or Magic sand is actually just regular sand, with one important ingredient added – silicone oil. The unique properties are due to the elements silicon and oxygen. This introduces polymers, which makes this sand so magic. Make your own!

Key Concepts

    • Polymers, silicone, covalent bonding

 

Stretchy dough

Wheat flours mainly consist of carbohydrates and protein, with some fiber. One of these proteins, gluten, is what makes bread dough products so stretchy and light and delicious. Make some dough with your elementary STEM student and see what impact the variables have on your final product!

Key Concepts

    • Gluten, protein, carbohydrates, elastic

 

Honeycomb candy

Honeycomb candy is an easy-to-make candy that has an interesting texture caused by carbon dioxide bubbles getting trapped within the candy. See how baking soda reacts when it meets the hot syrup. 

Key Concepts

    • Chemical reactions, solutions, decomposition reaction, chemical bonds

 

Make rice paper

Most paper is made from wood or cellulose. But you can make your own paper without cutting down any trees. All you need is rice

Key Concepts

    • Fiber, starch

 

Make marshmallows

We’ve already had a few marshmallow-based activities. Now how about making your own marshmallows? But you’ve got to get the ratios just right, what are they? Discover it with your elementary STEM student.

Key Concepts

    • Chemistry, boiling point, ratios

 

Shrink a potato

Sometimes you harvest your potatoes and they’re just too big! Obviously, the only solution is to shrink them with the power of osmosis

Key Concepts

    • Osmosis, plant cells, cellular membranes

 

Enzyme activities

Enzymes are so important and everywhere that there are lots of activities you can do with your elementary STEM student to help them understand the role enzymes play in our own biochemistry. Here are three that you can do in your kitchen to help get across this essential concept. 

How do we digest our food? 

Why does milk get chunky?

No brown apples in THIS house!

Key Concepts

    • Enzymes, chemical reactions, catalysts, biochemistry, food

 

Mummify a hot dog

The Mummy is a classic story of adventure and exciting locations, but mummification in a desert climate is a process that happens naturally. See for yourself when you mummify a hot dog (curse not included). 

Key Concepts

    • Mummification, desiccation, decomposition, Egyptology, natron salts

 

Betty Crocker Called, She Wants Her Ice Cream Back

Ice cream is a favorite summertime treat, but what about baking your ice cream in the oven? Play with this classic 50’s desert and explore the science behind it with your own little rascal. 

Key Concepts

    • Thermal insulator, heat, emulsion 

 

Color changing cabbage

What if you could take a single liquid, and change it into a rainbow of colors without using food dye. With the power of pH and red cabbage, you can

Key Concepts

    • Chemical reaction, acids, bases, pH indicator

 

Make Boba Bubbles

Bubble tea is a sweetened drink made of flavored tea, milk, and bubbles! Originating in Taiwan, it’s making its way all over the world. They’re easy to make and a great way to teach your elementary STEM student about chemical changes. Not to mention delicious!

Key Concepts

    • Chemical change, suspension, starch, properties of water

muddy legs of children stomping in puddles with text elementary stem activities Let’s Take This Outside

The sun is shining, your children are screaming. Your five-year-old ate a leaf off your house plant. Your nine-year-old found the trumpet she got for her birthday. It’s time to take STEM outside. Let’s get REALLY messy.

 

Soil erosion

The economic cost of soil erosion is estimated to be several billion dollars every year for the United States of America alone. This is a serious problem; can you help solve it? Do this activity and learn how to save the soil with nothing more than a few plants!

Key Concepts

    • Soil erosion, ecology, geology, agriculture, permaculture

 

Soil compaction

Have you ever noticed how much work it is to dig a hole in really hard soil? It’s much easier to dig a hole in soft, loose soil. But why is that? And how does that impact the organisms that make their home there? Let’s investigate!

Key Concepts

    • Geology, soil, density, ecology

 

Winogradsky Columns? Gesundheit!

Our planet recycles and reuses everything on it that is needed to support life. It is an amazing, giant recycling system called the biogeochemical cycle. You can actually model this on a small scale by using a plastic bottle and mud to build what is called a Winogradsky column. In this activity, you will build your own Winogradsky columns and investigate how including different nutrients can affect which soil microorganisms flourish and which fail.

Key Concepts

    • Microorganisms, ecosystem, Winogradsky column, biodiversity

 

Porosity: Rock Solid?

 Despite appearances, rocks are not entirely solid. Rocks actually have tiny pockets of air inside contributing to a characteristic called porosity, or how porous the rock is. This activity models that on a large scale and sparks a lot more questions!

Key Concepts

    • Geology, porosity, rocks, particles, hydrology, aquifers, the rock cycle

 

Grow a flowerpot: How Mycelium of Me!

You may have grown vegetables or flowers, but have you ever grown the flowerpot? In this activity, you will use mushroom roots to grow a biodegradable material that can be molded into a product of your liking, like a flowerpot! 

Key Concepts

    • Ecological materials, mycelium, sustainability, engineering design

 

The Secret Leaf of Colors

Leaves are usually green because they use chlorophyll to convert sunlight to food. But when the temperature drops, so do the levels of that green pigment! Now it’s time for the other pigments to shine through. But how about a sneak peek of what color your favorite tree will turn come fall? 

Key Concepts

    • plant pigments, paper chromatography, photosynthesis, homeostasis

 

Pink flowers? Blue Flowers? Both?

We know that all plants need water to survive, even bouquets of cut flowers and plants living in deserts. But have you ever thought about how the water moves within the plant? In this activity, you will put carnations in dyed water to figure out where the water goes. 

Key Concepts

    • capillary action, transpiration, plant biology, water transport, botany

 

Greenhouse in a Jar

Greenhouses are huge house-like structures that are usually made mostly of glass. How can they protect plants from the cold? In this activity, you will find out and create some extra heat from the sun. 

Key Concepts

    • Temperature, plant science, earth science, thermal transfer, electromagnetic waves

 

Solar ovens

Has it ever been so hot you could cook an egg on the sidewalk? With solar ovens, you can cook an egg on the sidewalk every day. The Solar Sisters have a wealth of educational resources and super fun activities you can do at any age. Design your own, use a template, or get creative! The sky IS the limit. 

Key Concepts

    • Thermal energy, solar science, material properties, electromagnetic waves, physics, energy transfer, geography, engineering design, hands-on learning, problem-solving, sustainability, geometry, physics, chemical reactions

 

What Comes Up!

Before the Industrial Age, people had to rely on muscle power to move and lift heavy objects. Simple machines like pulleys, levers, and ramps made it easier for humans to lift heavy objects like rocks and logs. In this activity, use simple household materials to explore one of these classic machines – the pulley.

Key Concepts

    • Simple machines, forces, tension, load, weight, friction

 

Build a sprinkler

The only thing standing between you and a summer fun-gineering project is some PVC pipes, connectors, and a water source. Design your own ultimate sprinkler system!

Key Concepts

  • Water pressure, engineering, iterative design, problem-solving

 

Hydraulics

Simple machines do a lot to help us get work done. But water can do some heavy lifting all on its own. Hydraulics work because liquids can’t be compressed, and that can be used to create pressure in a narrow space, which can be converted to work. In this activity, your mini-mechanical engineer will build their own hydraulic lift using simple household objects. 

Key Concepts 

    • Simple machines, force, pressure
       

Bird Feet

 In this activity, you’ll investigate what the adaptations of birds in your area tell you about those birds’ lifestyles.  Get ready to do some bird watching!

Key Concepts

    • Animals, biology, adaptations, observation, inference

 

CSI How tall

In this science activity, you’ll get to investigate just how much faster or slower different people walk and see if you can use the relationship between a person’s walking pace and their height to estimate your own height.

Key Concepts

    • Height, distance, walking, estimations, scientific arguments

 

Frescos

The Sistine Chapel, the Last Supper. With this activity, you’ll be in the company of the greats. Fresco is a type of painting that involves painting on wet lime plaster. Try your hand and create your next masterpiece! With science!

Key Concepts

    • Absorption, saturation, chemistry, covalent bonds, chemical reactions

 

Fake Blood for Real Fun

While chocolate syrup might make convincing fake blood on black-and-white photography, it is not passable for real-life encounters or color film. In this activity, science helps you engineer your latest product: good-looking (and tasty!) fake blood.

Key Concepts

    • Viscosity, flow, homeostasis, human biology, healthcare

 

Summer Snow

Snow is great but the weather to get it, not so much. You will mix together common kitchen supplies to make a sculpted object, and then, whenever you decide, you can let your snow creation “melt” away into a white surface. Curious about how kitchen chemistry can look like snow? Try this activity and find out!

Key Concepts

    • Chemical reactions, surfactants

 

Pass the candle

Science is not magic, but sometimes it looks like it. Mesmerize your friends with your mysterious power over the flame of a candle. 

Key Concepts

    • Chemistry, Chemical Reaction, Combustion, States of Matter

Children playing with a lego robot elementary STEM activities For Those Who Need a Challenge

We all remember the kid who couldn’t help but take apart everything they got their hands on. And we all remember when they eventually learned to put it all back together. For those about to STEM, we salute you.

Lying to your sibling

It can be hard to have empathy for your sibling, but empathy is a big part of lying. Most humans begin to develop these skills around the age of three when they begin to understand that what they know about the world might be different from what other people know about the world. Try out this trick and see if this “lie detector” really works.

Key Concepts

    • Theory of the Mind, brain states, psychology

 

Bouba-Kiki

In this activity, you will investigate the Bouba-Kiki effect to learn more about the human brain’s fascinating connection between shapes and sounds.

Key Concepts

    • Linguistics, psychology, human behaviors

 

Coding a LEGO® Maze

In this activity, your elementary student can begin to learn the basics of coding. This challenge can work for elementary and middle school kids, making it great for siblings or friends. As kids perform this activity, they learn to estimate the perspective of something else and build a rudimentary understanding of command codes, sequence, and looping that can help them with coding basics later on.

Key Concepts

    • Coding, robotics, sequence, command codes, looping, problem-solving

 

Mars rover obstacle course

Driving a robot can be difficult. Driving a robot on another planet? Could be a little more complicated. In this activity, you will experience some of the challenges you face when driving a “robot” that you can’t see!

Key Concepts

    • Navigation, programming, coding, robotics

 

Drone steering with Arduino

How do quadcopters (drones with four propellers) steer? Find out in this fun project as you program an Arduino to steer a mini popsicle stick drone!

Key Concepts

    • Circuits, programming, forces

 

Robot sandwich

In this project, you will investigate some of the challenges in programming a “robot” to do a simple household task, such as making a sandwich

Key Concepts

    • Robotics, programming, engineering

 

Mini Arduino drone

How do drones automatically hover at a constant distance from the ground? Find out in this fun drone project as you build an altitude control circuit for a popsicle stick drone using an ultrasonic distance sensor and an Arduino™.

Key Concepts

    • Circuits, forces, programming, feedback control

 

3 Little Architects 

What happens when you take a charming classic like The Three Little Pigs and apply architectural principles to it? Science! Check out this cool architectural STEM project to go along with and a free printable pack too.

Key Concepts

    • Architecture, design process, engineering, literature

 

Oil Spill

Science is important, but so is stewardship and empathy for the world and others. In this activity, mix oil and water in a large container and add a few feathers to the mix. Then pass out materials like sponges, paper towels, or little spoons and instruct your elementary student to try to remove the oil from the water and feathers. It can be an eye-opening experience.

Key Concepts

    • Viscosity, properties of fluid, surfactants, ecology, biology

 

Duct tape challenge

Put your favorite adhesive to the test. What conditions can it hold up to? And how strong is it really? Let’s find out

Key Concepts

    • Wetting, Van der Waal’s forces, adhesion

 

Safe Racer Challenge

Maryland hosts a Safe Racer challenge, but nothing says you can’t host your own! Design and develop a fast, open-top racecar with suitable safety equipment to enable the racing driver, Eggbert[a]—an uncooked egg—to survive a crash test and then compete for the coveted Safe Racer Cup. Construct your car from recycled materials and challenge your friends to the race of a (long and healthy) lifetime. 

Key Concepts

    • Design, engineering, physics, acceleration, physics, velocity

 

Drinking water design challenge

Water is a human right. But many worldwide and domestically don’t have access to clean safe drinking water. In order to make clean water come out of your tap, a lot of engineering and science has to happen. Try your hand at sanitation and filtration with this drinking water design challenge

Key Concepts

    • Drinking water, water treatment

Children playing with paint summer elementary STEM STEAM activities

Creativity in Coding and STEM

Tech isn’t complete without innovation. Innovation doesn’t happen without creativity. STEM activities for elementary students require a willingness to explore and try things out over and over. Check out a few activities that will help clean up after the messes and engage your more artistic side while you enjoy STEM with your elementary-aged child.

 

Art Rules!

With a paintbrush in hand sometimes it feels like there are no rules! But if you look at the most famous works of art, you might start to notice some patterns. So when it comes to art, what are the rules? And why

Key Concepts

    • Photography, composition, rule of thirds, golden mean

 

Unusual Egg Dyeing

Turning eggshells from white into different, dazzling colors can be a lot of fun! People use dye tablets to make different colors in a liquid bath. Eggs can be dyed in many other ways, including using old silk ties!

Key Concepts

    • chemistry, dyes, chemical reactions

 

Science of stains

A stain is a stain, right? No! There are many different kinds of stains, and each requires different types of cleaning to get the stain out. Laundry is a tricky experiment in chemistry and knowledge in this area can save your favorite shirt

Key Concepts

    • Acids, absorption, bleaching, solubility, surfactants, organic molecules 

 

How Does Bleach Work?

You’ve probably got bleach in your house. But what does it do? And how?  In this science activity, you will find out by making food color disappear with the power of bleach!

Key Concepts

    • Reaction rate, pigments, dyes, molecules, chlorine, chemical bonds, rate of reaction