Stave off the dreaded “I’m bored” syndrome that hits partway into any vacation or downtime with a few of the BEST simple STEM activities that cost almost next to nothing. We have many easy STEM challenges to get the juices flowing, and keep the kiddos thinking and learning. As always, we have plenty of STEM projects to get you through the year. Shhh, don’t tell them!
EASY STEM PROJECTS FOR KIDS TO KEEP THEM BUSY!
EASY STEM CHALLENGES
So you ask, what does costing next to nothing look like for a simple STEM activity? What materials do I actually need to do fun STEM activities? If I don’t know much about STEM, can we still do these activities?
Easy STEM activities can look like grabbing items from the pantry, recycling bin, junk drawer, and maybe a trip to the dollar store too. I always like to ensure I have a few basic supplies, as you will find in our MUST HAVE STEM SUPPLIES LIST (free bonus pack too).
WHAT IS STEM?
First, STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM activities involving these fields have a huge impact on kids. Even the simplest STEM activities, like building the catapult I talk about below, provide numerous opportunities for kids to learn and explore STEM.
These STEM building activities might look like your kids are just playing, but they are doing much more. Look closely; you will see the engineering design process in motion. You will see experimenting and critical thinking in action and notice problem-solving at its finest. When kids play, they learn about the world around them!
STEM TEACHES LIFE SKILLS
These simple STEM activities for elementary to middle school work just as well in the classroom as they do for distance learning, homeschool groups, or screen-free time at home. Also perfect for library groups, scouting groups, and vacation camps.
I highly encourage you to get in on the fun if you can but hold back on providing the answers when things don’t go as expected!
Frustration and failure go hand in hand with success and perseverance. You can provide encouragement when things aren’t working well and offer congratulations for a successful challenge completed. Younger kids may need more assistance, while older kids might choose to work independently.
It’s always good to discuss the importance of failing with our kids. Some of our greatest inventors, like Darwin, Newton, Einstein, and Edison, failed and failed time again, only to make history later on. And why is that? Because they didn’t give up.
STEM RESOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED
Here are a few resources that will help you introduce STEM more effectively to your kiddos or students and feel confident yourself when presenting materials. You’ll find helpful free printables throughout.
10 SIMPLE STEM ACTIVITIES FOR KIDS
So let’s start with some of the best, simplest, and most fun STEM activities that will have your kids chanting your name and eagerly waiting for the next awesome idea.
Each of these easy STEM activities will provide you with a materials list or you can read about it under the descriptions below. The STEM supplies are pretty simple and you probably have most of it floating around the house.
1. Build a Catapult
Time to storm the castle with a homemade catapult that explores many parts of STEM and that is entirely playful. The kids will come back to this one over and over again. We have several popular versions of the homemade catapult, the best being made out of craft sticks and rubber bands.
2. Build a Balloon Rocket
Oh, the fun you can have with Sir Isaac Newton, a balloon, a straw, and some string. Explore Newton’s Third Law of Motion when you make a balloon rocket. Have races, conduct experiments, and explore physics while you play.
Here’s also our Christmas theme balloon rocket… Santa’s Balloon Rocket
Alternatively, you can make a balloon car!
3. Build Structures
All you need is a box of toothpicks and a bag of mini marshmallows, gumdrops, or styrofoam peanuts. Turn it into a challenge to build a certain style of a bridge, a famous monument or simply an abstract creation. Or you can challenge the kids to build a tower 12″ tall (or any other height).
4. 100 Cup Tower Challenge
Grab a bag of 100 cups at the grocery store and challenge the kids to build a tower with all 100! That will keep them busy. Grab a free printable too!
5. Think Like the 3 Little Pigs (Architectural Activity)
What happens when you take a classic fairy tale like The Three Little Pigs and you join it with architectural inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright? You get an awesome STEM picture book called The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale written by Steve Guarnaccia. Of course, we had to come up with an easy STEM project to go along with it and a free printable pack too!
6. Learn Basic Coding
Computer coding with LEGO® is a great introduction to the world of coding using a favorite building toy. Yes, you can teach young kids about computer coding, especially if they are highly interested in computers and how they work.
7. Build a Marble Run
Building a marble run is full of design possibilities and encourages those engineering skills. You can build it on the wall with cardboard tubes and tape, LEGO bricks on a baseplate, or in a box top with tape, craft sticks, or straws.
8. Paper Chain Challenge
Only one sheet of paper needed to get started with this super easy to set up STEM challenge. As long as your kiddo can use scissors safely, this is a great challenge to try! Perfect for different ages, groups, and team building!
You can also find more easy STEM activities with paper here.
9. Egg Drop Challenge
If you can stand to give your kids a carton of raw eggs, this type of STEM challenge will be a blast. Have each kid design a mechanism that will protect a raw egg from breaking when dropped. Look around the house for items that could work. Challenge your kids to only use what they can find and not buy.
10. Build A Simple Machine
Simple machines make our lives so much easier. Do your kids know all 6 simple machines? Have them do some investigative research and find a simple machine they can build from materials on hand.
CHECK OUT MORE FUN STEM ACTIVITIES
- Paper Bag STEM Challenges
- Things That Go STEM
- STEM Activities With Paper
- Engineering Activities For Kids
- Best Cardboard Tube STEM Ideas
- Best STEM Building Activities For Kids
Printable STEM Pack for Kids
80+ Doable Engineering Projects in one convenient pack!
- Full instructions with sample images
- Activity-specific instruction sheets
- Data Collection Sheets
- Questions for Reflection
- Architecture Building Cards: Try the tallest tower challenge
- Bridge Building Cards: Explore different types of bridges to build your own.
- Paper Chain STEM Challenge: Who can make the longest chain? Great icebreaker or quick challenge!
- 3 Little Pigs Architectural Pack: Design a house that won’t blow away!
- Great marshmallow challenge: A classic challenge kids love!
- Real-world STEM challenge lesson but don’t know where to start? Our easy-to-follow template shows the steps!
- What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer?
- Crossword and word search with engineering vocabulary.
- Engineering vocabulary cards
- Design a one-of-a-kind invention and write about it with this 5-page activity!