When time is limited, and the budget is small, we have AWESOME, cheap, and quick STEM activities the kids will love testing out. Whether you have 30 mins or all day, these budget-friendly STEM challenges are sure to please everyone. Give them a spin in your classroom, at home, or with any group of kiddos. You will love our STEM projects with ease and budget in mind!


Cheap and quick STEM activities when your time and budget is limited! Kids will love these STEM challenges for use in the home, classroom, or other group setting. Use our free 5 Day STEM Activities pack challenge and get started with cool STEM anytime.


Scientists and engineers can use different ways to study the world around them. This is exactly what these quick STEM activities are intended to provide for your young scientists and engineers! Many valuable, real-world lessons come from working on simple STEM projects.

What’s the difference between a scientist and an engineer? Click here to read more!

Don’t let STEM intimidate you! Your kids will AMAZE you with their thinking power and creativity in problem-solving. Often they have much better answers than we do! These hands-on activities combine the right amount of play with critical thinking to truly engage any kid.

Not only are these STEM activities amazing for academic success, but they also provide a fantastic opportunity for social skills practice. Working together, problem-solving, and planning to come up with solutions are perfect for kids because it encourages interaction and cooperation with peers.

Even if you set up a junk maker space for free time projects, observe kids coming together to build creations. STEM builds confidence, cooperation, patience, and friendships!


Some of the best STEM challenges are also the cheapest! When you are introducing STEM activities to kids, it’s important to use familiar materials, keep it fun and playful, and not make it to complicated that it takes forever to complete!

You need STEM activities that can be set up quickly; kids will find engaging and provide plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning with the Engineering design process.


  • STEM Design Process: Steps To Success
  • 5 Quick and Easy STEM Challenges
  • STEM Journal Pages
  • Materials Master List
  • How To Get Started Instructions

We have included 5 of our favorite easy-to-set-up and quick STEM challenges for you to share with your kids! Build their confidence with simple materials, fun themes, and easy-to-understand concepts.

Your kids will love using our Steps to Success STEM Design Process page during their activities. This will help reduce the need for your constant involvement because each step provides great information for the kids to think about! Build their STEM confidence!

The STEM journal pages include plenty of room for writing notes, drawing diagrams or plans, and collecting data! These are perfect for adding to projects for older kids to expand the lesson. Younger kids will love to draw their plans too.

You will also find my master list of cheap STEM materials and a quick how-to-get-started guide for using the STEM activities pack!

Click below to get your printable STEM challenges! 


Do you want to explore more stem this year but don’t know where to start? We want you to be able to share quick STEM activities with your kids effortlessly.

These ideas aren’t high-tech, so no circuits or motors in sight, but they will get your kids thinking, planning, tinkering, and testing with easy-to-use STEM supplies. From kindergarteners to elementary through to middle school, there’s something for everyone.


If you are short on time, set time limits for each phase of the design process and make that part of the STEM challenge.

Or if you have multiple short sessions to work on these STEM challenges, choose one or two parts of the design process at a time so as not to rush the activity.

Having kids use the journal pages to keep detailed notes will help them from session to session. Maybe day 1 is planning, researching, and drawing designs.


My best tip for these quick build challenges below is to always be collecting re-usable materials. Keep a bin handy for storing cool items that might come in packaging materials, your recyclables and non-recyclables, and all those other random bits and pieces.

Check out our dollar store engineering kit for ideas!


The first 5 STEM building activities below are included in the free printable pack above, but you will also find a few more fun ideas to add to your STEM time.

1. Design and Build a Catapult

There are a variety of materials and methods you can use for building a catapult!


Catapult STEM Activities Challenge

2.  Build a Boat That Floats

Option 1

We have two ways you can go about this challenge! One is to dig into your recyclables (and non-recyclables) and build a boat that floats. Set up a tub of water to test them when everyone is finished.

You can take it further by testing their ability to float underweight! Try a soup can. Will your boat float while holding a soup can?

Option 2

Alternatively, you can give each kid a square of aluminum foil to build a strong boat that floats. Go ahead and test your boat with added weight, too. Remember to pick one type of item, like pennies, to test the flotation of the boat. Otherwise, you will have inaccurate results because you can’t compare the results.

CHECK OUT: Penny Boat Challenge

3.  Design a Paper Bridge

This quick STEM challenge uses stacks of books, pennies, paper, and a couple of pieces of tape. Challenge your kids to build a paper bridge that spans the gap between two stacks of books. Test the weight of the bridge with pennies.

Additionally, you can challenge the kids to make bridges out of similar-sized materials like aluminum foil, wax paper, cardstock, etc. This is a fun way to extend the STEM activity for older kids.

CHECK OUT: Paper Bridge Challenge

4. Egg Drop STEM Challenge

Another great STEM challenge that uses whatever you can find for materials.  Here’s one of our recent egg drop challenge designs! Where’s the egg? Did it break?

CHECK OUT: Egg Drop Project

Egg Drop STEM Activities Challenge

5. Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower 

Can you build a tower out of noodles? Build the tallest spaghetti tower that can hold the weight of a jumbo marshmallow. Test out those design and engineering skills with a few simple materials. Which tower design will be the tallest and strongest? 

CHECK OUT: Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower Challenge

6. Build a Car That Goes 

There are a few ways you can go about this challenge with a group of kids, and it depends on the time available and the level of difficulty you want! If you have confident builders sending them to design their own cars, that move may be the way to go!

If you have less time or less confident builders, providing the means for the “go” might be more helpful. For example, building a balloon car might be a good choice.

Have the kids brainstorm how they want to make a car “go” as a group. It could be as easy as setting up a fan or building a rubber band car.

LEGO Balloon Cars for Kids STEM Activities Measuring Distance

7. Design a Marble Run

You can set this challenge up for whatever your space and time allow.  Make a marble run from LEGO or even build your own marble run wall.

Why not try a 3D paper marble roller coaster kids can build on the top of a table. This is where your stash of cardboard tubes comes in handy!

CHECK OUT: Cardboard Marble Run

8. Balloon Rocket STEM Challenge

Challenge the kids to have balloon rocket races from one end of the room to the next. You can see how we set up a simple balloon rocket with a balloon and straw.

CHECK OUT: Balloon Rocket

9. Build A Pulley System 

There are two ways you could do this, outdoors or indoors. The difference is in the size of the pulley you can create and the supplies you will need.

Fill a bucket with heavy material and see how easy it is for the kids to lift. Have them imagine trying to lift that bucket way then up high. How would they do it more efficiently? A pulley system, of course!

Challenge the kids to build a homemade pulley system to move objects like marbles from the ground to table level. Toilet paper tubes come in pretty handy. Add some string and plastic cups.

CHECK OUT: Outdoor Pulley System and DIY Pulley System With A Cup

10. Rube Goldberg Machine

Combine some fun things you’ve learned about forces into a STEM challenge where a ball must travel a path to knock down items at the end (a very simplified Rube Goldberg Machine). You can incorporate ramps and even a mini pulley system!

11. Be an Architect for the Day

You can challenge your kids to design and build a creative structure that solves a problem such as a dog house to keep Fido cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Incorporate planning and design and build models using found materials from your stash.

Check out this fun architecture idea >>> Three Little Pigs STEM

Or design and build the Eiffel Tower or another famous landmark!

First, don’t forget… your free printable STEM challenges.

12. 100 Cup Tower Challenge

Here’s another quick and easy STEM challenge coming your way! This Cup Tower Challenge is another one of the most straightforward STEM challenges to set up and is great for elementary to middle schoolers. Grab some packs of cups and find out who can make the tallest tower.

CHECK OUT: Cup Tower Challenge

13. Paper Chain Challenge

If the previous STEM challenge was quick and easy, this one might be even more simple. Make the longest paper chain from a single piece of paper. Sounds too easy! Or does it? Complete it in a short amount of time with younger kids, but you can also add layers of complexity for older kids! 

CHECK OUT: Paper Chain Challenge

Also, check out more quick and easy STEM challenges with paper.

14. Strong Spaghetti

Get out the pasta and test your spaghetti bridge designs. Which one will hold the most weight?

CHECK OUT: Strong Spaghetti Challenge

15. Paper Clip Challenge

Grab a bunch of paper clips and make a chain. Are paper clips strong enough to hold weight?

CHECK OUT: Paper Clip Challenge

16. Create a Paper Helicopter

See how to make a paper helicopter to explore physics, engineering, and math!

CHECK OUT: Paper Helicopter

Looking for even more STEM building challenges? Check out these engineering projects for kids.

17. Build a Simple Machine: Archimedes Screw

Learn more about a simple machine that has changed how we do many of our daily activities! Build your own Archimedes screw.

Printable STEM Engineering Pack

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!


  1. Do you have materials available that say STEAM (with the A for Art) included? I’m trying to build a STEAM center and include more STEAM activities and would love to use your stuff!

  2. Hi Susan,

    I hear you! We don’t tend to do much with art here so I do not. Most of our resources are born from the projects my son is interested in doing. I will add it to the list to see if we can get some more STEAM going.

  3. Sounds really great for my classroom. Could you please make the link to download the activity pack more obvious? I just simply cannot find it on the page. Thanks so much!!

  4. Your website is awesome! Love love love your ideas! So many are so perfect right now for Emergency Distant Learning at our District. I teach STEM based courses to middle school… we are not able to finish the curriculum as it stands, so we are creating choice boards for our students. My colleagues and I are modifying a handful of your activities so that our kiddos can carry them out at home. Our kids are going to have a blast! Thank you so much for all you have done!!

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