We're finally on summer break! Yes, of course fun is in order, but it's also important to keep the kids engaged and learning. You hear a lot about STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and it is easier than you think to include these types of activities over summer vacation. All of these summer STEM activities are on the agenda for our break with my tweens, ages 10, 10 and 12. Jump in below and share your own ideas for summer STEM activities in the Comments, too!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, and I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free. All words & opinions are my own.
Visit a museum
We love visiting science museums and especially like those that have hands-on exhibits with engineering and tech applications. Find a museum near you that offers free admission, and explore together. It's been a lot more fun taking tweens to museums since they have a longer attention span and actually read the exhibits now.
Visit a local nature center to learn what insects, birds and animals live in your area. Be sure and make time for unstructured play as well as a ranger-guided tour.
Let the kids poke around, go for a hike, observe critters and their habitats. Include tech like binoculars and cameras so kids can observe and capture what they find.
Try computer programming
My kids love Scratch (for grades 3-9) and work cooperatively to create games and quizzes for each other and their friends. If your children are younger, try Scratch Jr. (Pre-K thru 3). Both programs are completely free and easy to learn.
Both math and science skills are taught and reinforced when you cook and bake with your kids. Teach your tween to make pancakes, for example; it's not just a lesson in self-sufficiency, it's chemistry as well!
Hit the library
Our library’s summer programs include workshops and events centered around science and Lego. You’ll also find loads of books with do-it-yourself experiments and lots of amazing facts. My kids love the National Geographic Kids series, with everything from zoology to meteorology to wacky facts.
Plant a garden
Whether you have a large plot for gardening or just a patio with a few pots of herbs, learning to grow plants helps kids with environmental awareness, nurtures a respect for all living creatures, and encourages healthy eating.
Watch (a little) TV
On those thunderstormy days or when we need a break from the heat, we’ll stream some our favorite STEM-based shows like Mythbusters and Outrageous Acts of Science. I’ve mentioned OAS before; I love that the scientists on the show come from a variety of sciences and reflect many cultures and both genders. They explain the concepts very well and it’s a great show for tweens that combines viral YouTube with science learning.
Play with STEM toys
One of the best ways to get tweens engaged with STEM is with tech toys. Best Buy sent us the Vex Robotics Robotic Arm to review. My kids loved building this kit, and I appreciate that it has two alternate builds, a Chopper and a Scorpion, with instructions you can download. That means we have many more hours of fun ahead this summer.
My kids found the instructions very easy to follow, including symbols to help the kids note where to “look out” for common mistakes. When they did made mistakes, it was easy to pop the pieces apart to readjust. The pieces are lightweight but very strong, and I can see the durability lasting through many sessions of taking apart and rebuilding. The kids worked together and used problem-solving skills to complete the Robotic Arm in about 3 1/2 hours.
While the box suggests ages 8-15, I recommend it even for younger kids who have experience with other building toys. Mine found the process very similar to that other toy you know is all over our house. And now that the Robotic Arm is built, they're using it to pick up and transport other toys since the crane rotates 360 degrees and moves in two directions to raise and lower with the levers the kids built. It's a clever way to show kids how engineering and construction come together in this sample of an industrial robot. They'll also build and observe how gears transfer power.
Summer is all about fun, but you can still keep your kids learning and engaged. These Summer STEM activities do both!