Outdoors have always fascinated children and indeed its great to be in open air in many ways too. Coupled with exciting STEM activities for kids, you can easily transform a boring, mundane day into a fun learning experience.
Recent studies indicate how outdoor activities benefit kids, both physically and mentally. These activities provide a great way to practise what kids have learned and to work with their hands – a skill facing constant decline! With the current decline of motor skills, children need outdoors activities more than ever. And what’s more, children always look for an excuse to be outdoors.
So take learning outdoors with this jumbo list of outdoor STEM activities for kids.
Science Outdoor Activities
1. Sun Prints
This is a wonderful activity to do with little kids. All you need is a sheet of dark coloured paper and a few loose parts like blocks, clay, pebbles etc. These sun prints can later be used for beautiful wrapping sheets and cards.
2. Cola & Mentos Geyser
This is an exhilarating must-do outdoor science activity for kids. Be ready for the boom and the bang!
3. Bursting Bags
This is a quintessential outdoor science activity that every kid must try. It is easy, quick and loads of fun for kids. All you need is a zip bag, baking soda, tissue and vinegar.
Step 1: Take a tissue and put baking soda on it. Fold the tissue neatly to make a baking soda pouch.
Step 2: Pour vinegar in the zip bag and seal the bag just leaving a small pocket big enough to drop in the baking soda pouch.
Step 3: Put the baking soda pouch in the zip bag, seal it quickly and run away.
As the tissue soaks in vinegar, baking soda comes in contact with vinegar resulting in chemical reaction. This reaction produces carbon dioxide -a gas that inflates the zip pouch and forces it to burst.
Sodium bicarbonate + Acetic acid -> Sodium acetate + Carbon dioxide + Water
C2H4O2 + NaHCO3 -> NaC2H3O2 + CO2 + H2O
4. Evaporation Activity
This is a wonderful activity to delve further into the science of matter. Through this simple activity, your children will learn hands-on how matter changes states and how other factors influence the change in state.
What you will need:
- 3 containers with varying surface area
- Measuring Cup
Using a measuring cup, pour equal quantity of water in all three dishes and keep them in a sunny spot. Observe the water in the dishes after 3-4 hours. From which vessel did water evaporate the most? Use the measuring cup and measure the water in each dish. Is your hypothesis correct?
5. Soil Science
Children love getting dirty and this is one activity where you will not complain of mud stains! This outdoor science project compares different soils and how the structure of soil in turn affects its flora and fauna.
You will need:
- Two glass beakers
- Garden Soil
Step 1: Pour sand in one beaker and garden soil in another.
Step 2: Take half a cup of water and pour it in both the sample soils.
Observe how water penetrates through the different soils. Sand allows faster penetration while garden soil is able to hold on to water. This significantly affects the flora and the resulting fauna in a habitat.
Many such factors contribute to the animal and plant life prevalent in a region. Looking deeper into these factors can help combat the damage caused by human activity and conserve our environment.
6. Bug Viewer
This is one of our all time favourite activities. All you need is a bug viewer and a garden patch. Help your child catch a bug and observe it for a few minutes in the bug viewer. Let them count its legs, spot its eyes and observe its behaviour.
Have a little bug lover at home? Try the Bee STEM Challenge!
Planning to keep children busy all day with a low cost and little-supervision-required kind of activity? Then this one is for you.
Only thing you need is a chalk and outdoors. A human sundial is a fascinating way to understand shadows and Earth’s spin.
8. Pendulum Art
This is super fun outdoor STEAM project for kids that combine elements of arts beautifully. Create abstract art with this fun outdoor science activity, which demonstrates the of gravity of an object.
9. Plant Life Cycle in a Pot
This is fun activity-cum-game. Like the name suggests, kids have to spot all the stages of plant life cycle in a pot. Yes, in one pot! Sounds difficult? Well, Not really! All you need is a keen eye and good observation.
This is one project we seriously adore. All you need to do is click pictures of the moon at the same time, from the same spot for straight 30 days.
Once all your pictures are ready, arrange them in a chronological order. Staple one side and your flip-book is ready!
11. Elephant Toothpaste
This is a classical outdoor science experiment that we strongly recommend be done outdoors. It is messy, foamy and fun!
12. Plant Transpiration
Teach children all about transpiration with this super easy biology experiment. Plants don’t pee like us but then how do they get rid of all that excess water they absorb from the soil? The answer is transpiration.
Transpiration is a process through which plants get rid of excess water. But this water loss takes place invisibly! The tiny holes present in plant leaves release this excess water in the form of water vapour, thus making the process imperceptible. But with this clever experiment, you can actually see all the water that plants release back into the atmosphere.
All you need is a zip lock bag and a plant! Simply cover a branch of the chosen plant with the zip pouch and seal it. Observe after few hours. Your kids will be amazed to see water droplets condensing along the sides of the zip pouch, fogging it completely!
Plants offer great science lessons for kids. Your child can explore her nearby garden for tonnes of Plant Science Activities that will excite her, help her learn more about her environment and make her a natural scientist.
Engineering Outdoor Activities for Kids
13. Pom-Pom Shooter
This is a great engineering STEM project to do outdoors. Made completely form recyclable materials, Pom-Pom shooter is a fun STEM activity all children above 5years will enjoy.
Children love making paper airplanes. They are an all time classic! How about adding a twist and making an airplane launcher to blast planes outdoors!
15. Solar Oven
This is a perfect engineering project for summers! Bake marshmallows with this easy outdoor engineering project. The only thing you will need in plenty for this one is patience. It’s a great project for building executive skills in children.
16. Egg Drop Structures
Outdoors are best suited for messy challenges. Challenge your kids with this super messy and super fun hands-on engineering game.
17. Baking Soda Powered Rockets
18. Solar Still
A solar still is perfect outdoor STEM activity for younger kids. With elements of science, little designing and brainstorming, you can distill water using sun’s energy.
You will need:
- Glass bowl
- Cling wrap
Step 1: Pour some water in the glass bowl and mix salt to make salt solution.
Step 2: Place an empty cup in the center of the bowl. Make sure no salt water gets into the cup.
Step 3: Cover the bowl with a cling film (plastic wrap) and let it sit in sun for a few hours.
You may place a rock at the center of the plastic wrap to create an incline for the condensed water to slide into the glass jar. After a few hours, we observed several droplets of condensed water on the film. Keep it for a day to collect fresh water into the cup.
Solar still is a great hands-on project for kids to learn about the states of matter as well. Replace water with ice cubes to observe all three changes of state.
Catapults are favourites with kids. After all, who does not like launching pom-poms balls into the air! You can play catch- catch with this simple version of catapult or transform it into a outdoor target game for a fun-filled evening.
20. Teepee Challenge
Challenge your kids to design a tee-pee for the outdoors. They can use natural materials like wooden sticks, twine to make a teepee.
It is an awesome, hands-on outdoor engineering STEM activity for elementary grade kids. This is perfect to brush geometry and spatial reasoning skills.
21. DIY auto-dispensing grain bird feeder
This auto-dispensing bird feeder is an apt activity for any nature enthusiast. Let your child put his engineering skills to design this no-battery required automatic bird-feed dispenser.
This is must-do nature engineering challenge for all kids. Learn about the revolution of earth around the sun with this easy to do engineering project for kids.
- Craft paper
- Clay/ Dough
23. DIY Foil River
Children love water and outdoors! Bring them both together with this fun outdoor STEM activity and set your child’s imagination free. Hours of fun guaranteed! Bonus points for designing the perfect boats and wining paper boat races.
24. Wind Vane
Wind vane is an instrument that is used to measure wind direction. Help your children do it at home and observe (even chart!) wind speed over a period of time. It is an exciting science project and relatively easy.
Technology Inspired STEM Activities
The World around us is shaped by technological inventions. Be it a spaceship or your phone, everything relies on technology. It is an integral part of our lives.
Doing technological STEM activities with children help them explore and use technology in a safe environment. Instead of viewing technology only from the perspective of entertainment, children can learn how to problem solve using technology. This is a significant step in changing their perception and getting them interested in technology.
25. Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt
Nothing can be more exciting than an outdoor photo scavenger hunt. Hand a camera to your child along with a list of things they need to spot and let the fun begin!
This activity not only teaches children how to use camera but also introduces them to the science of light & optics while enhancing their observation skills.
26. Dirt Battery
Have young tech whiz who wants to try her hands at every thing possible? Search no more! Dirt battery is an awesome, hands-on project to help your kids get started on batteries.
27. Identify Birds with an App
Take the love for nature a step further with a bird watching app. Any child can be turned into an ornithologist with Merlin Bird ID. It is a great way to use technology to understand local habitat and the birds within it.
28. QR code Hunt
QR code is basically a square graphics of black small squares and dots. It contains information like web address and link. QR codes simplify the process of browsing by directly landing the user on the link embedded in the QR code instead of typing it. All you need to do is simply scan the QR code.
On your next trip to a mall or supermarket, teach your children all about QR codes and ask them to identify them in the supermarket. Many payment apps use QR codes. Help them identify products and services that use this technology. Ask them if they could design a QR code, what information would they like to embed in it.
Activities like these widen your children’s perceptive. Instead of looking at technology and applications mindlessly, children when engaged in such activities become curious and more likely to learn about the technological landscape.
29. Plant Detectives
Help your little botanists explore the flora around their neighbourhood with a cool plant identification app. There are many free options available for both iPhone as well as android users.
30. Track the Trip with Google Maps
Help your children explore their neighbourhood with google maps. Once they are familiar with the application, ask them to map out their friend’s house and compare alternate routes.
31. Natural Refrigerator
This is an awesome technology summer project for kids. The challenge is to design a natural refrigerator. What you will need is an Earthen Pot and regular water bottle.
Step 1: Fill the earthen pot and water bottle with water at room temperature.
Step 2: Dig a hole big enough in your garden to bury the earthen pot while keeping its neck above the ground. Place the water bottle next to the pot.
Step 3: After 4-5 hours, check the temperature of water from earthen pot and the bottle. Which one is cooler?
This is one simple way to design a natural refrigerator. Lower layers of earth are cooler than the topmost layer and the porous nature of earthen pot allows heat exchange. Burying earthen pot underground exposes the water to lower temperature environment and porous nature of the earthen pot further facilitates the heat sink, thus, cooling the water in the pot.
32. Night Sky App
Take your child on an outward journey to space and explore the celestial objects with Night Sky app. Help them identify the planets in the night sky and discover constellations.
Water wheel is a great science project on natural resources and green energy. Water wheel is simple machine that converts the energy of the falling water. For a simple demonstration at home, simply pour water on the water wheel and observe the energy of falling water getting converted into motion.
34. Make a Compass
Another great outdoor STEM project for kids, this one teaches cardinal directions with the help of a compass (or vice-versa!)
35. Make a Compound Machine
Compound machine is a combination of two or more simple machines. This easy to make compound machine is great for summer science fair project and employs two simple machines – Pully and Wheel & Axle.
What you will need:
- 4 Paper Plates
- Black Acrylic colours
- Glue Gun
Step 1: Paste two paper plates together on the edges, so that they are facing each other. This will make the wheel for the project. Make another wheel using the other two paper plates.
Step 2: Colour the paper-plate wheels black using acrylic colour and leave them to dry.
Step 3: Mark the center on both the wheels.
Step 4: Sharpen the pencil at both the ends and stick it at the center of the wheels. Secure the assembly with glue gun. The pencil will act as an axle.
Step 5: Tie one end of yarn/twine around the pencil, wrap it enough number of times and leave one end free to pull.
When pulled form the loose end of the yarn, pencil and yarn will act like a pulley. Since the pencil is also acting as an axle, it will transfer motion to the wheels that would make our compound machine move.
36. DIY Magnifying Glass
How about exploring the garden and its million wonders with a DIY magnifying glass? Exciting, right! Use simple recycled materials around the house to make this magnifying glass.
What you will need is:
- Plastic Bottle
- Blue Gun
Step 1: Draw two equal circles on the neck of plastic bottle and cut them out using cutter.
Step 2: Using glue gun, paste the plastic circles around the edges, leaving 1 inch gap, to create a convex assembly.
Step 3: Pour water in the glued circles through the gap and then seal the gap using glue gun. This will act like a magnifying glass.
Step 4: Cut out two rectangular strips from the cardboard for the handle of the magnifying glass. Using glue gun, paste one end of the strips on either side of the magnifying glass. This is optional and more for younger kids. Older kids can use the DIY lens as it is.
Make your very own thermometer at home and make observations about the outdoor temperature during different times of the day. It is a great summer project for kids to get them interested in weather science.
Math Outdoor STEM Activities
38. Balloon Number Splash
Make math fun and silly with this simple balloon number splash math activity for kids. It is simple, hands-on activity to teach number recognition, counting and odd-even numbers to kids.
What you need is water balloons and chalk. Using chalk, draw a few circles and write down numbers within them. Call out a number and let your child aim a water balloon at it. Splash!
39. Graph My Yard
Work on data handling skills with this fun outdoor math activity for kids. Let your child scroll around the garden for 15 minutes and then graph his observations. It is simple yet highly effective lesson on data handling.
40. Garden Math
Outdoors are apt to practice measurement skills. Let your kid explore a nearby garden or your own vegetable patch to measure leaves, flowers and fruits. You will be amazed at the diversity that a small garden packs in and the sheer amount of plant science activities that you can conduct in your backyard.
Encourage your kids to grow some plants by planting seeds exactly 2 inches under the ground. This is a wonderful activity to encourage hands-on measurement.
This is a wonderful game to build gross motor skills and numeracy skills. Perfect for cool evening outdoors.
Teaching time is easy-peasy with this outdoor math activity. Children learn substantially better outdoors and through play based methods. This one is both!
Take sorting skills to the next level through this super-fun game. Challenge is to bucket the items into appropriate groups, make connection (like union, intersection) but without being bored with a worksheet!
44. Hop & Skip
This is a delightful outdoor math activity that is perfect for little monkeys who love jumping around. There couldn’t be a better way to teach skip counting than this.
What you need to do is draw a few circles and write skip counting in them but in random order. For example – if you are doing skip by 3, you could have circles with 3, 12, 6, 21 and so on! Your child has to jump from circle to circle following the right sequence of numbers. What a fun!
45. Spider Web Math
Now, outdoor math is not just for younger kids who are learning number recognition and skip counting! Make a spider web and gear up for some serious outdoor math fun. This is fun mental math activity for kids and it also gets them hopping around.
Make a big spider web on your side walk and write numbers in each section. Call out commands like 5+4, 10-8, 12+6 and so on. Your child has to deduce the answer mentally and jump on the correct number.
46. Pattern Hunt
This outdoor math activity is perfect for lazy days when moms just want to sit & relax. Ask your child to take a stroll through the garden and spot as many different patterns as he can. Leaves, flower petals all follow certain patterns! Remember, how Fibonacci stumbled on the famous sequence!
47. Run and Round
This outdoor math activity helps children practice rounding off skills the fun way. Just randomly write some numbers on your sidewalk, though make sure to include consecutive numbers to make the game challenging.
Now call out a number and ask your child to round it off to the nearest ones place and hop on to the correct answer. Start with practicing easier numbers first and then introduce trickier numbers with higher decimal value.
48. Tessellation Spot
There is math all around! Ask your child to spot higher patterns like tessellation around the neighbourhood. Places of worship, restaurants, and pavements are great examples of tessellations.
Help your child practice basic operatives and math facts with this delightful sidewalk outdoor math game. You will be surprised to see how fun practicing math can be!
Make use of natural materials and give wings to your child’s creativity with stick patterns. Your child may start with easier pattern and then gradually progress to complex stick patterns. Let your lawn/backyard be her notebook.
51. Leaf Graphing
Wondering how to introduce the idea of area to your kid? This is one simple activity that will make the slightly advanced concept of area fit for children as young as 6 year-olds.
Pick a variety of leaves from your garden and trace them on graph paper. Ask your child to count the squares within the leaf’s outline. Assume each square represents 1sq. inch area. The number of squares within the leaf is a close approximation to the area of the leaf. To add complexity, count the squares with the outline and club them to get a close approximation of 1sq. inch.
This mammoth list of outdoor STEM activities will encourage your children to observe their surroundings and invent their own play ideas. Thus, boosting their STEM skills while keeping them fit. No more boredom!