Summer Science Ideas

We all know that summer reading is really important for the elementary school kids out there and for older students it’s all about test prep (READ “5 Ways to Encourage Summer Reading“). More often than not I hear from parents of young children that their kids just need a break over the summer or that, especially this year, the kids got out so late in June that it only seems fair to allow them some time to just play outside and socialize.


I completely agree that young kids need time to relax and have fun during the summer but what if they were able to learn something while thinking they were just playing? That would be pretty nice and it would keep those little brains working so that they are ready for what lies ahead in the fall.

Top 5 Summer Science Projects for Pre-school and elementary students

1. Blanket Fort (or castle)

Does anyone remember making a blanket fort when they were a kid? I did and it was tons of fun. Believe it or not, making a blanket fort can teach young kids about gravity, spatial stability and team cooperation. This particular project will take some patience on mom and dad’s part; the blankets and sheets do need to be folded up at the end of the project. On the plus side, the project can be done in the house and it is completely free.

– Get some blankets, sheets and pillows, a few weights (heavy books, shoes o reven a shampoo bottle can work)

– To make the project more educational ask your kid to separate the items by weight. For example, the heavy quilt should be at the bottom and the lighter sheets at the top. When the first version of the fort falls down, talk to the kids about gravity and why things fall down.

– Let the kids built their fort or castle all day and watch them enjoy using their imagination. They can use the books to hold down the loose sheets or to create a wall. (READ: “Physics for Kids: Laws of Motion“)

2. The Apple and the Tree

Once the little ones have mastered their first architectural wonder, and lived in it for a couple of days, teach them more about Newton’s Laws.

Every week I buy celery convincing myself that, this week, I will eat it. At the end of the week it ends up in the compost pile. If this happens to you, save those to-old-to-eat fruits and veggies and teach the kids about gravity.

– Each kid gets a piece of fruit or vegetable; they stand up on chairs in the back yard and release them at the same time (a good project for siblings or with friends).

– Another kid, or adult, measures which object hits the ground first. (They should hit at the same time assuming there is not any wind that day).

Guess what? You have just taught your kids about physics! (READ: “Which Hits The Ground First: A Golf Ball Or A Bowling Ball?“)

3. The short term “pet” caterpillars

I hear kids asking mom and dad for a pet cat or pet dog all the time. Start out with a caterpillar and see how it goes. In the mean time, the kids will be learning all about science and life cycles. This is a multi-day project so there are a few days of learning and fun ahead.

– First you will have to go hunting for caterpillars, if you have an organic garden or live near a park, you should find one there. Don’t squeeze the caterpillar or there will likely be tears (and a dead caterpillar).


– Make a good home for the caterpillar. A plastic milk jug cut in half and a piece of cheese cloth and rubber band to cover the top should be a good start. Put some moist soil at the bottom of the jug (about 2 inches) along with some green leaves for it to eat. Add some bigger leaves and twigs so that the caterpillar feels at home. The caterpillar will need to eat the same type of leaves from its host plant, so grab some from your garden. Hint: Don’t put the caterpillar in direct sunlight or you will have a melted mess and lots of tears. (READ: “How to Care for a Caterpillar“)

– Wait for your crawly caterpillar to turn into a beautiful butterfly and let it fly away!

4. Water Content in Fruit

Lots of kids enjoy raisins and other dried fruit for a snack, but do they know how these snacks start out? Try doing a science project where kids can pick out a few different types of fruit (bananas and grapes work great) and figure out how much water is in them.

– Choose and peel some fruit of your choice. Weigh the fruit and keep a log.

Dry the fruit in the sun or in the oven.

– Weigh the dried fruit afterward and compare.

Hint: This particular dried fruit may not be suitable for eating so use it for science exploration only and enjoy some dried fruit from the store if you want to eat it.

5. Vibrant flowers

This is one of my favorites from when I was a kid. Kids can see how veins work using a few things around the house.

– Buy some flowers on sale; they must be white or very light colored such as daisies.

– Cut the stems and set them aside.

-Put some food coloring in different vases and add water. You can use red, yellow and blue or a mixture of any colors.

-Put the freshly cut flowers in each vase and watch the petals turn a different color in just a few days.

Science projects can be a great way to keep those little minds ticking away over the summer and learning can be both fun and inexpensive. Enjoy! If your child is struggling in science, make sure you get them an Irvine private science tutor early on in the year. The longer you wait, the farther behind they will get.

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