Looking for STEM projects and challenges for kids? Building and engineering projects are awesome for developing thinking skills and encouraging the ability to design and create. The tough part, though, is that teachers often have to purchase the materials at their own expense. At home, we don’t need to supply enough materials for a class, but with five kids to feed, house, and educate we can’t constantly be buying special materials either. Here’s a collection of STEM ideas that are fun and engaging, and that also make use of recycled or inexpensive materials!
ENGINEERING WITH PAPER
Which paper column can support the most weight? from Creekside Learning. The result was not what I expected!
Build a Newspaper Fort – This is amazing! And all you need is newspapers and tape. Granted, newspapers are harder to come by than they used to be, but maybe you can find a friend or a dentist office that will save some for you!
Build a Conveyor Belt from Pink Stripey Socks. Use a milk carton and paper, and a few other simple materials!
Make some Paper Building Blocks from Babble Dabble Do. So simple and colorful.
Paper Airplane Challenge from Kids Activities Blog. Which plane can carry the most cargo?
BUILDING WITH SIMPLE MATERIALS
This one is our most popular STEM post: 4 Engineering Challenges with Craft Sticks, Cups, and Cubes. I enjoyed this as much as the kids, and it works for all ages.
If you like that one, also try 5 Engineering Challenges with Clothespins, Craft Sticks, and Binder Clips.
Turn a Large Cardboard Box into an EPIC Marble Run – This is seriously awesome.
Make a marble run on a smaller scale – Shoebox Marble Run. Shoe boxes, craft stick, and hot glue – that’s it!
Build a Bridge out of Straws and Straight Pins. Great classroom challenge.
How strong is spaghetti? Test how much weight this material will hold!
Collect some sticks and try building a raft that floats! From Kids Craft Room.
Build a Straw Roller Coaster for a ping pong ball to roll down! Drinking straws and hot glue, and that’s it. Use a low temp gun and kids can make this themselves.
Build a Labyrinth Game with a cardboard box and craft sticks. The finished game is seriously addicting!
Create a Hexbug Maze with Straws from Buggy and Buddy. This is a great cooperative project for groups of kids.
EXPLORE FORCE AND MOTION
Balloon Pinwheel – This is a great way to demonstrate Newton’s third law of motion!
Make a Ping Pong Ball Launcher with a plastic bottle. Fun toy.
Create an Epic Bottle Rocket out of a 2 liter soda bottle. It flew higher than our house!
Build a Tissue Box Catapult and then launch small Lego bricks or ping pong balls or marshmallows.
Use marbles and a ruler to explore the transfer of energy. A favorite science experiment.
I think my kids would tinker with these Magnetic Sculptures all day long! What a great idea from Babble Dabble Do.
Use magnets to create a Magic Spinning Pen.
Make a Magnet Powered Car from Science Kiddo. This is a fun idea!
Defy Gravity with Magnets from Buggy and Buddy! You can probably set this up with things you have on hand.