On-demand STEM classes and activities for your child are a great option when you need an activity at any time of day. ActivityHero provides a wide variety of classes and activities in science, technology, coding, engineering, math, and more! Here are some of our favorite on-demand STEM activities.
From WALL-E, Baymax, to Transformers, robots have been some of our favorite movie characters. In this Open Class, Professor Atkeson from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University will walk us through the basics of robotics and then explore soft robots, which have soft cushiony bodies.
Do you know your kids can help scientists solve puzzles and design vaccines by playing games? Genetics, together with computer science, are two of the most promising fields for the future. Join this talk to learn the basics of genetics and explore the fun game designed by Stanford experts!
Have fun baking a dessert with your kids and learn some science at the same time with this DIY Solar Oven by Beau Coffron, in partnership with Home Depot. All you need is an old pizza box and a handful of tools and materials. In just a few easy steps, you’ll have created an innovative solar oven!
This On-Demand segment is part of our Playgineering and Fungineering series that uses the Engineer’s Process to create scenes with Technic and regular Legos and other materials through design, construction, robotics and play.
In this segment, in addition to highlighting key features that define turrets of castles, we provide step-by-step instructions for building turrets using 2×4 and 2×2 Lego bricks that are able to interlock-style attach to the walls of the castle that we build in different On-Demand segments in our series.
This on-demand activity includes a telescope kit and video instruction, where an expert astronomer and telescope builder will walk you through the process of assembling the telescope. Then, begin exploring the universe like Galileo did over 400 years ago and see the wonders of the winter sky!
These amazing STEM Kits include 3-5 STEM experiments and activities shipped right to your door. These include videos with pre-recorded STEM lessons to guide you through the activities. Each video lesson is taught by a California credentialed teacher that specializes in STEM Education.
Build a wind-powered car while learning about the scientific concepts behind the process! These printables will guide you through the steps of building a car, testing it out, and experimenting with it!
Computer programming isn’t just for college students and hackers. Here are four engaging ways to get your kids started with coding.
By Ashley Wang
It’s pretty clear by now that technology is a force to be reckoned with. Tech companies are ever-growing and demand for programmers has never been higher. Computers dominate our lives right now, and they will dominate the lives of our children, as well.
So it’s not unexpected that many parents are interested in coding for kids. But getting them started can be rather tricky, especially if you don’t have too much experience with programming, yourself. Here, we highlight four ways to introduce your child to code.
Used by millions of children around the world, Scratch is considered by educators to be the gold standard for teaching beginner coders the basics of programming. The reason? It uses blocks-based grammar that has users drag and drop commands rather than typing code. Because Scratch doesn’t require learning any complicated programming languages, even eight-year-old kids can use it.
Using the website, you can create everything from short animations to simple games. It’s intuitive, logical, and familiarizes kids with the computational thinking behind programming without overwhelming them with abstract ideas.
And if you want to get your child started even earlier, say at five-years-old, ScratchJr is the perfect learning tool. It doesn’t even require the ability to read; instead, children only need to connect together icon-based blocks to animate their characters.
Looking for a more hands-on experience for your child? Lego robotics might just be the perfect fit. Lego Mindstorms, a hardware-software platform produced by Lego for children aged 10 and up, combines the fun of Lego-building with the intellectual challenge of programming robots to walk, talk, and even think.
Calvin Grewal, a Palo Alto High School senior who interned at a startup as a web developer over the summer, thinks it’s especially great for keeping kids motivated because of the immediate results it lets them see.
“It’s a good way to make coding not so dry,” Grewal says. “Building a physical robot is definitely a lot more interesting, especially for younger kids.”
Grewal does, however, warn against having children learn robotics and coding without the proper assistance that is provided at robotics camps and classes.
“If you’re in high school then you may be able to study code on your own and be properly self-motivated,” Grewal says. “But for kids, camps are definitely better to help facilitate learning and engagement.”
Camps that teach video game design are another great option for children. Because if your kids can’t seem to peel their eyes away from their screens — be it iPads, laptops, or TV — then why not have them learn how to make a video game, themselves?
Grewal is a major proponent of game design camps, citing them as the reason for his initial interest in coding. He started over the summer in elementary school, where he was taught basic Python to develop a simple computer game. Because he was doing something he was already interested in, Grewal viewed learning something as complicated as coding as more of a fun activity rather than a school-related task.
Game design is also becoming a rapidly-growing industry. Especially with eSports on the rise, specialized software developers are needed now more than ever to help create the next bestselling video game.
For kids that love interacting with their peers, joining a school or online coding club may offer additional benefits. While programming is often viewed as an individual activity done in solidarity, clubs encourage students with like-minded interests in coding to help each other out with tips and advice. Students often find it beneficial to have others help them troubleshoot their issues.
“It’s a good way to talk with other people who are interested,” Grewal says. “You learn from other people, who then learn from you.”
However you plan to approach coding for kids, it’s important to always keep an open mind. Because no matter how much they may like legos or game design, it’s still possible that coding just isn’t the right activity for them. But starting by gauging your child’s interest with some of these tips wouldn’t hurt, and perhaps they might just become the next tech founder.
It is that time of year again; the time for kids to explore, learn and grow without the structure and conformity of school. Summer is the perfect opportunity to really delve into what your child enjoys and foster that passion using uniquely designed programs. When people hear the word camp, most think of a tent, a fire and bugs, but camp can be so much more. Check out these unique summer camps:
Whether your kid are 5 and want to be a bird when they grow up or 15 and pursuing aviation as a college option, Hiller Aviation Camp encourages this passion through hands on activities and models, aircraft demonstration, behind the scenes museum gallery, and aviation themed games. Flying camps teach science and life skills in a fun way that allow children to enjoy their experiences, while also continuing their education.
Sometimes you can just tell from a young age that your child is going to be a spy detective for the CIA. As unrealistic as that may sound, you really just never know. If your child enjoys spies, spy movies, or spying on his/her older siblings (or younger), develop that passion by giving him or her a summer filled with mystery, thrill and suspense. Spy Camps keep your child active with secret missions to accomplish each day. Whether you think your child will be a spy for the CIA or a detective for the police force, it is never too soon for you to encourage that pursuit.
According to the dictionary, a person with a compulsive desire for excitement and adventure is an adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline, however is not necessarily a bad thing. It prepares the body for stressful or physically demanding situations. You never know when you will need your adrenaline to kick and save your life or the life of another. Adventure camps develop a child’s sense of adventure through hiking, exploring and playing. Teaching positive ways of releasing energy helps children later in life know how to cope with the constant stresses of day-to-day life.
Your little fashionista probably isn’t going to be into the whole muddy, dirty experience of sleeping on the ground and exploring the wilderness that is offered at an average camp. However, the idea may be a little more appealing to him/her if there was some kind of fashion involved. Fashion may seem like a passion your child will grow out of, but it is important to develop this passion in a way that gives them life skills. It isn’t just putting on pretty clothes; it’s a lot of hard work. At fashion and sewing camps, your child will learn how to come up with an idea, sketch it out, and then create it with master cutting and sewing skills. Inspire their creativity and sense of style at fashion camps across the world.
Legos may seem like just a toy, but they are in fact great teaching tools and used by some of the most well known professions. Engineering, construction, and developing all start with one simple design, and this design can be created using “toys” such as a Legos. They also help with spatial skills and math concepts that children may not realize they’re even learning. Lego robotics, spatial skills, engineering, and so much more are at the heart of a kid who plays with legos. So, if you have a Lego obsessed child, get them into a LEGO camp to support their passion and desire to learn.
Unique camps are a tremendous way to foster a child’s creativity and enhance their learning experience. It may not always be possible to send your child to a week long camp at $80 a day or more, so read part 2 for ways to transform an ordinary camp ground into a fashionista dream land or spy camp never spied before.
Need something entertain your kids when they’re not at school? These 8 easy, at-home maker activities will keep hands busy and minds sharp.
By the Editors of ActivityHero
What’s the solution for beating kids’ “brain drain” while on extended school closures? Maker activities! According to the education website Edutopia, “A Maker is an individual who communicates, collaborates, tinkers, fixes, breaks, rebuilds, and constructs projects for the world around him or her.” (It’s easy to see why the Maker philosophy has become so popular!)
Luckily, ActivityHero has a close relationship with hundreds of summer camp counselors and activity providers who know a thing or two about maker activities and where to find them. Here are a few of our editors’ favorites – and a handful of helpful websites where you can find enough ideas to last all year long.
Here’s a clever solution for those weeks when you can’t make it to the craft store: Sign up for a monthly subscription to Kiwi Crate. This company delivers – directly to your home – everything you need to “tinker, create, and innovate.” Each Kiwi Crate is chock-full of high-quality materials, kid-friendly instructions, a maker project, and a special magazine, all designed for ages 5 to 8. For ages 9 to 16+, the site also offers Doodle Crates (for art enthusiasts) and Tinker Crates (for STEM subject fans). Preschoolers (ages 3 and 4) can enjoy playful fun with a Koala Crate, which includes a parent guide to support “inquiry-based learning,” a magazine, and plenty of creative activities.
Here’s a squeaky-clean indoor activity from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas. All you need is a bar of Ivory soap and a microwave. Follow the instructions carefully, using just one-third or one-quarter of the bar; if you toss in the whole bar, your soap blob will grow to mammoth proportions. Also allow the “soap cloud” to cool for a bit and test the temperature yourself before letting kids touch it. Then check out the website for some fun things to do with the fluffy soap after ooh-ing and ahh-ing over its expansion. Sudsy snowballs anyone?
Build a Brushbot
You may be familiar with Science Buddies as a resource for winning science-fair project ideas, kits, and guides. It’s also a great place to find summer projects like this brushbot, which was created by a Ph.D., and includes a materials list, complete instructions, and ideas for ways to “explore more” once the project is complete. Take a look at their “Awesome Science for Summer Break!” page for more cool ideas, including how to make a paper speaker, build a mini trebuchet, and generate electricity with a lemon battery. Complete kits for projects like these are also available at the Science Buddies online store.
Cool Off with Ice Cream in a Bag
On Growing a Jeweled Rose, ideas abound for parents searching for ways to help kids play, learn, and grow. Their offerings include plenty of “play recipes,” which is delicious fun for kids who love to spend time in the kitchen. One of our favorites during warm weather is Ice Cream in a Bag! Even very little children can help make this concoction using heavy whipping cream, vanilla, and sugar. (You’ll also need salt and ice cubes, but those don’t go in the creamy mixture.) After the project is put together, it takes 5 to 10 minutes of shaking to create an ice creamy treat, which means your children will use up some of that kid energy. View their 100+ Play Recipes right here.
Create Wind-Powered Lego Contraptions
On Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls, Lego projects abound – in fact, there’s a whole section that includes activities and projects using these colorful bricks. The Lego windmill shown here requires a few special bricks and a couple of minutes to assemble, but your kids can create their own options using whatever Lego bricks they have on hand. (Be sure you supervise them when using a fan.) Click on the site’s LEGOS tab for Lego engineering ideas using pulleys, a Lego matching game, and a Lego Minifigure display.
Other tabs lead you to activities for babies and kids of all ages, family fun, homeschooling, seasonal projects, and even a special section to help you organize toys and clean up after projects … in a fun but frugal way.
Bake Some Movie Night Cupcakes
If you’d prefer to do your “making” in the kitchen, why not have some creative baking kits and mixes delivered to your home? Visit Foodstirs, a website created by Sarah Michelle Gellar and two of her closest friends. We unanimously voted two thumbs up on the Movie Night Cupcake Kit – for a fun twist to your standard movie night snacks. To learn where the delicious idea for Foodstirs originated, read the interview ActivityHero snagged with Sarah Michelle when she wasn’t busy cooking up a storm.
Earn Patches for All Sorts of Projects
If your kids love a little extra incentive, consider joining DIY, an ad-free website designed to be “The School We Wish We Had.” This website provides thousands of activities for kids and is a safe, supportive online learning community with 99.7% kind comments in its posts. Try it free for 14 days!
On this site, kids can explore new skills or increase their proficiency in activities they love. They can take part in a challenge, receive feedback from other kids, and earn patches for their work. Many of them also share photos or videos of their accomplishments (with parental permission and using an avatar), and other kids can turn to them for inspiration. Along the way, staff mentors offer help and encouragement when needed, and parents can access reports to see what DIY activities their kids are trying.
Trending topics include a daily challenge, science, Lego, Minecraft, and stopmotion. To join the community, visit DIY.org or download the app on your iPhone or iPad.
Learn how LEGO® camps and classes can help unlock your kids’ interest in S.T.E.M. subjects and build important life skills. Plus: Discover 4 questions will help you find the right LEGO® program for your child.
By Laura Quaglio
Fun fact for LEGO® fans: These versatile building bricks got their brand name from a mashup of two Danish words: leg and godt, meaning play well. Since LEGO® bricks were launched in 1958, kids and adults alike have certainly taken “play well” as a personal challenge, creating LEGO® masterpieces (Will Ferrell’s New York scene in the movie Elf comes to mind), attending LEGO® festivals and conventions, and flocking to see The LEGO® Movie last year.
If you’ve got a kid who loves all things LEGO®, here’s a great gift idea that can help them take their building skills far beyond play time: Enroll them in an after school class or camp that uses LEGO® bricks as a tool for exploring, learning, and having fun.
Kim Nguyen-Ehrenreich is owner and executive director of Bricks 4 Kidz San Francisco, an organization that does just that. Her company (which has franchises in in all 50 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), teaches the fundamentals of S.T.E.M (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects through the use of LEGO® bricks, using custom model plans created for Bricks 4 Kidz by engineers and architects.
How LEGO® Building Helps Kids Understand S.T.E.M. Subjects
The Bricks 4 Kidz programs don’t serve as another hour of classwork for kids, says Kim, but offer kids an engaging way to learn science and tech through hands-on building. Specifically, these “S.T.E.M. enrichment” courses guide kids to learn math, science, engineering, and technology concepts to help them build LEGO® models and robots. “Anything that’s interactive makes learning a lot easier,” says Kim. “I think our main goal is to get the kids to be excited about S.T.E.M. subjects so they can move forward in that area.” By learning how these subjects apply to something they love – LEGO® bricks – kids may develop an interest in S.T.E.M., eventually leading to success in school and a rewarding career.
Though many branches of science are touched upon during the 1-hour afternoon classes – including physics, engineering, life science, and others – the two points of the day’s activities are for the kids to learn and remember something related to the S.T.E.M. concept and to have some creative fun. Kids of all ages are able to use LEGO® bricks and technic gears to create simple moving robots, with help from their instructors and age-appropriate plans. Older kids – say, in third and fourth grades — also work with simple drag-and-drop coding computer software to “program” the robots to make sounds or move in a particular way. “We try to make these subjects enjoyable for them,” says Kim. “If they can also take away a key concept for the day, we’re very happy.”
Why Not Just Build at Home?
Though free play with LEGO® bricks does allow kids to be creative, many of the new kits on the market today are essentially models, explains Kim. Often, kids will get a kit, build it, and leave it intact, she says. “So the element of free play is out the door.” In Kim’s programs, kids use LEGO® technic bricks to build something entirely new each week. Also, the model plans used by Bricks 4 Kidz were designed just for Kim’s programs, so they’re different from anything kids will find on store shelves. (A quick tip from Kim: Be sure to get your LEGO® fan some bricks that aren’t part of a kit – or get them an extra kit or two that they won’t leave intact — so they can dream up their own projects at home!)
Using LEGO® to Build Important Life Skills
Bricks 4 Kidz programs teach skills that help kids in all aspects of life, not just S.T.E.M. subjects. “They learn how to work in a team setting,” says Kim. They also develop fine motor skills, as well a self-confidence and perseverance. “Building a model is not always easy,” says Kim. Working to complete a challenge helps build patience and character. And kids take the skills they learn in S.T.E.M. LEGO® class back to their school classroom and their play room at home. “I’ve heard from a few of the parents that kids who took our classes seem to be more focused on whatever project they’re working on,” says Kim. “They become more excited about building with LEGO® models and learning about science.”
Finding a Great LEGO®-Based Program
There are LEGO®-based kids’ programs popping up all across the U.S. — and not just in the sciences. You may find LEGO® art classes, LEGO®-themed birthday parties, model-building camps, and even activities focused on developing civic responsibility and leadership. (You’ll find plenty of options on ActivityHero!)
Here are a few key questions Kim suggests you consider when checking out LEGO®-based programs in your area:
Is class placement based on both age and skill level? In LEGO®-based programs, the curriculum should be age-appropriate, says Kim, but instructors should be sensitive to the needs and abilities of each individual child. “Some kids have really defined fine motor skills as a kindergartener,” she says. This means they might be really good at manipulating tiny bricks and assembling more complex models than other kids in their grade. At Bricks 4 Kidz, children are paired with others who have a similar skill level, which helps them work together in a way that allows them to build their self-confidence and learn cooperation and patience.
Is the curriculum unique to that program? Kim’s program uses special plans created by engineers and architects. This means that the kids in her programs will be completing models that aren’t available elsewhere.
What are the goals of the program? For the younger kids, goals are probably more basic. Children might learn to break down a project into small goals and solve problems along the way. They begin by sorting and identify the pieces, reading simple project plans, and learning how different bricks and gears work together. As kids get older, they can explore other skills, such as using pre-coding software to direct a robotic LEGO® creation to move or make sounds upon command.
Is there individualized attention? Rather than have a lot of kids working on one big model, Bricks 4 Kidz encourages children to work in pairs and on smaller, motorized models. She says this gives each child plenty of hands-on time – and a greater sense of accomplishment.
For girls, are there gender-neutral or girls-only programs available? Currently, all Bricks 4 Kidz programs are gender-neutral, says Kim, but she plans to expand the girls-only offerings in the coming years. “Particularly with middle-school girls, it’s hard to keep them interested in S.T.E.M. subjects,” says Kim. “We have to pull them in a little more and help them build their confidence.” Programs designed for girls can help do just that.
What are the instructors like? When hiring instructors, Kim looks for people who are going to be mentors for kids. “We look for people who love to be with kids and to be able to help them learn,” she says. “They make a connection with the kids and encourage them to take on challenges. We have kids coming out of our programs really loving our teachers.” Ask to meet with some of the instructors, ask for some specific information about the teachers, or read their bios so you can tell if the teacher will be a good match for your children.
Does the program look beyond LEGO®? “We’re not exclusive to LEGO®,” says Kim, who is offering winter break camps that teach kids about renewable energy, the water cycle, and water conversation – a current hot topic due to the ongoing California drought. “We’re teaching kids about the things their parents hear on the news that impact our daily lives,” says Kim. “There’s no limitation to LEGO®,” she adds. “But we incorporate a lot of mediums in our full-day camps to teach different aspects of our focused theme.”
Getting More from LEGO® Play at Home
One of the easiest ways to encourage your kids to get more out of every LEGO® session at home, says Kim, is to sit down and play with them! “I think when parents sit down with their child, that helps kids feel confidence in building,” says Kim. “And it helps build the level of connection between the parents and their kid.” Though Kim acknowledges that it can be tough to find time to build with your children on a weekly basis, her company sometimes offers mother-daughter and other parent-child workshops that carve out a bit of time for you to bond over a big, colorful pile of these time-honored toys.
Find a LEGO®-Based Activity in Your Area
Ready to see what LEGO® classes and camps are offered in your community? ActivityHero can help! Check out our special LEGO®-based offerings today, and give your child a LEGO®-related gift that will keep them playing happily throughout the winter!
If you have a Lego lover, or even if you don’t, you can have some fun and creative activities with these everlasting bricks. These Lego activity ideas require minimal prep time and as long as you have Legos (or Duplos for the younger crowd) somewhere in your house, you are already halfway prepared. I pull out these ideas when my son is looking for something to do on a snow day or when I need a few minutes of quiet to take a deep breath or read a few chapters of my library book.
While these activities work great for kiddos alone, they really start to break the imagination barrier when you get the kids working in groups. You can try a few of these out for your next play date, Scout meeting, or even a Lego themed birthday party. Compete in teams or work in groups and then share the creations. No matter how you use these activities, you are sure to find some meaningful (and educational) time together. Let’s get started!
Problem Solving Situations This one is my preschooler’s favorite and I love that it works his imagination and critical thinking. Before your group arrives (or while they are having a snack or playing in the other room), set up Lego figures in situations that require intervention. For example, figures trying to cross a shark infested river (like the photo), figures trying to climb a bookcase to retrieve a treasure, or figures trying to open a drawer. It doesn’t have to be a major production, so don’t worry if you can’t come up with a major storyline and situation. Instead, you are just giving your group the starting point.
Let the kids know that they can create anything with their Legos to help the figures solve their problem. You’ll be surprised and impressed when you see them create creations from ladders to spaceships to help their figures solve the problem. Once they have created, give them time to talk about their ideas with the rest of the group.
The great thing about Legos is that you don’t need a lot of direction to get kids thinking differently or creatively. Try out a color puzzle with your group and see how they use the colors to make a new creation.
Simply grab some crayons (make sure you only use colors that match your Lego stash) and make a pattern on a piece of paper. Then, ask your group to use the Legos to create something that matches the color instructions. They might have lots of questions at first, but simply let them build whatever they want. It just has to match the color puzzle that you laid out for them.
Pre-build a few creations to put at the end of the room. Tuck the pre-built creation into a shoebox so that it is not visible from anywhere else in the room. At the other side of the room, or the starting line, put a pile of Legos that includes pieces and colors that match the shoebox creations. Group children into teams, and let them know that their objective is to work together to build the project that is completed at the other side of the room. When you start the race, each child runs to the end of the room to look at the creation and comes back to the start line to start to create the finished product that he just saw. Once he places a few pieces, it is the next child’s turn to run down, take a look, and return to build on what they have started. Continue with this until the team thinks that they have built the exact replica of item in the shoebox.
When they think that they have it, I like to have them yell something silly like “Legopalooza” or “Happy birthday Johnny!”. Once they yell that they have it, you can inspect their creation. If it matches, they win and if it doesn’t match, they have to keep racing to figure it out.
Depending on the age and skill of your group, you can make the shoebox creations easy or more difficult to replicate. It is fun to watch the kids form a strategy and then adapt that course of action as the race continues. I love Lego races because it gives the brain and the body a good workout.
Start with a Book
I’m always looking for ways to incorporate books into our home activities. I am an avid reader and, so far, so is my son. I think that the more we can get good literature into our day, the better and more imaginative our day is.
For this activity, you only need a good read-aloud book and a pile of Legos. Read the book to your group and then have them build something (individually or in groups) that is inspired by the book. Try not to give them ideas or any further direction and just watch where their imagination leads them. After they build, give them a chance to explain their creation to the group and how the book inspired it. Not only is this activity excellent for imagination, it is also great for comprehension, which is a major reading readiness skill.
These are just a few ways that you can breathe some life into your Lego activity sets. If you have Lego lovers that still can’t get enough, you might want to check out these awesome Lego Camps or Classes!
ActivityHero spoke with Prerana Vadiya, the CEO of Kidizens to learn more about their unique program.
How do LEGOs and being a mayor go together?
At Kidizens’ Summer Camps, children (grades K-3 and 3-6) learn all about the civics and economics of managing and governing a city! In a one or two week intensive, action-packed session, children partner up to create and run their own small civilization from TONS of LEGOs. As mayors, our campers have LOTS of responsibility and opportunities for leadership –they’ll be providing residents of their cities with EVERYTHING they need to stay safe, healthy, and happy! At the same time, the mayors will be managing natural disasters, solving everyday problems, dealing with budgetary crises, holding inter-city summits to work with neighboring cities, and handling animated court cases!
Our Kidizens team will present real-life lessons and necessary information on all topics and create newer challenges as well as opportunities for problem solving!
Do you have kids returning each year?
Kidizens’ Summer Camps have built upon the successes of previous camps and its established year long civics and real life social studies programs. Our summer camps have received tremendous parent endorsements and have become increasingly popular: many kids have returned for a second and third year. All the summer camps are run by experienced teachers and supported by dedicated volunteers.