Spoiler Alert: Looking for some fun summer activities for kids? I’ve got you covered for elementary age kids – and it gets better! Each activity is inspired by some of everyone’s favorite books! This list of summer activities inspired by books has something for everyone – STEAM activities, outdoor activities, math, STEM, even literacy and writing! There’s so much that we can get from the books we read – just take a look!
Have you ever loved a book so much that you were left wanting more? And did that ever happen in the summer time when kids are about to be all “mom, I’m boooooooored!!!”
These summer activities inspired by books are the perfect summer boredom buster! If you’ve wanted a more profound learning experience for your kids after reading a story but you didn’t know where to start, I’ve got you covered.
There are many books out there that can be extended beyond reading them. Doing a fun activity paired with a good book is a great way to keep your child engaged in learning.
After you read the book together, these summer activities inspired by books can help your child with comprehension as well. Continue reading to discover all of these fun books that also have an activity included.
This activity is a super fun STEM twist on the typical crafting type projects. And craft avoiding kids everywhere will actually be excited to build and create these magical circuit flower. I could think of no better book to pair with this than Miss Rumphius - the lupine loving, seed dropping woman who wanted to make the world a more beautiful place!
Lego Gummy Mummies is a fun and unique experiment that explores desiccation and links in beautifully with the study of ancient cultures like Ancient Egypt. Fun and easy to do, this activity will appeal to all ages. Just don’t eat the Lego Gummy Mummies! Jack and Annie have fantastic adventures traveling in the Magic Treehouse. Jack and Annie don't need another mummy. But that's what they get when the Magic Tree House whisks them back to ancient Egypt in Mummies in the Morning. Also, check out the non-fiction companion Mummies and Pyramids: Fact Tracker.
Kids love solving a good mystery! So today we have something really fun that will put those critical thinking skills to the test! In this activity - kids are taken through a fun training experience to become a secret agent. For the younger set, I would suggest pairing this with Harriet The Spy. For the slightly older crew, our family LOVES the Mo & Dale Mysteries.
Sometimes an activity can introduce us to something that we aren't able to experience in real life and tornado in a bottle science project does just that! With any science project - but especially with projects that are hard to experience -- it's great to combine with a book. Here are a few of our favorites about tornadoes - choose based upon your child's age. We have always loved all the Otis books! Otis and the Tornado Gail Gibbons non-fiction books for kids are all beautifully illustrated and chock full of great information! Tornadoes! And for everyone who loves The Magic Treehouse series, Jack and Annie learn about tornadoes in Twister on Tuesday.
Whether it is the heat of summer and you need something to help your kids cool off, or the middle of winter, this ice experiment is such a great project to do with your kids. Although I would recommend this science experiment for kids preschool to about grade 2, even older kids will get a kick out of catching the fish. We love Kate Messner's The Seventh Wish to go along with this experiment. In The Seventh Wish, Charlie goes ice fishing regularly, and she catches a talking fish offering her a wish in exchange for its freedom!
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate is the story of Callie Vee who is fascinated with the natural world at the turn of the century. Kids can use items from around the house to make their own homemade barometer and track air pressure along with weather changes (and try their hand at predicting what the weather will be tomorrow!) The instructions are outlined in the book!
We love picture book biographies and Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist is all about Eugenie Clark. As a girl, she fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn't imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary―and they didn't think women should be scientists.
After learning about Eugenie Clark, make your own shark soap!
In How To Catch a Dinosaur, join the daring Catch Club Kids as they try to wrangle a dinosaur in time for the school science fair and prove they're still around! In the activity - you'll get to hatch your own dinosaur egg! This activity would be great at a party (what a way to get a nice keepsake from the party!), in a classroom, as part of a science experiment or even a dinosaur unit study. So many fun applications. I also think you could create some gorgeous imprint art if you carefully laid some canvas over the bin once the eggs were all hatched.
My friend, Jodie, over at Book by Book, has a terrific family dinner club each month. You'll get, themed menus, family activities, ideas for service projects, and conversation starters galore - all centered around the book of the month.
Sometimes you need a simple activity, that teaches some fundamental science principles, while also being absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. This is that activity! Rainbow Rain also known as Shaving Cream Rain Cloud or Rain Clouds in a Jar, is a simple demonstration that will add some gorgeous color and WOW factor to your lesson. Come On, Rain! recreates the glorious experience of a quenching rainstorm on a sweltering summer day with gorgeous illustrations. And in the heartfelt A Time for Rain, we are all reminded that making room for feelings involves the acceptance of seemingly negative emotion as meaningful and even healing.
Zoey and Sassafras strike again! This project can work with any of the Zoey and Sassafras books. Zoey is a girl called to help animals in need and she always uses science to do it. Here, you'll find printables for "Zoey" to write letters to all the friends she makes along the way.
I recently thought my guys were too old for an egg drop experiment. But, we haven't ever tried and oobleck egg drop either! “Do you think Oobleck could protect the egg in an Egg Drop and prevent it from breaking?” So you could pair the obvious Bartholomew and the Oobleck, or you could also check out one of our favorite picture books - The Good Egg. You should also check out An Egg is Quiet.
Load? Effort? Fulcrum? Pulley? Do these words sound familiar? If your child is learning about simple machines then you have undoubtedly heard these words. Sometimes the best way to learn is with a fun STEM activity for kids and How Do You Lift a Lion does just that!
In this activity we built a functioning and unique heart model out of items we had around the house. It was a great biology lesson and lab that tied in perfectly to our discussions about how the heart functions and heart health. Grandpa's Heart is a children's book that was written to help kids understand how the heart functions. One day Grandpa can't come over because he woke up with heart issues and had to go to the hospital. Anthony's dad explains to him what is happening to Grandpa's heart by relating it to how a pool works and how the pool pump keeps the water clean. (don't worry, no sad endings here 🙂
The Drumheller Dinosaur Dance is a terrific book and you can plan some super fun science activities based on the book. Wouldn’t it be fun to have discovered the dinosaurs featured in Drumheller? Create your own dinosaur dig for children to enjoy. Or, let your child pretend he is a Drumheller tour guide for a day. Make him or her a fun name tag and ask that he/she research the various dinosaurs they may have to know about.
What could be more fun and a classic childhood adventure than running a lemonade stand? It’s a great way to practice counting money, adding and also learning customer service. The perfect summertime way to sneak in math! This will pair perfectly with The Lemonade War series!
A safe drinking water lesson may not be high in importance for many, but safe water is a critical need for many people. After this lesson, your kids will understand why it is so important to help people everywhere in the world get access to clean, safe drinking water. In A Long Walk For Water, you'll meet Nya who fetches water from a pond that is two hour's walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. And wait until you see how her story unfolds!
Create a giant, foaming reaction that will astound kids with this Elephant Toothpaste Science Experiment. This simple science experiment is a another erupting science that thrills kids of all ages. Students will learn about chemical reactions that are exothermic. Go beyond baking soda and vinegar and try Elephant Toothpaste! I have two fun book suggestions here - for the younger crowd, the Elephant and Piggie series never disappoints! For the older crowd, check out this heart wrenching book, based on a true story:The Elephant Whisperer (Young Readers Adaptation): My Life with the Herd in the African Wild.
Sanity & Tallulah is terrific for its STEM focus for girls - encouraging them to be curious and pursue their interests in math, science, and technology. Pair Sanity and Tullulah with this awesome color-changing Galaxy Lemonade; it tastes delicious, but it looks absolutely amazing! Galaxy Lemonade is the perfect refreshment to sip while you take a trip to outer space with Sanity & Tallulah!
Your kids will have a blast reading The Teeny Tiny Ghost and the Monster and then making their own puppets and putting on their own puppet show! The complexity of the puppets can be aged up or down as can the puppet show itself!
The story of The Flight of the Last Dragontells the tale of the last dragon on earth. The dragon hears a call from the stars, and ascends to the heavens to join them. Your kids will be excited to learn that there is a dragon in the stars, - so why not play with this sneaky STEM activity to make the constellation come to life inside?!
When my boys were a bit younger Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown was a huge hit! Pair Groovy Joe with some jumpin' white chocolate drizzle popcorn, some cleverly made instruments and you've got a party!
Pairing a craft idea with a reading of Have You Filled Your Bucket Today is a terrific idea. I'm all in favor of intentionally teaching our kids how to be kind. You can quickly make this sparkly blue cloud dough and create a clever play tray!
Ok. You had me at Penguins, Penguins, Everywhere. But then you went and made penguin cookies! Older kids could also do this with a reading of Mr. Popper's Penguins (and maybe a treat to watch the movie later!) because ain't nobody turning down a penguin cookie!!
This Unicorn Horn Soap recipe is so easy, it makes the perfect activity to accompany Zoey and Sassafras: Unicorns and Germs. We read all the Zoey & Sassafrass books and this latest one once naturally inspire amazing discussions and lessons!
The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind is the perfect inspiration for this Lego Rescue activity! Learn all about the power of the wind as well as an added benefit - a fantastic link to social issues and the power of education!
Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe is the perfect book to inspire an amazingly fun STEM challenge with two levels of difficulty. A simple version that can be built quickly by kids of all ages and abilities , and a STEM Challenge version that uses engineering, science and imagination to create a confetti cannon machine that kids will want to power up over and over again.
Ellie the Engineerfollows Ellie, who loves to invent and build all kinds of creations. She and her best friend Kit love to work together to create anything they can think up. The activities provided include an invention book, a fix it walk, or imagine (and maybe build?) the perfect dog house!
My younger son loved Ivey and Bean - wish we had had even a few of these clever activities inspired by the book Ivey and Bean: What's the Big Idea? The activities here range from making a solar oven, turning your cell phone into a microscope, making wildflower seed bombs, create a woven basket from recycled clothes, to exploring NASA's Climate Kids page!
Let Sideways Stories From Wayside School inspire you to so many activities - make an apple doll, design your own school, ,make freezer bag ice cream, create your own instruments, a reader's theater and more!
These Not a Stick activities may actually be my favorite. The trick here is to allow your child to lead the play. And let's be super clear - this is not just for littles!!! You can and should try it yourself - it's great for strengthening that imagination muscle! Start with a mini brainstorm session, then you can test out theories and ideas on tables with an assortment of collected sticks. Oh! And Antoinette Portis also has written Not a Box which I have at home for my 11 and 13 year olds!
In The Perfect Nest, Jack the Cat, seeks to build the perfect nest to attract the perfect chicken! It's the perfect lead in to a discussion about the scientific idea of form and function - what is the function of a nest and, based on its function, how should it be formed? Kids can speculate about how designs for a "perfect nest" can be improved with prototyping and testing. Persistence is strengthened through practice, effort, and action.
This sounds so fun!!! I've just added it to my to do list for school! In Archimedes and the Golden Crown, Archimedes needed a way to show the king that the golden crown he was given was actually not solid gold. Since he knew that silver weighed less than gold, it would take more silver to bring the golden crown to the proper weight. Archimedes struggled to think of a way to determine the proper volume.
Along with this comes a wonderfully fun activity with water displacement!
**Bonus here! If you've never heard Jim Weiss narrate an audio book - you are in for a magical treat! He's a master.
This is a terrific language arts activity using Charlottes's Web as a jumping off point. In the story, Charlotte uses her web to bring attention to how she feels about Wilbur. Her words make Wilbur feel differently about himself. In the book when Charlotte first writes a word on her web, she keeps the existing radial lines and removes the orb lines of the web. Have a discussion about what each of those terms means and draw your own spider webs on white paper.
Now comes the fun part!! Use old magazines and find words to create a collage of words about a friend, family member, pet, or even yourself!
A Rock is Lively offers as gorgeous and informative peek into the fascinating world of rocks. Once you've learned about some different rocks, ask the kids to use Play Doh to recreate the different rocks that they learned about. You can do a quick google search and find a lot of activities with rocks and Play Doh! Here's a cute one below 👇🏼
Read Dr. Seuss' The Butter Battle and then do this super fun and delicious homemade butter recipe. It's only minutes away and all you need is one simple ingredient and your own two arms. Edible science, tasty science, kitchen science, whatever you want to call it, make your own butter in a jar.
Wondering how to make oobleck? This oobleck recipe is the perfect way to explore science and enjoy a classic Dr. Seuss book, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, all in one! Just 2 ingredients, cornstarch and water, and the right oobleck ratio makes for tons of fun oobleck play.
Dragons Love Tacos is another favorite here at our house! I can't count how many times we've read it! This post is full of fun activities for every age - make your own taco bar for kids old enough to cook or help out, TOTALLY MILD salsa slime for littles - and so much more in between.
HUGE Jon Klausen fans at my house - and I Want My Hat Back is one of our favorites! Creating a story basket easily scales for all kids between 6 and 12. Even older kids can use the basket and add in a video of the story!
Charlotte’s Web is one of the books that I automatically associate with childhood. I listened to it read aloud in elementary school and I read it myself multiple times. Add in this super fun floating spider craft - and you've got a winner!
A Computer Called Katherine and a Space Toob can create terrific sensory bins, small world play, or complex dioramas - depending on the age of your child. The story will lead to a conversation about the shape that a parabola makes on a graph and in real life. You can look around the house for examples of the parabola shape, and make them with your hands. The book also easily launches an in-depth look at gravity, how it effects the earth and moon, and how difficult it would be to aim a rocket at the moon.
The Dandelion Seed: Design A Seed Engineering Challenge follows a hesitant dandelion seed as it floats away from its plant in the fall. Throughout its adventure it passes through the 4 seasons, by cities and countryside until eventually it comes full circle and grows into a dandelion plant.
The book is a great entry point into many science topics including plant life cycles, seasonal changes and plant adaptations. The topic of plant adaptations leads to a fun engineering challenge: design a seed! Some seeds fly in the air, some float in the water. Some stick to the fur of animals, our socks and pants to get from one place to another. Some even must be digested before they can grow!
This is a terrific modeling experiment for kids to get their hands dirty - modeling polluted water and then cleaning it up! A perfect book to kick of this exploration is Zoe and Sassafras: Merehorses and Bubbles.
When summer's approaching, thoughts turn to warm sand, salt air, and waves. Again, this is a great activity to scale up or down for the age of your child. And if you're at the beach - why not use real sand and whatever finds you have from the day?
If you’re looking for a summer activity that’s fun for kids, read a terrific story. Then follow it up by an activity inspired by the book is a great idea. You just can’t go wrong with reading to a child and then having a really fun activity that builds upon that story and deepens their learning experience.
Did you notice how I haven’t mentioned “the summer slide” in this post once? It’s because I really dislike the idea that kids are supposed to just continue working through the summer at the same pace they work during the year. But, if it’s something hands-on and super fun like any one of these summer activities inspired by books, the kids won’t even notice that they learned (or retained) something!
Here’s an idea – pick a book to read during the week and then have some friends over. Many of these are picture books, so they can easily be read during the week! Let your children tell the friends about the story you read during the week and then let everybody participate in the activity inspired by the book!
And this could be the most fun activity of all – chose one of our favorite books that takes place in summer (listed below 👇🏼) to read aloud by a very summery place like the pool, the beach, or just outside under the shade of a beautiful tree!
Great Books About Summer
Don’t Forget To Pin This For Later!
Looking for More Activities?
These are some of the most fun, highly curated activities from around the web – enjoy!
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