Looking for summer activities that will help beat summer brain drain? Look no further than your backyard. Using materials from home, these fun science activities are practical and deepen each child’s experience with the natural environment.

Backyard biology

There is plenty to explore in our backyards if we take the time to look more closely.

  1. Dig in the dirt

Give kids a gardening trowel and let them dig. Unearth several shovelfuls of dirt onto a tarp or a large garbage bag. What do they see? Worms and bugs? Pine cones and sticks? This activity helps kids see and understand soil composition firsthand and gives a sneak peek into the busy world that is underground.

       2. Dissect a flower.

Carefully using their fingers or a pair of plastic tweezers, kids can dissect a flower to uncover all its parts: petals, stem, stamen, and stigma. The next time they see a bee hovering around a flower, they’ll understand the process of pollination.

         3. Build a worm city

Fill a clear container with dirt and place a few worms in their new “city”. Over time, kids will be able to see how worms live and work their way through the dirt.

Go ahead, make a mess

The backyard is the perfect spot to test out those chemistry experiments that are too big or messy for the house.

        4. Make a volcano

This classic science experiment never gets old. It can be as simple or extravagant as you choose. It can be as modest as adding baking soda and vinegar with a bit of food coloring to a plastic bottle and waiting to see what happens. Or go a bit bigger and build a volcano shape around the bottle with sand and rocks.

         5. Chalk and vinegar explosion bags

Chemistry has never been so fun! This experiment is also a wonderful use for those pesky little bits of leftover sidewalk chalk. Grind the chalk down to powder and put it in a Ziploc bag. Add vinegar and seal the bag up tight. How long does the bag take to explode? For an extra thrill (and mess), add food coloring to the mix.

Test the laws of nature

Backyards were made for physics experiments and summer is the perfect time to test the laws of gravity and motion.

         6. Make parachutes

With a bit of string, circles of fabric, and small household toys, kids can make their own parachute people. Some good fabrics to start with are coffee filters, plastic bags, and tissue paper. Test a variety of types of papers and several different toys of various sizes and weights. Which toys are too heavy for the parachute? Which fabric works best?

         7. Rig up a zipline

A bit of rope tied to two anchors is all you need to get a zipline off and running.

         8. Build a catapult

Small catapults are easily made with popsicle sticks and rubber bands. Kids can use a range of objects – small rocks, bottle caps, toy figurines, etc. and test how far each one travels.

Let the sun do the cooking

9. Cooking with the sun

Cooking with the sun can be as simple as seeing if an egg will fry on pavement, or more sophisticated homemade solar ovens.