Summer Projects: Exciting Engineering

After months of homeschooling the summer holidays may be a welcome break for both you and your family, but if you are wondering how to keep your child occupied over the next few weeks we have some ideas to help.

The projects below are designed for children aged 8 upwards and they have one simple aim – to be lots of fun! We talk about how you can extend your child’s scientific knowledge and understanding as they engage in the activities if you wish to do so.

Ultimately, it’s about your child experiencing the joy of making discoveries for themselves and spending time with you.

Balloon-powered vehicles

Challenge: Choose and make a balloon-powered vehicle from 3 Simple Science Experiments from Balloons.

You will need:


Masking tape

Additional materials depend upon what your child chooses to make. Think about ways you can substitute materials used in the video for things you already have at home. For example, if you don’t have a sheet of polystyrene to make a boat you could fashion a boat by cutting up a plastic bottle or modify a bath boat.

For your information:

Newton’s third law of physics explains how balloon-powered vehicles work – for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As the air is expelled from the balloon in one direction, the balloon itself moves in the opposite direction.

Helping your child:

After your child has made and played with their vehicle you could introduce them to Newton’s third law of physics by watching The Dyson Foundation’s Balloon Car Race film.  Can they now explain why their balloon vehicle goes?

Marble run

Challenge: Build the fastest, and best marble run you can.

You will need:

Cardboard tubes (toilet rolls/kitchen rolls)


Bowl to catch the marbles

Felt tips or paint to decorate the marble run if your child wishes

For your information:

For instructions to make a marble run read Tinkerlab’s How to Make a Marble Run. Also watch The Dyson Foundation’s Marble Run Challenge which explains how a successful marble run depends upon gravity and friction.

Helping your child

Encourage your child to experiment with different angles as they arrange the marble run chutes – what angles work best?

To discover that friction and gravity make a difference to the success of the marble run they could try lining their chutes with rough or shiny materials and then sending a marble down the run. They might also drop different objects down the chutes instead of marbles in order to make further comparisons.

Marshmallow bridge

Challenge: Build a bridge from mini marshmallows and cocktail sticks.

You will need:

Mini marshmallows

Cocktail sticks

Pictures of different types of bridges (which you could print from the internet).

For your information:

Type ‘bridge mini marshmallows toothpicks’ into Google Images to see some examples of marshmallow bridges made by others.

Helping your child:

Together look at pictures of real bridges. Ask your child what shapes they can see in each bridge and whether they could use any of these shapes in their own bridge construction.

If the activity is too tricky, your child could build a tower from marshmallows and cocktail sticks rather than a bridge.

Paper table

Challenge: Make a table that is strong enough to hold a heavy book.

You will need:

Sheets of newspaper

Masking tape

Corrugated cardboard rectangle approximately 20cm x 30cm

Masking tape

Heavy book

For your information:

Start by watching Paper Table from iPhysics. You will see that table legs and supports are made from rolled up newspaper and the table top is a rectangle of corrugated cardboard. 

Helping your child:

Show your child how to make a strong tube from a sheet of newspaper as demonstrated in the iPhysics film. Start at one corner and roll diagonally towards the other corner, rolling the tube as tightly as possible and securing with tape.

Before your child begins, look together at tables and other furniture you have in the house. Do table legs and table tops have any support? Can your child apply what they see to their own designs?

As your child builds their table, support them to solve any problems that occur as independently as possible. Wobbly legs can be supported with extra newspaper tubes, and if their table tips it might help if they make the legs shorter.  The more triangular supports that are in place the stronger the table will be.

Would your child benefit from tailored science tuition?

At TutorMyKids all our tutors are passionate about firing children’s enthusiasm for their subject. We believe children gain a deeper understanding of science by making discoveries for themselves and solving problems.

Whether your child is at primary school or studying for exams, TutorMyKids can put you in touch with a fully-qualified, specialist science tutor who is up-to-date with the current curriculum.

During the coronavirus pandemic all tutoring sessions take place one-to-one online. Talk to us today at 858 421.