15 STEM Activity Books for Your Middle Grade Brainiac
by Devon A. Corneal
We all love books here, but every now and then we want something to do. Hands-on projects. Challenging experiments. Messy, brain-twisting puzzles. If your child is interested in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics in any of their many forms, we’ve put together a list of books that will help you channel their curiosity and fill a few hours on a snowy/rainy/stay-inside-but-have-to-make-the-time-pass kind of day. Don’t be surprised if you get caught up in the fun, too!
Destroy This Book in The Name Of Science!
My stomach hurts a little bit at the thought of mutilating a book — except when the book is filled with pages meant to be colored, torn, and altered in order to create unexpected and engaging projects. All you need for hours of fun are glue, scissors, markers, tape, and an open mind.
Kitchen Cabinet Science Projects
If your kids like hanging out in the kitchen, then you’ll want to get your hands on this book of scientific projects. It has oodles of fun and easy experiments kids can do using regular household items. Who says science can’t be tasty?!
The Coding Workbook
What tools does your child need to learn to code? Just a pencil and this workbook will do! Created by a Technical Curriculum Developer who taught herself to build websites, this workbook uses examples, practice quizzes, and self-checks to teach kids the fundamentals of web development. Students from any background can use this book — and no computer required!
Kate the Chemist: The Big Book of Experiments
Moon rocks, unicorn glue, lava lamps, and fake tattoos are just a few of the experiments you’ll find in this hands-on STEM book. Complete with step-by-step instructions, full-color photography, questions for kids to consider as they work through the science project, and an explanation of the science behind each experiment, it’s an excellent book for any budding scientist.
This Book Isn’t Safe
If you haven’t watched the innovative and downright weird videos of Colin Furze building his unusual inventions, I highly recommend popping over and spending a few minutes (or hours) on his YouTube channel. (I’m partial to the belt of knives myself — just think how much easier salad prep would be!) If you’re looking for kid-friendly version of Colin’s inventions, check out This Book Isn’t Safe, and let your kids dive into ten new projects.
Smithsonian: STEM Lab
Pages and pages of experiments fill this must-have addition to your home library. Want to give your child a leg up at school? Want to keep them busy on a lazy Sunday afternoon? Want to learn about flotation, temperature regulation, or gravity? This is the book for you.
This captivating book exposes kids to a slew of mathematical topics in a way that’s anything but dull. Open the flaps, pull the tabs, read about everything from basic numbers to statistics, then try out some math-oriented activities to pull the concepts together. It truly is mesmerizing.
How to Be an Engineer
Using everyday objects you can find around the house, How to Be an Engineer encourages kids to think like — you guessed it — engineers. That involves critical thinking, applying scientific principles to real-world problems, and more than a little fun. Robot arms, anyone?
Calling All Minds
In Calling All Minds, Temple Grandin does more than expose kids to fascinating scientific questions: she reminds us that every person is unique, and that solving the great challenges of our time will take minds that see the world in new and unexpected ways. I dare you not to be inspired.
How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering
Personally, I’ve always been a little intimidated by science. I can read a science textbook and still have no clue what’s going on. DK understands and is here to help. Using colorful and comprehensible illustrations, How to Be Good at Science, Technology, and Engineering breaks down complicated scientific concepts into simple visuals that makes science fun and engaging for your middle grader.
Star Wars Maker Lab
Who hasn’t watched a Star Wars movie and wondered how the Millennium Falcon could fly so fast, or why light sabers never run out of power, or how gravity works in space? (Wait, is it just me?) If you have questions, this book has answers. You might not be able to build your own X-wing fighter, but you will know how to make some pretty cool slime and also have a better understanding of a few key scientific principles.
Star Wars Coding Projects
If you have a kid who dreams of a galaxy far, far away, but spends a lot of time on a screen way, way too close to their face, turn that screen time into a learning opportunity with Star Wars Coding Projects. Using the Scratch program, your child can build their own ships, avoid asteroids, and invite their friends to try the latest game they created.
Coding Games in Python
Perfect for your favorite gamer, Coding Games in Python will have your child creating loud, exciting, visually bold games in no time. In addition, they’ll learn coding basics that they can apply to other software programs.
Crack the Code!
For years, the gaming and coding world has been geared to — and developed by — boys and men. With the arrival of Fortnite and a chorus of girls reminding us that they can do anything boys can do, it’s great to see a book designed to help girls learn to code. It’s chock-full of activities and inspiration for the aspiring coder in your house.
Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World
More inspiration from the founder of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani’s new book helps girls learn the basics of coding and challenges them to dive into this rich, rewarding, and important field of STEM.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2021.