Five Books For Summer Art and Steam Projects With Kids.

Summer is the best…and the okayest. Do you share this sentiment?

Kids countdown the days to what they envision as endless freedom, sleeping in, pool day every day and the stuff dreams are made of!  Summer is magical, right?! Well, it might be, but it can also feel endless in a not so magical way.

Staring back at every one of those starry-eyed kids is a grown up with fear in their eyes! “What am I going to do with these kids for an entire summer!”  Parents, and often grandparents, struggle to find activities to keep every one happy and not climbing the walls.

Well, fear not, I have some great books to start you on your way to an easy and artful summer.  Before we get into that though, I would also suggest to adapt a loose schedule for the summer. Everyone loves freedom, but it’s nice to know a little bit of what to expect. I do not care what the little humans tell you, they do appreciate boundaries. A schedule also helps relieve the pressure of being asked “What are we going to do today?” all day, every day.

Mess Maker StuidosAs far as schedules go, do what works for your family. Maybe morning time is outside play in the backyard and the afternoon is for playing inside. Maybe you choose Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the pool and Tuesday and Thursday are left for figuring out. Maybe you pick a theme for each day. Monday is water play, Tuesday is park day, Wednesday is go to a friends, Thursday is go somewhere new and Friday is invite someone over. Setting up even a small outline of your week can help make it successful. Only put what you feel comfortable executing on your plate. This is suppose to be fun, remember? You can always add to it, but it is very disappointing for the kiddos if you don’t get to it. If you are constantly promising to finish the list tomorrow, then there is no point to the list. So I will caution you again, start small! Everyone loves an unplanned ice cream trip, but no one is happy about a missed one!

Now for those awesome books I promised! How I use these books with my own kids is with a calendar. We go through and pick out a handful of projects, then we pick days that week that we are going to complete them. And of course we pick an easy one to do that day because who can wait?! 

Putting them on the calendar for that week gives me time to get all of the supplies gathered. I personally don’t appreciate the pressure of finding a whole list of supplies for the project of the minute. By the time I find all of them, everyone has moved onto the next project of the minute. Not my favorite game. 

Mess Maker Stuidos (1)[ I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn small fees at no cost to you by linking to and affiliated sites. Thank you for supporting my small business so that I can continue to provide you with great projects! ]

So, in no specific order and by no means an exhaustive list…. I give you 5 +1 books to give you summer art inspiration!

I own and use all of these books in both the studio and at home. Enjoy!  

1.) TheDadLab: 40 Quick, Fun and Easy Activities to do at Home

We love these experiments and if you aren’t following @TheDadlab on Instagram, do yourself a favor and follow him! Lots of great videos!

the dad lab

2.) The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art and Creativity–Includes over 60 Art Projects for Children Ages 1 to 8

This book is thoughtfully crafted with a lot of projects, but also useful information about setting up your space. 

the artful parent

3.) Action ART: HANDS-ON ACTIVE ART ADVENTURES (Bright Ideas for Learning (TM)) by MaryAnn F. Kohl

This book is full of go-to classics for this ex. Pre-K teacher! Some of my favorites all in one easy to grab place! 

action art

4.) STEAM Kids: 50+ Science / Technology / Engineering / Art / Math Hands-On Projects for Kids

This book has a little bit of everything and it explains how it hits that STEAM skill as well. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. 

Steam Kids Book

5.) Cardboard Creations: Open-Ended Exploration with Recycled Materials

We love Art Bar Blog, her projects are totally inline with our process art studio. As a mom of a preschooler and a first grader, I also love the simplicity and beauty of her project invitations. She has two books, but this one is completely devoted to cardboard! Hellooooo Amazon, Costco and Target! Can I give you my pro tip for scoring big sheets of cardboard? Costco! I ask for the big flat sheets that separate the rows of products. 

cardboard creations

If you get this book, I would also order some kind of cardboard cutting tool. Kids usually resort to dangerous methods of cutting if you don’t give them sharp enough tools to get the job done. Even if it is you getting it done. My son has been known to adapt a stabbing method of cutting if I can’t make his dream come to fruition with our kitchen scissors. Yikes! 

Cardboard Cutting Tools: 

Use precaution with ALL of these! 

Worx ZipSnip Cutting Tool  ––An electric tool for long, straight cuts. This is for me, but older children may be fine. 

CANARY Corrugated Cardboard Cutter––utility knife

Canary Cardboard Scissors–-handheld scissors made for thicker paper and cardboard


Now, I’m going to kind of cheat here. I know I said five, but I really love this book AND I just happen to have posted a picture from the book totally by accident. I think the universe says to add a number six! 

So my number six pick is…. 

6.) Clay Lab for Kids 

These tutorials are easy enough for 2nd grade and above to complete on their own. Just last Friday I had a student make those eye balls with some free class time. I keep the book on my shelf and the kids are always trying to convince me to make something out of it. They love it! 


Well, there you have it. Enough to get you started with all types of easy and awesome projects for the kids this summer. If you are looking for even more inspiration sign up for our  weekly Summer Camp email .  Every week you will receive several projects and a printable supply list delivered right to your inbox! Easy peasy!

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