Sunshine Activities

Try making your own solar-powered oven.
Try making your own solar-powered oven.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Sunshine activities for kids introduces them to the fascinating capabilities of the sun.

The sun is extremely powerful. In addition to lighting and heating the Earth, it is responsible for powering countless functions and processes of endless living things. It's not just a source of light, it's a source of life.


Give kids these fascinating sunshine activities to do, and watch them learn more about the natural world. Once you start on one activity, they'll find it hard to stop.

Solar Prints

Make fascinating prints using only the sun -- a perfect activity for the budding photographer.

Make a Sundial Activity

See how our early ancestors told time without watches -- and with surprising accuracy.

Homemade Thermometer Activity

Kids can make their own thermometers and compare their readings with those taken from a local newspaper or newscast.

Fun in the Sun Activity

It's easy for kids to construct a simple sundial with everyday items.

Gas Expansion Activity

Learn how heat affects gases in this illuminating experiment.

Sun Tea Activity

All these activities in the sun are bound to make kids thirsty, so they'll be happy to do this one.

Solar-Powered Oven Activity

Try this solar-powered oven activity and see how it stacks up against the oven in the house.

Read on and learn to make graphic creations with the power of the sun!

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

Make these solar prints and see what develops!

What You'll Need:

  • Some nature objects
  • Light-sensitive paper

How to Make Solar Prints:

Step 1: Gather some objects in nature that have interesting shapes, such as leaves, flowers, and twigs.

Step 2: Arrange some of the objects on light-sensitive paper. (You can buy this at a hobby, photography, or toy store.) Be sure to keep the paper away from the light until your objects are all arranged.

Step 3: Put the paper in direct sunlight for about five minutes. Take off the objects and dip the paper in water to set the image. Lay out the paper to dry.

Solar-printed paper makes great stationery and greeting cards. Or, you can color or paint the images to make artwork.

Tell time like the ancients did with a sundial you make yourself! Keep reading to find out how.

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

Cut your sundial to the dimensions shown in the picture.
Cut your sundial to the dimensions shown in the picture.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

This make a sundial activity teaches kids how ancient people told time before there were clocks.

What You'll Need:

  • Thin cardboard
  • Tape
  • Wooden board
  • Pen or marker

How to Make a Sundial:

Step 1: Cut a piece of thin cardboard to the dimensions shown in the illustration. Tape the cardboard upright on a board. Put the sundial outdoors in a sunny place with the highest point of the triangle facing south.

Step 2: Starting as soon as it gets light, go to your sundial every hour on the hour, and mark where the shadow of the cardboard falls. For example, at 11 a.m., write "11 a.m." at the place where the shadow falls.

Once all the hours are marked you can use your sundial to tell time. Make sure you place your sundial in exactly the same spot each time you use it.

Can you think of ways that clocks are an improvement over sundials? The most obvious is that clocks tell time at night, too, while sundials don't. What else?

Start a homemade weather center with the activity on the next page!

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

A finished homemade thermometer
A finished homemade thermometer
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Try this homemade thermometer activity and show kids how easy it is to find out the temperature by using water -- not mercury, the poisonous metal most thermometers are made with.

What You'll Need:

  • Soft drink bottle
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Clear drinking straw
  • Modeling clay
  • Index card
  • Tape
  • Pen or pencil

How to Make a Homemade Thermometer:

Step 1: Fill a small soft drink bottle almost full of water (about four-fifths full). Color the water with food coloring.

Step 2: Put a clear drinking straw in the bottle so that the straw goes halfway down into the bottle. Use modeling clay to seal the top of the bottle and hold the straw in place.

Step 3: Tape an index card to the straw. You will use the card as a scale. Make a mark on the card to show where the water level is.

Now move your thermometer to a sunny place. Does the water rise? Mark the index card to show the new water level. (You may want to mark it with an 'S' so you'll know which mark is which.)

Check your thermometer at different times of the day to see how the temperature varies.

You can also compare it with the weather section of your local newspaper to see if your readings match the "official" temperature.

Keep reading to find out how to make a sundial out of everyday objects -- no carpentry required!

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

A simple homemade sundial in action
A simple homemade sundial in action
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

What time is it? Time to try this fun in the sun activity. Once you build your own sundial, you may never use a watch again!

What You'll Need:

  • Medium-sized stick
  • Marker
  • Watch
  • Several small wooden stakes

Sundials have been used for centuries to help tell the time. Now, you can learn the secret. Start your sundial bright and early on a day that will be quite sunny. First, place the stick in the ground in an area that gets a lot of sun.

Then, place a small stake at the tip of the shadow cast by the stick and write the time on the side. As the sun moves through the sky, the stick's shadow will move. Keep an eye on your watch.

When an hour has passed, place another wooden stake at the tip of the new shadow cast by the stick. Write the time on the side of this stake. Continue to mark the shadows throughout the afternoon and be sure to write the correct time on each stake.

When you finish, you'll have a sundial! To find out what time it is, follow the shadow cast by the stick. It'll point to a stake, and you can see the time on the side of the stake!

Continue reading to the next page to find out how temperature affects the volume of gas.

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

The gas expansion activity gives new meaning to the "big bang" theory!

Certain gases expand when exposed to heat. This experiment with helium balloons and hot summer days will show you how -- and how much.

What You'll Need:

  • Helium balloons
  • Hot day

Fill four balloons with helium at your local party or craft store. Ask the clerk to fill one half-full, one three-quarters-full, one just right, and one a little too full.

Be sure your car is running and has the air conditioning on, and that the car is waiting at the entrance of the store when you come out.

Once you get home, rush the balloons inside the cool house. One by one, take the balloons outside, starting with the half-full balloon, and watch what happens.

You'll see just how helium expands with heat and what that expansion does to the latex in balloons.

Quench everyone's thirst with the refreshing activity on the next page!

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

This sun tea is delicious!
This sun tea is delicious!
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The sun tea activity uses solar energy to make easy and delicious iced tea!

What You'll Need:

  • One-quart glass
  • Jar with lid
  • Three teabags (herb teas are recommended)
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Water
  • Ice cubes
  • Sugar and lemon (optional)

On a hot, sunny day, wash a jar in soapy water and rinse it clean. Drop in three bags of your favorite tea. (Citrus-flavored herb teas are particularly good for this.)

Pour in three cups of cold water. Seal the jar and put it outside for two or three hours, keeping it in the hot sun continuously. Bring the jar indoors and remove the teabags.

Put a few ice cubes in a glass and pour in the tea. Add sugar and lemon, if desired, and enjoy your tea! Leftover tea should be stored in the refrigerator. Try this with different teas. Which kind do you like best?

Learn to cook with solar power in the activity on the next page.

For more fun activities and crafts, try:

Relax, sit back and let the sun power your oven
Relax, sit back and let the sun power your oven
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In this solar-powered oven activity, kids use the sun and aluminum foil to create an oven, and bake a delicious treat to share with a friend!

This is a fun project for a sunny, summer day.

What You'll Need:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Eight x eleven-inch white paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Apple slices
  • Small paper cup
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rubber band
  • Cinnamon (optional)

How to Make a Solar-Powered Oven:

Step 1: Take the aluminum foil, and, using the white paper as a guide, cut the foil into an eight by eleven-inch sheet. Glue the foil to the paper, and roll it into a cone with the white paper on the outside. Let the glue dry.Step 2: Place the apple slices in the cup. Cover the top of the cup with plastic wrap, and place the rubber band around the plastic wrap to hold it in place.Step 3: Give your kids permission to dig a small hole, and place the pointed end of the cone into the hole. Make sure the cone is lined up directly with the sun.

At noon, when the sun is at its hottest, set the cup with the apple slices inside the cone. Leave the cone outside for two hours, checking it every 30 minutes.

When the apple has baked, sprinkle the slices with a little cinnamon and share this treat with a friend.For more fun activities and crafts, try:


Fun in the Sun Activity by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe and Kelly Milner HallsGas Expansion Activity by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe and Kelly Milner HallsSun Tea Activity by Maria Birmingham, Karen E. Bledsoe and Kelly Milner Halls