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Project ideas for 13 yr old boy. Single mom, live in Kathmandu, no access to Home Depot, etc. Very curious son. Answered

I'd really appreciate ideas for projects I can do this summer with my son to tap into his wonderfully curious mind and divert him from the numbing computer games he likes.
I'm a quick study and computer literate. We can get all basics but some things others take for granted are not available to us.
I used to call him "my wondering boy" because of all the "I wonder how..." questions. So, I think projects of almost any kind will be good. Science, technology, building, etc. I'm willing to give anything a try.
Thanks in advance to all who chime in.
Shanti Mama, stuck in monsoonal Kathmandu while all my son's friends head to their home countries.



As a former teacher of 11 to 18 year olds Perhaps some of the following may help: The internet is a great source for parts. Microprocessors - particularly Robots.
http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/picaxe/  is a good source for microprocessors (available in the USA) with lots of free online information.

Kites and the study of flight. Kites have come a long way from just a child's diamond shape with flexi foils and complex shapes evolving. making them is fun and informative.

http://www.desertdomes.com/  build a BIG structure in the back yard, it need not cost a lot. we built a 30 foot diameter dome for less than $300 lots of maths can be involved as well as good management skills to learn.

Soap box cars are still a good bet. Electric motors can be added.


Geology - Dig a trench in the back yard and study the layers, is there anywhere near you can find fossils.

Cooking - The way to a man's heart is via the stomach!  introduce your son to skills he will value forever.

Hunting and cooking your own food - rabbits various wild fowl generally abound. Learn to skin and cook. Study wild food as it grows learn survival skills.

Wild Camping always entertains teenagers, walking in spectacular countryside will eventually impress them. Tents are cheap. Learn to love nature and see the night sky as it should be seen.

Astronomy, make a telescope, not beyond the ability of most people if you buy the mirror. Binoculars can show a lot. Staying up late to observe and learn the night sky can attract.

Model making, Radio control aircraft, or vehicles. Even static models have an attraction.

Pets, Horse riding, Chicken husbandry - building the coop and looking after then (and getting almost free eggs)

Study wild life in the wild, learn to track.

Sailing if water close by, build a boat, not as hard as you may think http://gaboats.com/boats/  http://www.instantboats.com/

If no water nearby then land yachts offer an alternative http://www.blokart.com/ or have fun building your own.

Build a hover craft https://www.instructables.com/id/Hovercraft/  or https://www.instructables.com/id/Super-Easy-Hovercraft/  we did the same with a vacuum cleaner.

LOTS of ideas in instructables - take your pick, depends on how much you want to spend really - but look on it as a family holiday worth MUCH more than that trip to Disney.

Thanks to everyone for your answers. The biggest challenge may be me finding time and energy to take the lead, in between everything else.

cdubnbird--fun experiments! Yes, we have a microwave that we can use when we have city power and are not running off our inverter/battery setup. I'll try these, even if just for me!

MahavishnuMan--unfortunately, my son has discovered multi-player internet games and has no desire to tinker. This is my goal--to reignite it. So, I have to be the tinkerer and he will follow. That, and do my work as well.

Burf--He is a builder, but if we look at the architecture that might do it. Sigh. It's tiring just thinking about getting him to let go of his negative reaction to any ideas from mom!

salec--We live in the outskirts of the city, half village life, half city. So, most of the kids do go to school and then have lots of chores. I love watching them with their very simple homemade toys but my son has become jaded. But I'll try to be more observant and see if anything clicks. Maybe his computer will "break" for awhile...

MichelMoermans--Thanks. I've looked at the kids section and will revisit many times, I'm sure. I'm looking for ideas for you pros about one great project that will get us started.

JayeFee--Kiteman's instructables look great. Thanks for pointing me there.

rickharris--great suggestions. Thanks. I gave him the Lego NXT for Christmas last year. He spent about an hour with it. I thought he'd LOVE robotics. I think I need to read up on the programming language and then try, again, to engage him. I can tell you know boys. I think building a structure would be good and I could actually use it for my work.

caarntedd--water rocket was something I'd looked at here already. I think it's a great idea.

Again, thanks to everyone. I need to get him started. School ended yesterday. His sister doesn't leave until July 4 for a month trip to the US , but she's nearly 15 and more into writing, reading, facebook, etc. Any additional thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

Shanti Mama

          DO you have a microwave? try making grape plasma. take a grape and cut almost through it only leaving the skin holding the two halves together put it in a microwave facing up and turn the microwave on and watch it light up like a light bulb. place a glass over the grape to keep it lit up but make sure to ventilate the room as it creates ozone.
          HERE'S a simple but interesting one. take a glass of milk put four drops of food coloring in it in a square shape (but do't stir it at all) then take dish washing soap on the end of a toothpick and watch the milk stir the coloring and swirl when you touch the toothpick to the surface of the milk.
          MIX two parts of corn starch and one part of water to make ooblek. ooblek is a non-newtonian fluid so when you move it around it is solid but if you stop moving it, it is liquid.
          COMMAND termites. get a black Bic pen (it must be Bic brand) and then get a sheet of paper. draw some lines on the paper and watch the termites follow the lines. cross the lines to allow the termites to choose which path to take. the termites follow the lines because there is a chemical in black Bic pens that they are attracted to.
          HOPE this helped!

As a kid, my projects weren't so much limited by the lack of super-chain big-box stores as they were expense. I grew up fairly poor, and had few legitimate tools beyond a few screwdrivers (occasionally a butter knife for flathead screws, which of course angered Mom). I would find ways to make my own tools from common items around the house. Building supplies were almost always salvaged. I guess the moral to the story is to never underestimate the power of determination. Without knowing specifically what makes him tick, I can tell you that his desire to tinker and learn will adequately fuel his ingenuity and drive to make something work with whatever is handy. If you're just getting him started into tinkering, this should be easier as beginner projects require less resources. As simians with opposable thumbs, creative spark, inquisitive minds, and enough guts to fail until we succeed, we've done pretty well at using whatever is handy to do what we want. In my opinion, half the fun of a project is engineering something from nothing, as I think many of the Instructables ilk will agree.


8 years ago

In Kathmandu, I know what I would do. I would give him an inexpensive, digital camera and take him to the various architecturally unique structures and let him take photographs. But, to be a little different, concentrate on specific aspects of the structures. Maybe the windows or the doors or the architectural statuary, or whatever he finds of interest. If not architecture then perhaps the indigenous people, or whatever attracts his interest. It can be an adventure just seeking out what he is looking for. He can study local history, learn to use digital computer software and even publish his stuff on the net. It will take some involvement from you, but I think you were planning on that anyway.

Nice answer. Only addition would be the to study and photograph the local plant and animal life.


8 years ago

Why not ask local (Nepal) kids? I am sure they explore their environment and build themselves toys from available materials.

This is a guide for kids crafts here on instructables:


Other then that I would advice you to google search kids craft or experiments for children. (both on google as on here)

Ofcourse here you will find many beautifull projects that are explained very well but when you can't find what you want here (very unlikely ;) ) you can always search google :)

Check out some of Kiteman's ibles. He uses a lot of recycled stuff and quite a few of his are for his kids or scouts.


There are many great projects on this site that can be made with very few materials.

My favourite for kids is the water rocket. Very easy. Just do a graphical search at the top of the page.