8 Great Contests for Kids: Creative and Academic Contests for Children

STEM, Art, and Writing Contests Your Kids Can Enter

Photo of Siblings Entering Contests for Kids
•••  Image (c) Andersen Ross / Getty Images

If you want to get your children excited about learning, contests for kids might be just the way to do it. The chance to try their skills against fellow kids and to win a prize is a great way to motivate children to dive deeper into a topic. Here are some fun annual contests with topics ranging from Science and Math to English and Fine Arts to inspire your children and show them that learning is fun.

STEM Contests for Kids

STEM contests focus on encouraging kids' interests in science, technology, engineering, and math. Here are some fun STEM contests that are offered every year:

1. First Lego League's Annual Challenge

First Lego League uses a popular children's toy, Legos, to encourage interest in science. Each year, the First Lego League chooses a real problem, like food safety, water shortages, or recycling. The contestants form teams to work together to find innovative solutions to these problems and share them with others, and then make presentations to judges describing their solutions. They must also create a robot from Lego Mindstorms pieces and program it with a computer to play in the robot games portion of the competition.

Which Kids Can Enter? 

Entry is open worldwide to teams of two and 10 children and their supervising adults. Different regions have different age limits; in the United States, children must be between the ages of nine and 14 to participate.

See the full First Lego League's Challenge Rules for more details.

How Are the Winners Selected?

Entries are judged by how well the robots perform during the games (it must place in the top 40 percent of all teams in the event), how well the team adhere's to the First Lego League's Core Values, how well the project follows the principles of solving a real-world problem and sharing it with others, and more criteria.

See the judging criteria for more details.

Which Prizes Can the Children Win?

The kids who enter this contest receive awards in various categories including a Champion's Award for the highest-scoring entry, and other awards for the best robot design, the most innovative project, for the most passionate adult volunteer, and more. See the First Lego League's Awards for more details.

How Can Kids Enter This Contest?

Kids can enter the First Lego League's Challenges by participating in tournaments held around the world. See this list of events to find a tournament near you.

2. MATHCOUNTS Competition Series

MATHCOUNTS is a competition series created by a group of corporations, foundations, and individuals to encourage fun and friendly competition with math. Founders and sponsors include the National Society of Professional Engineers, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and more.

Which Kids Can Enter?

Students enrolled full-time in the sixth, seventh, or eighth grades in public, private, charter, virtual, or home schools in the United States can participate in MATHCOUNTS competitions. Each school can put together a team of four participants and up to six additional individuals to compete.

You can read the full rules of the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series for more details.

How Are the Winners Selected?

Students compete in teams to solve high-level math problems. Some of the rounds are also timed. The individuals who perform the best advance to higher levels of competition until a national winner is finally selected.

What Prizes Can the Children Win?

Various prizes are awarded on a local and national level. Examples range from small cash prizes, trips, and scholarships.

How Can Kids Enter This Contest?

Schools host MATHCOUNTS competitions locally, usually in December or January. The highest-placing students continue on to chapter, state, and even national competitions. If your school does not participate in MATHCOUNTS, you can speak to a math teacher about forming a team. Parents can also act as coaches but need the school's permission to join the MATHCOUNTS program.

3. Google Science Fair

The Google Science Fair challenges kids to come up with scientific answers to problems facing the world. Winners in past years have come up with solutions to fight drought, to help chronic wounds heal more quickly, to fight foam waste, and more.

Which Kids Can Enter?

Entry into the Google Science Fair is open to kids between the ages of 13 and 18 around the world.

How Are the Winners Selected?

First, judges select 25 finalists in each of four regional areas: The Americas, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific. The judges will pick the finalists after looking closely at their question and proposition, their method and testing, their results, and their conclusion and report. The judges will then take a closer look at the finalists' entrants to select 16 Global Finalists, and then finally a grand-prize winner and four category winners.

What Prizes Can the Children Win?

All 16 global finalists will receive a trip for themselves and a parent to Google headquarters in California to present their project to the judges along with prize packs from the sponsors. The grand-prize winner will additionally receive a $50,000 scholarship while category winners will receive smaller scholarships and additional prizes. See the website's prizes section for more details.

Writing Contests That Children Can Enter

Writing contests give kids an excellent reason to work on their writing and composition skills. If there was ever a good reason to learn to structure a compelling essay, cite sources, or write a lyrical poem, these contests could be it!

4. EngineerGirl*s Writing Contest for Kids

EngineerGirl offers an annual writing contest with an engineering theme like coming up with an improvement to your town's infrastructure or engineering a solution to help animals and humans share the planet more effectively. Encourage your child to check out the current year's theme and write a response that fits. Your child can also include one single image, chart, or PDF file to support their essay. See the contest website for detailed entry instructions.

Which Kids Can Enter?

Entry is open to both girls and boys who live around the world and who are in elementary school, middle school, or high school (there is one eligibility category for each of those groups). See the contest rules for more information.

How Are the Winners Selected?

The entries will be judged on the basis of how well they communicate and fit the contests' requirements, how accurate they are and how well they show analytical thinking, and creativity and originality.

What Prizes Can the Children Win?

Three winners of EngineerGirl's Writing Contest will receive cash and publication on the site, while an honorable mention winner will receive publication on the site.

How Can Kids Enter This Contest?

Check the website for deadlines then submit your entry through the online submission form.

5. Mrs. P's Be-A-Famous-Writer Contest

This is an annual writing contest that starts each fall. It challenges classrooms to work collaboratively to submit a fiction or non-fiction story that fits the annual theme. Essays must be between 250 and 1,000 words in length.

Which Kids Can Enter This Contest?

The giveaway is open to classrooms between Kindergarten and 4th grade in schools in the United States. The classroom can work together or the children can vote for which child's story should be submitted (only one entry per classroom is allowed).

How Are the Winners Selected?

The classrooms' entries will be judged by a panel of judges selected by Mrs. P's.

What Prizes Can the Children Win?

The winning story will be made into a video and read aloud on Mrs. P's website. The grand-prize winner will also receive gift cards and books for their school. Ten additional winners will receive a Powell's Books gift card for their class.

Fine Arts Competitions for Kids

Fine arts contests encourage your kids to unleash their creativity through artwork, filmmaking, music composition, and more. Here are some fun art competitions to help your child get started.

6. Toyota Dream Car Art Competition

Toyota sponsors one of the world's largest art contests for kids, asking children to come up with a concept for a dream car and then to bring those dreams to life by drawing their car concept.  Creative car ideas from past competitions have included a car that could restore ice to the polar icecaps or one that could drive around a child's mouth, cleaning teeth as it went.

Which Kids Can Enter?

National Toyota Dream Car Art Contests are held in various regions around the world, and age limits can vary by region. In the United States, there are three age categories: under eight, 8 through 11, and 12 through 15. Check your region for more details.

How Are the Winners Selected?

The children's entries are judged on the basis of expressiveness of message, uniqueness, and artistry. Winners of the national competitions continue on to compete in the world competition in Japan.

What Prizes Can the Children Win?

Prizes for the Toyota Dream Car Art Competition include awards and even the chance for the kids to visit Japan to enjoy a cultural program with their parents.

How Can Kids Enter This Contest?

Visit the Toyota Dream Car Art Competition website to find deadlines and entry methods in your region.

7. US Kids Magazine's Annual Cover Art Contest

Every year, US Kids Magazine calls for children to submit their original artwork for a chance to appear on the cover of their magazines. 

Which Kids Can Enter?

Children in two different age groups can enter. Kids between the ages of two and six can enter to be on the cover of Humpty Dumpty Magazine while kids between the ages of six and 12 can enter to appear on Jack and Jill Magazine's cover. All entrants must be residents of the United States and must have their parents' permission to enter. See the US Kids Magazine Cover Art Contest Rules for more details.

How Are the Winners Selected?

The winners in each category will be selected by a panel of judges.

Which Prizes Can the Children Win?

Winners in each category will have their artwork appear on a cover of the corresponding magazine, and their school will also receive a cash prize.

How Can Kids Enter This Contest?

Kids can submit their artwork online or by mail. They also need to include an official entry form with their parents' signature to enter.

8. The National Young Composers Challenge 

Budding composers are challenged to create an original musical composition of up to five minutes in length to enter this giveaway. The composition can be for a full orchestra or for a  small ensemble of two to six instruments. See the rules for more details.

Which Kids Can Enter? 

Entry into the contest is open to residents of the United States who are between the ages of 13 and 18.

How Are the Winners Selected?

A panel of judges will select three winners in each of the two categories, full orchestra and small ensemble compositions.

Which Prizes Can the Children Win?

Each winning composition will be performed and recorded by the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Each orchestral winner will receive $1,000 in cash and a professional recording of their composition. Each small ensemble winner will receive $500 and a professional recording. 

How Can Kids Enter This Contest?

To enter, register online and then submit four copies of the composition in WAV or MP3 format and one audio CD of your composition by mail.