Summer is in full swing! Endless days are spent splashing and soaking up the sun. The only thing that lures our littles away from hours of play is the promise of a popsicle followed by even more pool time.
Now that we’ve had nearly two months of pajamas ’til noon and wet towels piling up in our laundry rooms, we parents find ourselves sliding into the summer slump. Optimistically, we decide that some structure is in order. (Think crisp chore charts hung on the fridge and fresh ink cartridges for all those Pinterest worksheets.) After all, the new school year will be here before we know it; we have to keep some activity firing in those brains of theirs!
It’s all lovely, in theory, until our kids look at us waving our flash cards about as though we’ve proposed medieval torture tactics and quickly return to digging in the dirt, harassing their siblings, or calling our attention back to their riveting Minecraft monologue.
Would our attempts at summer learning be better received if they didn’t involve worksheets, flash cards, or sitting quietly? What if it didn’t really feel like learning at all? If you’re searching for inspiration to keep your children engaged without squashing the spirit of summertime, we’ve got you covered.
Here are 25 creative ways to keep those little minds active all summer long:
- Bookstore shopping spree! Give your child some spending money to splurge on books of their choice and watch the desire to read grow.
- Read-A-Thon in a Blanket Fort! Fill your fort with cozy pillows and stuffed animals to listen along. Hang a string of twinkling Christmas lights to set a festive mood and be sure to stock up on snacks to fuel the brain.
- Reluctant reader? Try audio books instead! Your hands-on kids can still build legos, play with play-doh, or color while absorbing great literature. (Perfect for summer road trips, too.)
- Early/Pre-readers? Choose a chapter book to read aloud that also has a movie version. When you’ve finished, have a special movie screening! Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Stuart Little are great for little ones.
- Practice handwriting with journaling. Give your kids their own journal — a cool one with a lock and key — and encourage daily drawing, doodling, and writing.
- Try creative writing! Write out the first few lines of a story in a notebook, then pass the notebook to your child and have them add on. Keep it going back and forth until you’ve written a masterpiece! (Have a preschooler? Let them draw a picture instead. As they describe it, write out what they say.) Need inspiration for your story? Try these!
- Practice the parts of speech with Mad-Libs. Review spelling by playing Hang-Man or Bananagrams.
- Set up a grocery store or restaurant! Through imaginative play, you can explore basic math concepts ranging from counting and shape identification, to practicing addition and subtraction, comparing values, identifying coins, and making change.
- Bake together! Choose a simple recipe that even your toddler can help with. While mixing, stirring, and making sweet memories, discuss measuring and fractions.
- Turn a lemonade stand into a lesson in entrepreneurship. Let your kids take out a “loan,” build their business, and try to turn a profit.
- Have your older children cook a meal. After they have planned a grocery list within your set budget, figured out coupons and sales tax, and followed a recipe, they will have explored many different real life math situations. (Bonus: You have a night off from cooking.)
- Play a board game! Not up for a never-ending game of Monopoly? Try Hi-Ho Cherry-O or Hoot Owl, Hoot for preschoolers; Sequence for Kids, Yahtzee Jr. or Sum Swamp for early elementary; and Yahtzee, Battleship or Mastermind for older ones.
- Inspire hours of purposeful play with Magna Tiles, Pattern Blocks, and Tangrams.
- Central Texas is rich with historical sites for exploring. Plan a day trip and making discovering the past an adventure!
- Have a day of hands-on fun as you learn the Story of Texas at The Bob Bullock Museum.
- Study your family ancestry! Learn about what countries you originated from by interviewing family members and looking through old photographs.
- Pick a country to explore! Visit a local museum or festival to further explore the country’s culture. Pick a restaurant or cook a meal that highlights the country’s cuisine.
- Have a little scientist fascinated with dinosaurs, the human body, or learning to code? Spend a week really diving into their interests with books, simple projects, and educational videos. (The Magic School Bus, Wild Kratts, Odd Squad, and Planet Earth have episodes on Netflix covering nearly every topic you can dream of.) Don’t worry about planning deeply guided lessons, just provide the resources and let them explore!
- Learn about electricity with this simple circuit board that even a kindergartener can enjoy.
- Check out a book on local plants and wildlife. Make your own simple scavenger hunt and head out to see what you can find!
- Conduct classic childhood experiments like mixing food coloring, baking soda and vinegar; sprouting a bean; or placing different items into a bowl of water after predicting whether they will sink or float. Or grow your own crystals with this simple experiment using household items.
- Pack a sketch book and pencils and visit an art museum for inspiration.
- Designate a space in your home for creating. Rotate different making materials. Watercolors and salt to sprinkle on wet paintings (super cool!). Play-doh with beads to press in. Recyclables and glue. Foil and tempera paint. Stamps and an ink pad. Try not to worry about the mess or making suggestions. Just step back and let them create!
- Experience live music. From Austin Symphony’s Summer Concert Series to Children’s Day Art Park, Austinites are lucky to have so many options for exploring the arts!
- Explore different types of music at home. Turn on Pandora and dance to classical, reggae, soul, and worldbeat. Throw in some wooden spoons to bang out the beat on pans, and you’ve got a full-on sensory experience.
There are so many ways to engage our children in learning while still having fun living life this summer. The beauty of this time with our children is that every moment can become a teachable moment.
Feed their curiosity, have meaningful conversation, and when you feel lost in the summer slump, remember, our children are always learning, for ‘play truly is the work of childhood!’