I grew up in a country where we didn’t have 3 months summer vacation so the “summer slide” wasn’t an issue. I hate the idea of my kids doing “school” in the vacation – but I also understand the problem of such a long break from academics.
But there are alternatives to worksheets and other boring ways to keep skills up. Here are 12 you can try.
1. Visit FUN and ENGAGING Museums.
There are museums … and museums. I grew up hating being dragged into museums by my parents but since becoming a parent myself, I have discovered not all museums are boring! So, how do you pick a “good” museum?
See if the museum advertises hands on activities.
Do they have any scavenger hunts or similar activities for children to do while they go through the museum? The Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington D.C. has an extra activity you can purchase for a few dollars (you just need one per family so it is worth it) that gets you searching for answers as you view the exhibits. If you get everything correct you can solve the final puzzle and win some free merchandise. And Hampton Court Palace in London has a number of similar activities for children
Read review on places like TripAdvisor and see if other families with children give it a thumbs up.
2. Sign up for a Summer Reading Program
I think most local libraries have programs and then there is also Barnes and Noble’s one for children up to 6th grade where they win a free book after reading 8.
I wrote a whole blog post on that topic so if you think you can’t do it with children or can’t afford it – go read it! Even a few days road trip in your area exposes your children to new and interesting things. And if you get your children to help plan they learn research and planning skills too.
4. Computer and Video Games!
There are many games that are surprisingly educational. Treat your children and buy them one or two new ones – but be sure they have educational value. Civilization was one of my boys’ favorite games growing up and they learned a lot of history without even trying. Games like Nancy Drew and Myst encourage thinking skills.
5. Sign them up for summer camps and classes
There are a plethora of summer classes in our city. The local university provides a number and so do many individuals and organizations. But another option is online classes. We offer a number of online computer classes, and DIY clubs has a host on a variety of topics.
6. Learn a new hobby
Quilling, photography, calligraphy, playing a musical instrument, cake decorating, wood carving – with the host of online resources it is easy to learn anything you want to. Obviously you will need to buy supplies but most kids should be able to at least get started by watching Youtube videos.
7. Start a business
Encourage your children to brainstorm and think of ways to make money. In our neighborhood we still have one family who runs a traditional lemonade stand for a few days each summer. We have others who offer pet sitting and lawn cutting services. If they have become skilled in some hobby they can try and use that in their business. My own children ran computer camps, built websites, fixed computers and did photography to make extra money.
8. Go Geocaching or Letterboxing.
This is a fun way to enjoy beautiful summer weather and keep those grey cells working at the same time. There are now geocaches and letterbox hidden all over the world just waiting to be found! I have also just discovered Munzees which is an app and looks similar but I haven’t tried it yet. All of these are free.
9. Play board and card games
Just about any one of these has some educational value. They also serve as fantastic family activities. Settlers of Catan is one I know many families with older children enjoy (mine too!). All strategy games give the brain a good workout. Games like Bananagrams are small enough to take on vacation too – that’s the one we always throw in to take with us!
As most teens have smart phones and many homes have tablets or iPads apps children are likely to be on them anyway. Invest in a few apps that will have them hooked – but will be beneficial too. Here are some you can try:
11. Do Logic Puzzles
These are great to do on car trips or while waiting in airports or dentist offices or anywhere you need to amuse yourselves for a few minutes. You can find them online, or buy books. You can also play online games that involve logic. And if you really want to treat yourselves, look for an Escape Game near you and do that as a family.
12. Jigsaw puzzles
When it’s too hot or too wet, this is another good family activity that is quietly exercising your kids’ brains. Some of our favorites were ones where you have to make a jigsaw puzzle to solve a mystery. My brother’s family have enjoyed 3D puzzles too.
Any more ideas on ways to keep kids’ brains active – without them feeling like it is just more “school”? Please leave a comment!
**Photo Credit: Thanks Adam Whitescarver for letting us use your photo!
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