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Family Activities
Let’s Learn Something New!

Turn your children’s summer activities into learning experiences! Choose age-appropriate activities that will fire their imagination and let them explore new territory while reinforcing skills learned during the academic year. The suggested activities below are relatively simple and inexpensive. They can be adjusted to suit your child’s age and can provide reinforcement in multiple skill areas. Remember: This is SUMMER, so don’t make these activities feel like school. Remember to have fun!

Make a Pretend Menu
Children love to eat, and, if they eat out often, they love to “read” the menu as they see the adults do. Have your children make a menu for a fictitious restaurant. Older children can help the younger ones write down the food items (reading and writing), and even little children can cut and paste pictures of food from old magazines (art). Make sure they indicate the cost of each item (math) and are familiar with the types of food offered (science and social studies). Then have them take orders. Don’t be concerned that the meal may not be balanced—this is pretend, after all!

Play Backyard Olympics
If you have a few children together, challenge them to create their own summer Olympics games. Make sure they include events that involve running and jumping (gross motor development), but allow them to determine the form of the actual games. Have them make signs/banners (reading and writing); play stirring music to match the events (music); and keep track of distances leaped, times run, seconds spent maintaining handstands, etc. (counting and measuring).

Monitor the Weather
Outdoor activities can be directly affected by the weather. If you have outdoor plans (a picnic, hike, or nature walk), have your children monitor the weather for a specific period of time (e.g., 1 week). They can mark a calendar with weather symbols (the sun, rain, clouds, and lightning) to record the types of weather (science). If you subscribe to a newspaper, read the daily forecast aloud or go online to weather resources, and have older children point out the “weather words” (reading); the next day, compare the forecast with that day’s actual weather. At the end of the week, have all the children take part in a weather forecast presentation (drama).

Discover Who Lives Here
Help your children identify the plant and animal life in your backyard or neighborhood. If you are not sure of exactly what’s there, check out books from the children’s library that illustrate the common trees, flowers and other plant life, and the types of animal life (don’t forget the butterflies and fireflies!) (science: observation, identification, and classification). Make sure you inform your children if you, too, are learning something new about your environment. Later, you and your children can make a book about what all of you observed (writing). They can illustrate it with pictures cut from old magazines or with drawings (art).

Ask the children to choose one plant or animal to learn more about (one for each child). Go back to the library and check out books on the subject, or print information from the Internet, and read these to one another (reading). Have the child or each children give oral presentations of their discoveries (public speaking is a confidence builder).

Build Something
If you have access to small pieces of wood, a hammer, some nails, and a ruler, build with your child something simple, like a flower box or a picture frame. The object doesn’t have to be perfect or even “beautiful,” but this activity will let you create an item together that your child can display. Measure your pieces so they will fit together (math). Paint/decorate (art) the item, and then have your child write or dictate a story about what you did and why you did it. This story can be shared with the rest of the family (reading and writing).

Make a Map
Once your children begin first grade, they will start learning about the relationship between geographical entities (neighborhood, town/city, state, country, etc.) and start understanding these as spatial relationships. A good rainy-day activity during the summer would be to have young children “map” their homes. For the very young, draw a square/rectangle, and help them “place” the furniture and other items in the room (art). Older children can try to do this for the entire home, labeling each room and its exits/entrances and windows (reading and writing) and even marking the square footage (math).

Do Other Stuff
You can do other small projects with young children that will enhance their academic skills while they play. Make bookmarks out of decorated paper glued to cardboard (measurement and art); write thank-you notes to each other for little things or silly things like Thank you for teaching me to tie my shoes or Thank You for spilling spaghetti on me! (reading and writing).

NOTE: Don’t forget to take advantage of your community resources. Libraries, museums, and local parks often have summer programs for young and older kids. Most of the time, these are low- to no-cost programs.


U.S. Department of Education

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Updated on 3/22/2014