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Ah…summer! We will enjoy a few weeks of no scheduled lessons and fewer extracurricular activities. The slower pace is a refreshing change from the normal school year with regular weekly activities. And then it will hit…boredom.
I’m all in favor of kids being bored. Boredom is an excellent opportunity to spark creativity, learn a new skill, or simply learn to entertain yourself. (Check out this post if you want to read more about what I do when I hear “I’m bored!”)
However, a couple of months of boredom can also lead to mischief and bad habits. To combat this, I try to have a few tricks up my sleeve to mix things up during the summer months. Below are some of the ways I encourage learning during our summer break with minimal planning on my part.
15 Fun Summer Learning Ideas
1. Take field trips
Summer is a great time for field trips. Some museums even schedule reenactors to bring history to life during the summer months when they know more kids will be visiting.
Don’t be afraid to branch out a little. You do not need to restrict your field trips to “kid-friendly” venues. By setting behavior expectations ahead of time and training my children how to behave in a museum, I have taken them to art museums, history museums, and cultural centers. I appreciate the tips about planning and taking field trips in the book Homeschool Adventures: Learning Through the Power of Field Trips.
If you would like your children to document what they learned on a field trip, a simple DIY travel journal would be a great way to record what they learned and have a keepsake they can look through later. Learn how to make your own DIY Travel Journal. The process of making a travel journal would be a great activity for your older children to help with and it would be a great way for them personalize the journals!
2. Learn about a special interest
During the summer, we usually create a customized learning plan for each child. It is not intended to be as rigorous as an academic year learning plan but is designed to help my daughters take responsibility for their education. They have learned about many different interests including different ballets, how to sew, computer programming, photography, and much more. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about subjects your child would like to explore but you do not have time during the school year to cover. Learn how we design a customized summer learning program.
3. Play games
Summer is a great time to play games! It is a great way to reinforce academic skills and invest in your relationship with your child at the same time. There are a variety of games available covering all topics from math to geography to critical thinking and more. Here is how we incorporate games into our homeschool and a recommendation of our favorite games by subject.
4. Encourage masterly inactivity
Masterly inactivity is when children are left to explore and discover on their own. And they need a lot of masterly inactivity time! I find it difficult to keep our schedule free enough to encourage masterly inactivity. Because of this, I tried to keep our summers relaxed when my daughters were young so would they have plenty of time to build forts, set up a tea party with their dolls, or pull out every stuffed animal they own to be pupils in their boarding house. Even though they are older, it is important to maintain large chunks of free time so they can explore their own interests.
Don’t be afraid to leave your days wide open and not have anything planned. It may take some time, but they will figure out how to fill their days and make new discoveries. If you are just starting to embrace masterly inactivity, you can find tips for handling the dreaded “I’m bored!” on this post.
5. Conduct science experiments
Science experiments usually require a little advance planning, but even this time can be minimized. You could purchase a science experiment kit or prepare a science box at the beginning of the summer. And many science experiment books are designed to use items found in your home.
6. Participate in a summer reading program
We love using our summers to read more than usual. My daughters enjoy a lazy morning reading in bed or lounging in their hammock on cooler days. This is a good time to explore new genres of books. Here are some of our favorite books if you are looking for new ideas. Even non-readers or emerging readers can enjoy audio books.
If your child is a reluctant reader or if you would like to make reading a more social activity, most libraries and even some restaurants have summer reading programs.
7. Learn a new handicraft
There are so many possibilities for learning a new handicraft including origami, crochet, needlepoint, woodworking, or leather crafts. Summer would be a good time to check out some books from the library or watch tutorials on YouTube and learn a new handicraft.
8. Learn a new skill
Develop new skills requires time and effort. Summer provides an excellent opportunity for your child to dive deep and practice a new skill. Suggestions include learning how to use the computer, take better photographs, or edit videos. The possibilities are endless and will vary depending on your child’s interests.
9. Start a business
If your child discovers a handicraft or skill he enjoys and does well, he might want to consider turning that into a micro business. Possibilities include lawn care, babysitting, craft products, computer-related tasks, or photography. If your child is passionate about something, he might be able to find a way to turn it into a business. Carol Topp has good resources to learn more about starting a micro business for teens.
10. Participate in local summer camps
Most communities have a variety of day camps covering a variety of interests. Check with your community center for arts and crafts camps. If you have a local history center, you might find some interesting camps related to your local area. Ours has a Territorial Schoolhouse pioneer camp both of my daughters have enjoyed. Some community colleges offer summer classes just for middle school students to explore new topics. Older students may want to check with local colleges for summer classes designed for high school students. It may require a little searching to find something close, within your budget, and that your child enjoys, but this would be a great way to sneak in some fun learning.
11. Play hand clapping games
Not only are hand clapping games fun but they also build brain connections, strengthen gross motor skills, and so much more. They are also portable and require no additional materials which makes them an excellent activity for road trips or waiting in line.
12. Go on a nature hike
There are some aspects of nature that are best observed in the summer such as playing in the creek, exploring the beach at the lake, or learning about wildflowers or lightning bugs. Take advantage of this by planning a nature walk with friends to a local park, nature center, or zoo. It’s always more fun with friends!
If you would like a little direction for your nature walks, the NaturExplorers series has suggestions for books to read, what to look for and do on a hike, and how to incorporate multiple ages. Learn more about this series.
13. Play in the mud, sand, or water
If you have elementary-aged or younger children, playing in the mud is an essential sensory experience. Whether they are letting the mud ooze through their fingers as they create a new “recipe,” build a dam in a creek, or make bricks like the ancient Egyptians, the possibilities are endless.
A sandbox can provide hours of (mostly) quiet play time. Building forts and castles, creating roads with a dump truck, and setting up a “bakery” have all been favorites at our home.
It seems water play is a reset button for my children. Whenever they are out of sorts, we put bubbles in the sink, take a bath, or get out buckets and scoops on the patio. It is a refreshing activity that also provides hands-on experiences with the properties of water and volume.
14. Engage in imaginative play
I created the Imagination Jar when I heard, “I’m bored” one time too many. Sometimes kids want to engage in imaginative play but have difficulty deciding what to play. Instead of me suggesting one idea after another (none of which they liked), we worked together to create 60 suggestions. All they need to do is draw a slip of paper from the Imagination Jar and there is bound to be something that sparks your child’s interest.
15. Get a head start on the next school year
Granted, this one is not as fun as the other items on this list but summer can be a good time to get a head start on the next school year. We have used time during the summer to work on science fair projects, learn how to write a research paper, or prepare for the PSAT. Some years we have even used a mini-term (4-5 weeks) to cover a subject I knew I would not be able to fit into the regular school year.