Summer Learning Activities for Kids: Top Ten Ways To Keep Kids Thinking

June 20, 2014 in All Posts

I’m thrilled to be participating in the Second Annual School’s Out! Top 10 Summer Learning Activities series and sharing our Top Ten Ways to Keep Kids Thinking over Summer Break with you. If you’re like me, you want your children to enjoy the beautiful summer weather, play in the dirt, swim in the pool and just be kids, but you also want to encourage them to flex their thinking muscles, too. Today we’re sharing our Top Ten Summer Learning Activities that will keep your kids thinking over summer break. Summer Learning Activities All product links below are Amazon affiliate links, which means we receive a percentage of sales made through the links.

1) Keep Them Reading

Your kids might have more screen time now that school is out, or maybe they are busy spending long days playing outside or busy at camps, so it’s easy to forget about setting aside time for reading. Try not to! This Reading Mama’s Top Ten Ways To Help Readers Grow This Summer has great tips for encouraging your child to continue her reading habits over the summer break.

2) Make Art

And lots of it. The creative process involved in an open-ended project – where you simply provide the materials and let your child explore without direction – is an infinitely valuable tool in encourage your child to experience the creative thought process. Try:

If you’re stuck for ideas, you can always turn to resources like Rachelle Doorley’s Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, which is an AMAZING book filled with “55 Playful Experiments that Encourage Tinkering, Curiosity & Creative Thinking.”

3) Move and Learn

Summer is a great time to coordinate physical activity with learning and kids. Here are some we plan to try:

4) Provide Open-Ended Invitations To Play

Open-invitations to play are SO easy for parents and just as exciting to children as the complicated projects we sometimes set up for them. Summer is for taking it easy: just grab some materials and let them go! Open Ended Play Invitations If you’re not sure about how to set up an open-invitation to play, check out our posts on Easy Ways To Encourage Free Play and Exploring Open-Ended Play.

5) Give Them Problems To Solve

In our house, we make it a rule not to respond to the kids’ questions with answers. Instead, we encourage our children to solve problems and find solutions on their own. One of the ways you can incorporate independent problem solving into your summer routine is to set up easy invitations like these:

  • Treasure Hunts – kick yours up a notch by setting up clues and riddles the kids have to solve in order to “unlock” the next piece of the map.
  • Container Conundrum – give the kids containers and lids with different sized objects and let them figure out how to fit every object inside.
  • Guessing Games – play guessing games like this DIY Number Game from Kids Activities Blog that will force your child to use sight, sound and touch, as well as use compare and contrast skills.

6) Dedicate-A-Day

Let your child choose a topic or a question and dedicate the entire day to learning about that topic or figuring out the answer to the question. Let’s say your son loves dinosaurs. You could:

  • Research dinosaurs on the Internet
  • Visit the library for dinosaur books
  • Decorate dinosaur coloring pages
  • Excavate frozen dinosaurs
  • Create fossils by pressing popsicle sticks into clay
  • Visit the nearest museum

Tip: Take turns picking topics with your child so you can join the fun!

7) Let Them Be Bored

Don’t plan out every single second of their day. Not having someone telling them what to do and when and how to do it will get them to develop ideas on their own and become comfortable with independent decision making.

8) Revisit our Top Ten Ways to Keep Kids Curious over Summer Break


9) Rethink Traditional Learning Tools

In other words, dig out the flashcards, workbooks, and other “boring” learning tools and introduce them as part of playtime with your children. Both my 4 year old and 5 year old absolutely love playing with flashcards and completing the pages of their workbooks because I always present them as “fun” learning options. We never require the kids to finish a particular or page or sit down every single day for a lesson, but I offer these tools as a play option. It turns out that the children actually enjoy these traditionally boring activities and as a side effect, they’re continuing their school year learning without even knowing it. Tip: The $1 LeapFrog Flash Cards in the Target dollar bins and the $10 100-page workbooks sold at Costco (like Sylvan Workbooks and other brands) are our faves. You can find more expensive ones at Teacher Supply Stores, but I haven’t found them to be much better. Of course, you can also make your own!

10) Record Your Summer

This activity is a fun way to build analytical, storytelling, and memory skills, while making summer memories. Help your child start a blog, write in a journal or keep a video log of what has happened over the course of a day. For little ones, it can be as simple as drawing a picture of the elephant she saw at the zoo. Ask your child to recount the day or the event she remembers. What were her favorite parts? Who were the main characters? Does she understand why or what happened? What are areas you can help fill in or the two of you can figure out together? Use the journal to extend your child’s experience so that she thinks about it from different points of view or imagines different outcomes.

Have your own favorite summer learning activity? Please share it in the comments or on our Facebook Page.

And if this wasn’t enough, check out the entire series of posts below. schoolsout-2ndannual-button-500 The Educators’ Spin on It | Top 10 Everyday Objects for Summer Learning & Fun! This Reading Mama | Top 10 Ways to Help Readers Grow this Summer Growing Book by Book | Top 10 Just Right Summer Reading Spots Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas | Top 10 Ways To Get Kids Reading this Summer P is for Preschooler | Top 10 Ways to Have Fun with Sight Words this Summer Let’s Play Music Top 10 Ways to Make your Summer Musical Hand Made Kids Art | Top 10 Ways to Encourage Creative Thinking 3 Dinosaurs | Top 10 Ways to Use Flash Cards Play Trains | Top 10 Summer Train Activities for Kids Artsy Momma | Top 10 Ways to Explore & Learn with Activity Kits this Summer Planet Smarty Pants | Top 10 Ways to Learn Something New This Summer Living Montessori Now | Top 10 Summer Themes for Preschoolers Teach Beside Me | Top 10 Sidewalk Chalk Games for Summer Learning Rainy Day Mum | Top 10 Ways to get Creative with Water Fun-a-Day Top 10 Summer Science Experiments for Kids All Done Monkey | Top 10 Ways to Travel the World Without Leaving Home Multicultural Kid Blogs | Top 10 Ways to Learn about the World with the World Cup KC Edventures | Top 10 Citizen Scientist Projects for Summer Life Over C’s Top 10 Summer Math Activities The Pleasantest Thing | Top 10 Summer Art Projects True Aim Education | Top 10 Recipes For Kids to Cook Creative Family Fun | Top 10 Simple Summer Field Trips Lalymom | Top 10 Summer Activities for Kindergarten Readiness Slow Family | Top 10 Ways to Learn in Your Own Backyard Lemon Lime Adventures | Top 10 Ways to Build Family Connection Wildflower Ramblings | Top 10 Messy Outdoor Painting Activities Line Upon Line Learning | Top 10 Ways to Learn at the Playground Chicken Babies | Top 10 Ways to Get Kids Writing this Summer Mom Favorites | Top 10 Tips for Rocking a Road Trip with Kids Science Sparks | Top 10 Outdoor Science Activities In the Playroom | Top 10 Ways to Learn Through Play For This Season | Top 10 Ways to Encourage Creativity Learn~Play~Imagine | Top 10 Ways to Learn with Water Raising Lifelong Learners | Top 10 Ways to Learn About Insects Creekside Learning | Top 10 Hands-On Math Games for Outside Ingles 360 Top 10 Ways to Use your Word Wall See you soon and keep #RaisingThinkingKids!

Parents and friends: for more ideas, activities, and inspiration for #RaisingThinkingKids, click on an icon below to join us on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter.

Fellow bloggers: join me at Bloggy Law, where you’ll find Simple Tips for Bulletproofing Your Brand and Blog and I’ll help you navigate the social media legal landscape a little more smoothly.

Chrissy – who has written posts on The Outlaw Mom® Blog – Creative Living in a Conventional World.