12 smart ways to keep kids busy over summer vacation

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When the kids are home from school for summer break, it can be challenging to keep them amused and occupied — especially if you don’t want them to spend every waking moment with an electronic device.

Here are 12 different ways to entertain the kids — and get some learning in, too — and no smartphones, computers or game consoles required.

Kids having fun at a carnival on a ride
Photo by christyhermogenes via Twenty20
1. Travel near or far

Travel to teach your child about history and other cultures. Visit historical sites, take trips to museums and historical sites, and enroll in museum classes. Learn about different cultures by traveling to ethnic areas in different cities. And learn along the way by trying some educational car activities, such as listening to and discussing audiobooks. (SCORE Kids)

2. Make family time into “field trips”

A trip to a local museum or zoo can become a mini-field trip — children learn well with hands-on activities. You can also make kids “geologists for a day” on a local area hike, or “spelunkers” at a cave. (Connections Academy)

3. Create your own field day tournament

Rather than spending money on pricey sports equipment, reuse household items to create your own competitive events for your family. For example, set up a field hockey game using brooms as sticks and a tennis ball as a puck. Create your own shot-put using a resealable bag filled with dry rice or head to the neighborhood pool for some aquatic races. Make sure to hold a medal ceremony afterwards to celebrate everyone’s success. (LetsPlay.com)

4. Find educational outdoor activities nearby

Some city park systems or schools have summer programs that focus on nature study and the outdoors, augmenting your child’s science knowledge. Taking a family trip to an arboretum or a botanical garden teaches your child about the natural world. For the more adventurous, nature hikes provide exercise, adventure, and learning, especially if you bring a guidebook along. (SCORE Kids)

5. Visit area businesses

Factories, farms, greenhouses, fire stations and any other place of business can be a learning site for your child. Call these businesses and see if they can handle family or small group tours. (SCORE Kids)

6. Host your own community run

Races are a great way to get your family moving outside, but the registration fees can add up. Gather a few friends and family and create your own fun run. You can use a nearby neighborhood track, or just mark off the course on the sidewalk around your house. (LetsPlay.com)

7. Infuse learning into everyday routines

The simplest day-to-day tasks can help kids learn — without even knowing it. For example, encourage children to help doubling recipes to practice basic math. Writing about daily events allows children to tell a story — the story of them — and boost their vocabularies. (Connections Academy)

Kids painting and artwork of fish
Photo by bondarillia/Envato
8. Read together

Maintaining or improving your child’s reading level is essential over the long summer months. Your local library may have a summer reading program, or, for younger children, story and reading hours. Even without special programs, your child can learn to revel in the joys of reading at the beach or in a hammock. (SCORE Kids)

9. Incorporate arts and culture

Take kids to a local children’s theater or an art museum to expose them to their artistic side. Encourage kids to perform their own play or to draw and paint. In addition, local libraries are a gold mine of information. Get children their own library card and make it a regular destination year-round. (Connections Academy)

10. See a play

Theatrical productions educate children and adults about a wide range of subjects, including language, history and poetry. Look for free or low-cost summer theaters, which often present Shakespeare and other theater classics. Before a production, read a synopsis of the plot together and discuss what will happen in the play. After the production, take some time to analyze the performance and answer your child’s questions. (SCORE Kids)

11. Play a board game

Have the whole family participate in a game such as Scrabble or Monopoly. Monopoly, for example, is a subtle way of being sure your child practices math skills when she or he is the banker or a rent-collecting proprietor of Atlantic Avenue and the Water Works. Scrabble, on the other hand, tests everyone’s vocabulary and spelling skills. (SCORE Kids)

12. Set up a neighborhood play equipment swap

As they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. While your kids may be bored with the play equipment they already own, the equipment is brand new to others. Organize a play equipment swap in your neighborhood to give your gently used items a new home. Your family will also benefit by receiving some new toys and sports equipment to inspire them to get out and be active. (LetsPlay.com)


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