At this point in the summer, you have probably taken your child to every museum and park within a 30-mile radius, arranged play dates with nearly every classmate or friend and might even be growing tired of the swimming pool. Need some new ideas? Here are some educational activities we’ve learned about from Sylvan Learning Center, Arizona Connections Academy and Expect More Arizona.
Put on a play
If your child is a young, aspiring actor (or just has a flair for the dramatic), encourage him or her to gather friends, family and neighbors to help put on a stage play or puppet show. Help your child write the play, whether it is inspired by a favorite book or from their own imagination. And if your child is more into music? A concert is just as fun!
Help a neighbor
It’s never too early to start teaching your child the values of community service, and there’s no better time to begin than summer, when your child has extra time. A great way to start is right in your own neighborhood, helping an elderly or single neighbor with yard work, pet care, car washing or errands. Help your child to foster a friendship that will teach them responsibility and benefit your neighbor, too.
Start a book club
Most kids have summer reading lists to keep their minds busy during the few months out of school, and sometimes a list of required reading can seem like a drag. A fun way to keep it interesting for kids is to get a group of their friends together and start a summer book club, whether the books are from the required list or a favorite series. Order pizza for the gang and have them go swimming or watch a movie afterward, so book club becomes a fun activity and play date.
Create a new sports team
Are your child’s sports all out of season for the summer? Keep them active and engaged by starting a sports team of their very own, and try something interesting. Maybe they’ve never tried bocce, an Italian bowling-like lawn game. Or for avid Harry Potter fans, celebrate the series’ grand finale by forming a Quidditch team and facing off against others in the neighborhood.Encourage your kids to make jerseys on plain white tees, rig up a makeshift scoreboard, and have fun with it.
Take a hike
Beautiful mountains with family-friendly trails surround the Valley of the Sun — so take your kids out for a nature hike! Set distance goals and encourage your kids to keep a nature journal for reflection about what they see and experience, fostering both writing skills and an appreciation of the natural world. Go early in the morning or near sundown to avoid the harshest temperatures and sun. Be sure to wear light colors, bring plenty of water to drink and reapply sunscreen often.
Build a garden
Help your children try a hand a gardening — and see if they have green thumbs! Your kids will discover the wonder of botany as they learn which crops to plant in the summer months and how to care for them. They will also learn responsibility as they nurture the plants, harvest what they grow and stick to a prescribed budget.
Put their art on display
If there’s a little artist in your house, gather their work and display it on the walls for all to see, in a scrapbook or photo album, or even on a blog. Step outside of just crayons and markers and engage your child with a variety of media: feathers, beads, paint, modeling clay, even a disposable camera for photography. Involve your child in the process of creating the exhibit and showing it to others, to build confidence in their artistic pursuits.
Chalk the sidewalk
Sidewalk chalk is a great large-scale outdoor art project or game that can be easily washed away with a hose at the end of the day. Your kids can draw pictures, write words, or play hangman, tic-tac-toe and hopscotch. Also try a new twist on hopscotch by drawing a giant calculator on the driveway and quizzing your kids on their addition and subtraction skills.
Play board games
Classic games like Monopoly and Scrabble are great educational games for math and language practice. Monopoly tests math skills by counting money, buying, selling and making change, and Scrabble encourages kids to exercise their vocabulary and spelling by forming words. Also check out new games, and even help your kids try a hand a making their own board games, with a cardboard game board, some markers and paint, and a little modeling clay to make pieces and dice. Kids can practice their logic and writing skills as they develop and record the directions for the game.
Make a scavenger hunt or jeopardy game
With a little pre-planning, you can make up a great activity that will keep your kids entertained all afternoon. Make up some jeopardy cards with fun facts to quiz your kids, or develop a scavenger hunt in the neighborhood or even just around the house, and get a group together to make it more fun for everyone. Finish off the hunt with a popsicle prize and a dip in the pool for everyone.
Go to the library
Whatever you are reading — comic books, picture books, or the sports page of the newspaper — make it fun for your kids. Alternate letting them read and reading to them, try using funny voices, and afterward discuss what you read with them. Libraries have great books, fun spaces and most have fun summer reading programs for kids.
Take a road trip, or just go on a walk
Arizona is full of beautiful places, often with cooler temperatures, within a few hours distance. Take your kids to explore learn more about their state, or even just around the neighborhood. Play games in the car or on the sidewalk, like “I Spy” and alphabet games, to keep them entertained.
Create your own online summer school
There are plenty of websites out there with educational games kids love. try pbs.org and K12.com. There are print-out activities so your kids can make a workbook for themselves, and computer games that are a fun and educational way to beat the summer heat. — Sadie Smeck