Fun Ideas That Keep Kids Learning Even After School’s Out

For some people, summer means warmer weather and outdoor activities. But what about the kids that are out of school? What will they do all summer? For most parents, they just want their kids to do something other than video games or watching endless videos.

So for you, I’m going to give a few suggestions for summer activities—some of my favorites. These are just suggestions, this is not a to-do list. Really, it is going to depend on the child to find something they truly find interesting and exciting (that’s when the fun really starts).

Learning to Code

So, you like video games? Do you know that actual humans make video games with some type of computer code? It’s true. But even better, kids can write programs too. It might seem scary to get started, but it’s really not too bad. If you want to get started, I am going to recommend code.org. There are plenty of learning guides that are appropriate for a variety of ages. Oh, and it’s free and online.

Even the lowest level activities are very complete—they even include ideas about functions and debugging. It’s the best way to get a general idea of computer programming before moving on to a particular language.

If you want to be more creative with your programming, there is also Scratch (scratch.mit.edu). Scratch is a graphical (and free) programming language that focuses on the control of animated sprites. It’s pretty easy to pick up and it’s built so that you can share programs and modify others.

Finally, there is one more set of coding activities—physical programming. Physical programming takes some type of code but adds onto it some actual object that the code can control. If that sounds awesome, it’s only because it is. There are two physical programming platforms that I have worked with before—Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Although these devices are not free, they aren’t super expensive either. Both platforms have tons of great projects that kids (or adults) can work on. Example: https://projects.raspberrypi.org/en/ and https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub.

What About Science?

There are plenty of great science projects that kids can work on during the summer. The key to a successful project is to find something interesting. That means you are just going to have to look through lots of ideas (and even try a few) before you find something that draws your attention. Let me give you a few ideas.

  • Bird watching. Birds are all over the place—in fact you can probably see them in your back yard. Keeping track of the birds you see and identifying new birds can be a great adventure. Here is a nice site to help you get started.
  • Grow something. Again, if you have a backyard you can probably grow some type of plant. Really, it doesn’t matter what kind of plant—just something that a kid can work on. If you like, you can try multiple plants and changing the amount of water or sunlight and see what produces the most growth.
  • Tracking the sun. The sun probably doesn’t pass directly overhead at anytime during the day for your location—but how high does it get? You can track the motion of the sun by observing the shadow a vertical stick in the ground makes. If this measurement is repeated for a long enough time you should be able to notice some interesting things.

Make Stuff

This is my favorite thing—to make something. All too often kids become consumers instead of creators. Here is your chance to change that. There are bunch of things to make. These are just a few ideas to get you started.

  • Something made out of cardboard. Cardboard is everywhere and easy to work with. You can build anything from a candy dispenser to costumes. There are plenty of tutorials online—just search for what you want.
  • Hack together something like MacGyver. I’m currently a technical consultant for the CBS show MacGyver, and one of the things I do is to make short video tutorials on how to build things similar to the stuff you see on the show. You can see some of my tutorials here.
  • Stop motion animation. There are plenty of apps on your phone that will allow you to make a stop motion movie. It just takes time and some small toys that you can move to different positions.
  • Sewing. Again, you can sew things at many different levels. It’s not too difficult to make a quick stuffed animal, but maybe you are even more advanced. Sewing is not only fun, but you can make some useful stuff. Maybe this guide will help you get started.

Be Bored

In the end, remember that being bored is not really a bad thing. Boredom is just the start of an adventure. The act of trying to not be bored is the human spirit of innovation. Let the kids be bored, and see what happens. Hopefully they won’t break something.

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