5 Fun Ways to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer

5 Fun Ways to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer

Keeping kids engaged and learning during the summer months is important to maintain academic growth. However, summer learning doesn't have to be boring, expensive or tough. Developing consistent expectations and implementing small changes to your summer routine can make a huge difference when they head back to school in the Fall. As a teacher and a parent, these are the 5 tips I have found to be most helpful when my 3 kids are home in the summer.

1. Play  

This is, perhaps, the most important tip I have. Kids need time to play. Kids LEARN through play! They learn to problem solve and think critically. They learn to read social cues and build empathy. Physical play promotes exercise, creativity and reduces stress and anxiety. Furthermore, playing OUTSIDE and taking advantage of the FREE parks, playgrounds and nature preserves in your area help create fun and unique adventures for your kids.

As a parent, I will warn you that play can be messy. It is okay! Plan for it to be messy. Have realistic expectations of the mess that may occur but know that the time exploring their world is well worth it. 

Chicagoland Parents: Check out Kidlist for fun ideas, activities and events all summer long!

2. Create a Summer Reading Challenge (aka Read Every Day!)

Encourage your child to read regularly by setting up a summer reading challenge. Create a chart where they can track the books they read or pages they finish. Offer rewards or incentives for reaching certain milestones. Take trips to the library together to pick out new books, and consider joining a summer reading program if available. Reading can take them on adventures, enhance vocabulary, and improve comprehension skills.

I know what you might be thinking, "But my child doesn't like to read." or "My child can't read yet." That is okay. The key to summer reading success is creating a consistent expectation that reading WILL happen every day in some way. For our family, we found that reading first thing in the morning worked best.

Here is what our reading routine looked like:

⭐️My 1st grader would often read independently. He loves this series. 

⭐️My Kindergartener would choose one decodable book to read to me and one book he wanted me to read to him. 

⭐️My preschooler would pick out a few books she could "read" (i.e. look at the pictures) and one book she wanted me to read to her.

We settled into this routine quickly and it gave me time to wrap up breakfast before we were headed out to camps or that day's adventure. We would also read all together before bed, but this is often me reading to them since they were tired from the day. 

Here are a few more ideas to incorporate reading into your summer:

- Read to a stuffed animal.

- Read at the park.

- Read in a fort.

- Read in a tree house and/or playground.

- Read at the library. 

- Start a book club with friends

- Read books that have been made into movies. (Then, watch the movie!)

- Set up a special reading spot.

- Set a family goal for reading.

If you child is pushing back on reading, head to your local library and ask about their summer reading program. They often have incentives such as little trinkets, coupons for summer treats and more. The library is also home to THOUSANDS of books. Offering 

3. Math Games and Activities

Keep math skills sharp by incorporating games and activities into everyday life. Play board games that involve counting, strategy, and problem-solving. Practice math concepts while cooking or baking together—measuring ingredients, dividing portions, and estimating quantities. By making math enjoyable and applicable to real-life situations, your child will continue to develop mathematical fluency.

If you are looking for more structured math activities, math crafts and movement activities are fun and engaging options for the summer months. The Beach Math Craft (pictured above) can be easily modified for different ages and abilities. Children can cut out the shells match them to the numbers, sums or differences. 


On rainy days, I take advantage of movement activities like this Beach Themed Count and Color (pictured above). I post the task cards around the room and the kids walk around to count and add the objects on the task cards. This is a great way to get the wiggles out AND review basic number operations. 

4. Strengthen Writing Skills through Arts and Crafts

Did you know that a child's hand bone structure isn't fully developed until around age 5 or 6? The best thing you can do to promote writing skills in little learners (Ages 2-5) is to engage in activities that strengthen the hand muscles. Arts and crafts fit that bill as children cut, paste, color and more.

During the summer months, I love to provide my kids with a box full of materials (paper, crayons, markers, paint, glue, recyclable materials, etc. ) and see what they create. About once a week, we complete a more structured craft together.

Name crafts have been a long time favorite. They love seeing their names on their craft and using their own creativity to decorate it. 

I will be honest with you... there are some days where their creativity is just not there. This is when simple Color by Number pages (shown below) or Summer Coloring pages (linked here by Rainbow Sprinkle Studio) can be helpful. The time spent coloring is valuable in strengthening those hand muscles.

For older kids, explicit handwriting instruction/practice may be appropriate. As a teacher and parent, I have found that, even reluctant writers enjoy small written tasks that make them feel important while also practicing writing skills. 

Here are a few examples of Summer Writing Tasks:

- Help write the grocery list.

- Create a dinner menu.

- Write down books and/or movies you want to read.

- Write down reminders for the family on post it notes. 

- Write down your summer bucket list

5. Hands-On Science Experiments & Sensory Play

Engage your child's curiosity with fun and educational science experiments. You can find numerous simple experiments online that use household items. From making homemade slime to building a baking soda volcano, these activities not only teach scientific concepts but also encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Set aside a designated area for messy experiments and let your child explore. 

For younger children, we use yellow and pink colored rice to create a Lemonade Stand. They LOVE scooping and pouring rice as their lemonade and pinching with tongs to add pom pom "ice" to their treat. You can read more about our Lemonade Themed Activities here

By incorporating these activities into your child's summer routine, you can ensure they continue to learn, explore, and grow outside of the traditional classroom setting. Remember to balance structured learning with unstructured playtime, allowing your child to recharge and enjoy their summer break to the fullest.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Upon clicking these links, I may earn a small commission on purchases made at no additional cost to you. 

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