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5 Creative ways to keep your kids learning during the summer

Mom and dad playing game with young child

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 08/03/23

Here are a few ideas to sneak some fun learning into your kids' summer.

Most of my friends have their kids doing some kind of educational activity this summer. 

One of my friends signed her kids up for online reading tutoring, while another has her kids doing math workbooks every morning, and a third put her kids in science camp.

I can see why, because there’s a risk of the “summer slide,” learning loss that can occur when kids don’t keep up on their educational skills for months.

But maybe you don’t want to make summer learning that formal. Maybe your kids are resistant to “having to do schoolwork” (I’ve been there) and you want to sneak in some learning in a way that feels fun for all of you.

If that’s you, here are a few ideas.

1Play math games

A quick round of a math game a few times a week is a surefire way to keep math skills sharp and playfully connect with your kiddos. Somehow playing a game doesn’t feel like work to kids in the way that filling out a worksheet does, but they are learning just as much—if not more! 

My kids love the games Sleeping Queens and Sum Swamp. But you don’t have to go out and buy anything. If you’ve got a deck of cards, you can play Addition War as well as Subtraction War and Multiplication War (all favorites in my house). Check out more math games using just a deck of cards here.

2Listen to audiobooks in the car

Any time we drive somewhere for more than five minutes, I queue up an audiobook for my kids. It keeps them happily entertained (and not fighting) in the backseat, and they enjoy so many great and inspiring classic books this way.

Ask them a few questions about the book and their thoughts on it, and you’ve got a foolproof strategy to boost their reading comprehension, vocabulary, and critical thinking skills… not to mention learning history, science, virtues, and other lessons from the story itself.

You might even team up with another family to listen to the same book and then meet up to talk about it.

3Find picture books about your destination

If you’re planning a trip with your kids, or even staying home, check out your library catalog for books that help you explore the places around you. There is probably a children’s book out there for just about any topic you can imagine.

For example, I live near Chicago, and I’ve discovered that there are picture books about most of the local museums. They provide a fun way to learn more about the museums and know what to expect before we visit them.

Last year my family visited Cahokia and Dickson Mounds, two local American Indian archaeological sites. I went to our local library and checked out several picture books about the history of the mounds, including a sweet historical fiction story about a little boy traveling to Cahokia during its heyday. And when we visited a bunch of historical sites in Springfield, Illinois, I naturally checked out every picture book the library had about Abraham Lincoln.

You get the idea. Books about places you plan to visit will feel interesting and relevant to kids. They will be happy to read all about that place’s history, geography, etc. — without even realizing how much they are learning.

4Enjoy your own summer reads in front of your kids

Did you know one of the best things you can do for your kids’ education is simply to read a book on your own in front of them? When a parent reads for pleasure in front of their kids, they model a love of reading that speaks volumes and inspires kids to read more than any wise words we say to them.

So go ahead and enjoy your own great summer read while you’re at the beach or playground or just at home. My favorite tactic is to tell my kids we are having a “reading party,” in which we each read our own books quietly while sitting in the same room. I don’t know why something so simple is such a hit, but they go for it every time! 

5Practice handwriting and typing

A lot of kids love handwriting or hand lettering, so giving them workbooks provides them with an opportunity to practice their handwriting and fine motor skills. These books are great to work on while listening to audiobooks for some peaceful quiet time in your summer schedule.

But some kids can’t stand handwriting workbooks (cough, cough, my ADHD kiddo), so we’ve found some other ways to sneak in that needed practice. One way is writing letters to friends and family members: There is something kids find thrilling about snail mail, so my kids are always happy to write letters and cards to friends, even if they’re resistant to writing in a workbook. We also love the Draw Write Now series for writing practice that feels fun and interesting.

If your kids are old enough to type their schoolwork, check out for free and fun practice lessons. My kids really enjoy these lessons, so learning to type is something they look forward to. 

These are a few ways I sneak in some learning over the summer months. My kids love them and don’t even realize how much they’re learning. I hope your family enjoys them too. What are your favorite ways to learn as a family during the summer?

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