Fun Summer Learning Ideas

It’s an annual dilemma: Children need a break from school, yet it’s important that they continue to learn during the summer.

Educators suggest encouraging kids to imagine, explore and inquire about things that interest them. Whether kids do that with play, paper or pixels, you can find plenty of ideas to get them thinking while they enjoy summer.

To get started, create specific summer learning goals. If your child’s schedule allows it, set aside a specific day of the week as a learning day. A structured routine can help kids focus. Here are some ideas to help you fill out your child’s summer learning schedule.

Family Field Trips

Family vacations and trips to museums, historical landmarks, zoos and national parks or wildlife sanctuaries provide opportunities to learn while having fun.

Kristen Lewis, the Philadelphia Zoo’s director of education, describes the zoo as, “the region’s largest living classroom and a place that brings to life all that you see in a book.” For example, this year’s new, 3D interactive exhibit, the Trail of the Lorax, teaches kids about the orangutan. Lewis hopes that the zoo can help kids to “feel empowered and understand that their choices really can make a difference for the animals.”

Courtney Waring, director of education at the Delaware Art Museum, says, “Art museums are great places for discovery and making meaning. Family museum visits can help develop children’s critical thinking skills and hone their observation skills, not to mention having fun along the way.”

To help your children explore a museum, you can play “eye spy” or, if you’re familiar with the collection, create a scavenger hunt. Zoos and museums also offer classes and programs.

Online Reading Resources

Ideas from Readers

We asked our Facebook readers how they keep their kids learning during the summer. Here's what they said.

Linda Altamirano-Cabrera, Willingboro, NJ: We use the FIAR Five in a Row) reading curriculum.

Cathy Curran DiMartino, Philadelphia:  We order some of the Summer Solutions books and join our local library's summer reading program. We also go on lots of day trips and vacations. There is no better way to learn than to experience it.

Barbara Ackley-Spalding: I'm working on summer lesson plan booklet w/ themed ideas for parents. email at if interested in more info.

Sarah Byrne Slack: My little one is not there yet but I hope to have her volunteer at different places like the Alice Paul institute so she can learn while she is giving back!

Brenda Sutter: Like Cathy said learning through doing is the best. Living in Philadelphia we are honored to have so many places to take kids that are free or discounted. Each week once school is out, I plan 2 places of learning to go each week. In Center City we have visited the Federal Reserve bank, Mint, Fireman's muesum, and Elfreth's Alley. There's the historic manions tours in Fairmount Park. Recently we went to the Waterworks, took a photo with Rocky, ran the Art Museum steps, then walked Kelly Drive. A little unknown tour is Arcadia University. It's great to visit the castle for kids that love

Metcalfe Architecture & Design: How about the Philadelphia Zoo? We just completed the "Lorax" exhibit, which educates children and visitors about the plight of orangutans and the environment, all through the fun Seussian world of the Lorax –  It's been a hit thus far and kids have really understood the environmental concerns. Who doesn't love visiting the zoo during the summer too!?

Use your computer or mobile device to encourage children to keep reading this summer. The International Children’s Digital Library for ages 3-13 offers a free website and app that lets users select from more than 4,000 books. Read Me Stories provides iPhone and iPad users with a new book every day and is best suited for beginning readers.

The International Children’s Digital Library for ages 3-13 offers a free website and app that lets users select from more than 4,000 books.

Another online resource, Five in a Row, offers reading lesson plans and ideas for learning at home for ages 2-12. The site also features a message board for parents to ask and advise each other.

For unplugged reading, The Horn Book’s summer reading list of 68 books,  organized by grade level, features newly published books for children from preschool to high school.

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media reviews children’s apps, books, games, movies, music, TV and websites, rating them for quality and age-appropriateness and advising parents on how to use them educationally.

This summer, Common Sense is launching a virtual summer camp to help kids ages 2-17 to keep learning. It will include departments for outdoor activities, building and making, a “mess hall” where kids can learn mathematics from cooking exercises and a pen-pal section that focuses on reading. Activities will be organized by age group.

“We grouped more than 65 apps, websites, and games that are really fun and have high learning potential,” says Shira Katz, Common Sense’s director of digital learning. Besides its own activities, Common Sense recommends these kids’ learning sites and apps:

  • GameStar Mechanic teaches children how to design their own videogamesas they think mathematically and creatively.
  • ItzaZoo is a reading skills and comprehension game for preschoolers.
  • Nancy Drew: Alibi in Ashes,  a mystery game, teaches kids critical thinking skills through puzzles.
  • NASA’s The Space Place teaches kids space and earth science while providing fun facts, games and projects.

Mark Lauterbach is a MetroKids intern and  Temple University journalism student.

Categories: Education Features