Fight Brain Drain: 75 fun new ways to learn

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine

Need creative ideas to keep your children active, engaged, and learning throughout the summer months? Some of these involve a little planning and a few supplies, but they are all well worth the effort. You will be able to find more detailed information on some of these suggestions either online or via books at your local library or bookstore. These activities help reinforce key concepts learned in the classroom, such as following directions, researching a topic, measuring and calculating, cooperating, exploring interests, creative thinking, accepting diversity, taking responsibility, critical thinking, and understanding how concepts learned in the classroom are used in everyday life.

1. Learn a language — check out

2. Make a mailbox for your room and for other family members; send letters to each other on a regular basis.

3 Listen to an audiobook – LibriVox recordings are available online (; audio books are at most local libraries.

4. Learn a new sport.

5. Try making colonial crafts, such as a Pomander ball, cornhusk doll, Jacob’s Ladder, or whirligig (you can find step-by-step instructional videos online).

6. Explore your family tree — make a diagram on a large piece of paper and see how far back you can trace your family.

7. Have your child measure the different rooms in your house and rank from the smallest to the largest.

8. Peruse to find interesting documentaries on everything from ice age hunters, origin of democracy, the Mayan civilization, lost temples of India, and the Roman Empire.

9. Learn card games that the entire family can play together.

10. Use story cubes to create and share interesting and entertaining stories. Newton-based Gamewright Games ( offers several cube sets ranging from mysteries and sports to fairy tales, Batman, and more in their Rory’s Story Cubes series.

11. Create Duct tape projects. How-to videos from author and crafter Richela Fabian Morgan can be found at

12. Check out elaborate coloring books found in most bookstores — cityscapes and famous artwork.

13. Visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. Special events and summer exhibitions can be found at

14. Have your child research the key issues of each presidential candidate.

15. Draw and color a mandala. Check out

16. Learn yoga. Game creators ThinkFun ( offer three super yoga games aimed at ages 3 and up: Memory Yoga, Yoga Spinner, and Yoga Cards.

17. Use glow-in-the-dark plastic stars to create constellations in your bedroom. 

18. Volunteer for a local agency or charity.

19. Conduct kitchen ingredient science experiments. Visit

20. Take an online visit to the National Museum of American History ( to participate in some fun activities that bring history to life.

21. Create a Jackson Pollack painting — visit the Boston Museum of Fine Art ( for inspiration or head to

22. Keep a baseball scorecard for a game, either on TV or at a local ballpark. Scorecards and detailed instructions can been found at and other online sites.

23. Read in fun places — tent in the backyard, picnic in a park, or on a pile of cushions in the living room.

24. Have regular family game nights. Some great games that sneak in education are Bananagrams, Apples to Apples, Chess, Checkers, Monopoly, Scrabble, Last Word, and Boggle.  Personal tip — Bananagrams ( was a lifesaver during our many restaurant stops on our family cross-country trip!

25. Visit Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney’s bookstore in Plainville. Check out its Website for events and book signings:

26. Visit local historic sites throughout Massachusetts. Have your child do some research prior to the trip. Here are some suggestions from

27. Have your child calculate how much it would cost to do dinner and a movie for the entire family.  Compare different movie times and restaurants to determine the best deal.

28. Plan, cook, and enjoy a meal from a different country.

29. Make birdseed “ornaments” to hang in your backyard ( These also make great gifts for the holidays.

30. Take your child to the grocery store and let them help you compare prices for items you get on a regular basis.

31. Create, color, and display tessellation art:

32. Try decorating cookies, cupcakes, or cakes. Use a plastic bag as a piping bag and experiment with different techniques and designs.

33. Trace your shadow on the driveway/sidewalk at different times of the day — observe what happens.

34. Make homemade stationary using stamp pads and card stock paper. Send notes to friends and family.

35. Do a puzzle. Select a challenging one that may take several days to complete.

36. Create some origami figures. Search “origami for kids” on YouTube and enjoy many videos.

37. Involve your child in daily cooking. It helps reinforce following instructions and math concepts, plus it is a huge confidence booster to know they prepared a meal for the family.

38. Make homemade ice cream using the necessary ingredients: two plastic baggies, ice, and a lot of shaking. This is especially fun with loud and peppy music in the background.

39. Walk in nature and make observations using all your senses. Check out ome of the state's Audubon wildlife sanctuaries

40. Make some crafts using solar beads (the beads change color when exposed to sun).

41. Take pictures in your town of common shapes (triangle for a yield sign, rectangle for the top of a picnic table).

42. Look at constellations in the night sky. Read Greek and Roman mythology stories that relate to the constellations. (You can learn about the constellations during free astronomy programs some Fridays in the summer:

43. Plant a garden, either in the ground or in pots.

44. Start a summer scrapbook as a keepsake of special events. Journal the pages so you remember the details of each event.

45. Identify trees in your neighborhood; make note of the different bark and leaves.

46. Make solar paper artwork – gather flat items and use solar paper (purchase in craft stores) to create beautiful outlines of the objects.

47. Create a cartoon of something funny/interesting that happened over the summer.

48. As a family — read a book and then watch the movie version — have a family debate on which version is better. Check out for a list of 300 children’s books and that become feature films.

49. Create a Fibonacci art project using different sizes and colors of cut out circles. A step by step can be found at

50. Make your own musical instruments — a homemade drum; shoe box guitar; shaker using two plastic bowls and some loose rice; bean shakers with dry beans and a empty plastic bottle; a kazoo with a paper towel tube and some wax paper.

51. Read something everyday — morning comics, a recipe in a cook book, instructions for how to put something together.

52. Make a terrarium to keep in your bedroom. Here are instructions for three ways:

53. Create a Zentangle art project:

54. Participate in summer reading incentive programs through local libraries and bookstores.

55. Take pictures of your home, neighborhood, items in nature, etc., but do it a little differently. Take the pictures extremely up close, focusing on a small detail of the larger object. Have fun with this and see if others can guess the object by just looking at the small detail.

56. Find an interesting story to read aloud to your child; try to make it a dramatic reading.

57. Learn calligraphy. Use it to send elaborate notes to family and friends, maybe even an invitation to a special event over the summer months. A tutorial can be found at:

58. Create a play to perform for the family, decorate paper masks, create a stage, and dazzle your family with an original production.

59. Listen to free online concert streaming of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, and Tanglewood programs through

60. Plant a butterfly-attracting plant (daffodils, viburnum, wild violets, wild basil). Try to locate butterfly eggs and create a butterfly house where you can witness the transformation of an ova into a butterfly.

61. Find out what books are being released as movies over the summer, like Roald Dahl’s The BFG: Read the books before seeing the movie.

62. Put together a model car, plane, helicopter, etc.

63. Make homemade soap — give as gifts to friends and family. Check out a short tutorial at

64. Record fun summer activities by taking pictures. Use sturdy colorful twine and decorated clothespins to create a “clothes line” of pictures for your room.

65. Use Magformers magnetic shapes (triangles, squares, diamonds) to create unlimited masterpieces (

66. Practice handwriting, cursive, or spelling with colored chalk on a driveway. With young children, use pudding on a cookie sheet (yummy!).

67. Start a family/friend book club. It’s a great way to share great books and keep up the reading.

68. Have your kids create an obstacle course in the backyard that will use different kinds of skills (speed, strength, balance); make sure they create specific rules for each event.

69. Make homemade candles — use items found in nature such as stones, shells and sea glass to decorate the candles.

70. Make something to sell in the neighborhood (lemonade, baked goods, craft item).

71. Visit local enrichment resources on a regular basis — library, park, museum, historic landmark.

72. Make puppets using small paper bags. Create a puppet show. Make a puppet theater out of a large cardboard box and entertain your family.

73. Involve children in travel plans. Discuss the method of transportation, where you should stay, where you will eat, what you should pack, and what activities to do once you get to your destination.

74. Use Nanoblocks ( to create replicas of famous structures around the world (White House, Louvre, Sydney Opera House, Big Ben, Neuschwanstein Castle).

75. Try to duplicate a painting or drawing of a famous artist.

Want to find fun things happening near you? Check out our Summer Slide Busters online sidebar.