It’s time to pull out ideas you may have had about cool stuff to do with your kids – or let your kids do on their own – and add a little zest to summer break. It’s also a great time to refresh the skills your kids learned last year and get them ready for the challenges ahead.

Here are a few fun ideas that also require reading, following direction, solving problems, math, and even spatial reasoning. Not only will one of these cool projects get kids moving and grooving for the summer, it can get them back into the routine of thinking like a student.

Do a painting project

Projects that include lots of paint and several days to finish a painting simply do not happen all that often during the school year. Summer is a great time to let your kids enjoy the feel of a paintbrush in hand and create a piece of original art. Get them a large surface to paint on (canvas or wood), paint and brushes, and then let them look for inspiration. Home improvement shows and magazines are great resources for ideas for paintings you can do at home. Kids can also paint fabric, dishes, or even old furniture that could use a facelift.

Plan a cooking or baking day

Let your kids plan a meal for you and your family. They can look through cookbooks and choose recipes they would like to make, determine the ingredients needed, shop, prepare the meal and serve it.

Design and build something

What can your kids construct? Can they build an obstacle course in the backyard? Bridges for toy cars to ride over kiddie pools? Boats to race down a nearby creek? This can be as complicated as original designs or as simple as a craft kit from a local hobby store. Encourage conversations about the decision-making during building. When it’s time to test the finished product, video tape the experience, interview the builder to get a live comment about how it went, and if desired, share with family and friends.

Sort and preserve photos

Did your summer include a vacation? Do you have a collection of pictures, printed or digital, that you would love to see organized into a scrapbook, photo album, or printed photo book? Photo storage and memory preservation projects can be completed with or without supervision. Invite your kids to create a piece of art that reflects a shared memory and the family can enjoy for years to come.

Write and publish an original story

From a young age, we introduce children to the magic of reading. Many of them fall in love with stories and start making their own books. These handmade books might start with stapling together pictures and progress to writing, editing and typing. To take this even further, learn to self-publish an original book using an on-demand print service. The process of writing and editing an original story and learning how to self-publish takes time. Kids practice skills learned in school while completing a large project with lots of steps.

Take a kid-planned trip

Ready to put some of those geography and math skills to work? Invite your child to plan a day trip for the family. Planning a trip can include exploring with a map, choosing a location, deciding on a budget, determining the best way to travel and tracking expenses on the trip.

Become an expert

Is your kid interested in bugs? Bears? Have you got a kid obsessed with flight? Invite your child to learn about something new, to take notes on that something, and to create a display or report. This might be the perfect time to learn a new software, such as PowerPoint or Keynotes or Prezi.

Engage in a service project

This can be as simple as helping the elderly neighbor by weeding and maintaining her flower beds. How about cleaning up trash in the park or working with younger kids who need help learning to read? Service is a wonderful way to give back, as well as to practice the skills used in school.

Publish a blog or vlog (video based blog)

Maintaining a blog or vlog lets kids practice communication skills. Blogs or vlogs can be topic based, where the publisher posts articles or videos on one specific topic, or they can be a public journal that shares the everyday adventures or observations of the creator’s life. Many are some of each. To get started, search online for “free blog sites” to see several choices. By maintaining a blog or vlog, kids can practice writing, editing and honing their message. With video this would also include speaking and using video recording equipment. This requires communication and technical skills, and you can even bring math into play by studying the analytics of a blog.

Make something to sell

Do you have a budding entrepreneur in your midst? What can they make to sell? I know an 11-year-old girl who makes stuffed animals and sells them through a local retailer. She is learning about quality, buying supplies to make her product, charging enough to cover her cost and labor, and tracking her profits. What does your child make, or would they like to make, that they could make well enough to sell? This can be a practice in creativity that grows into real-life application of math skills.

– Sara Marchessault

Products to Stop Summer Slide

Travel Around the World

Learn about the states with University Games’ Scholastic Race Across the USA. Visit six states, answer geography questions and travel back to your home state to win the game. Questions are based on each player’s grade level, so different kids can play together. At for $17.21.

Hang up this cool World Map from The World Game for exploring countries from around the world with capital cities, flags and geography facts. At for $19.90.

Math Master

Beat the monster to the cave entrance with ThinkFun’s Math Path Monster, as players work together to apply addition and subtraction skills. At for $19.99.

Practice fractions with Math Magic Games’ Fraction War. Split the deck, draw cards, and the player with the largest fraction wins that round. At for $9.99.

Play with Words

Listen to incredible stories with The Storypod, an audio play learning system featuring multisensory stories, music and skill building. This kid-safe product is easy to use for exploring characters, books, trivia cards and more, and kids can even record their own stories! At for $99.99.

Create words with Spelligator, and the player who spells the most words wins. At for $29.99.

Stay Sharp

Kids will start the school year off feeling confident with the Summer Big Fun Workbook Bridging Grades 1 & 2 from Highlights that helps kids practice school skills with puzzles, poems, stories, games and more. Bonus materials include a progress poster, reward stickers, outdoor activity ideas and an award certificate. At for $14.99.

Check out the Scholastic Success Value Packs for grades 1-5 for skill reinforcement in writing, reading comprehension and more. At for $26.99-$49.99.

Fun with STEAM

Design, construct and test bridges and buildings to explore STEM principles with Learning Resources’ STEM Explorers Bridge Builders. This set includes bridge platforms, columns, pulleys, a testing truck and more for tons of creative play. At for $19.99.

Bring beauty into your home with Crayola’s Suncatcher Creator – Butterfly Garden. Craft sunlit masterpieces to create 26 suncatchers for artistic exploration. At for $29.99.

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