The kiddos are stoked about their no-homework status, but you don’t want them to forget how to do school by the time September rolls around. No, we don’t expect you to teach them the finer points of first-grade math. Instead, try our ideas for keeping their brains engaged through the summer months with these activities and outings. They’ll be so absorbed, they won’t even know what you’re up to.
Practice geometry with pretzel sticks and marshmallows. Give your child a shape to make, or ask her to make a shape with two parallel sides or five points. It’s amazing how much more enthusiastic kids are when you put pretzels in their hands instead of a compass – and when they can eat the results.
Practice science with a scavenger hunt. Send the kids on a quest to find five types of insects, five types of trees, five types of rocks and five types of animal traces (interpret how you will). You can even furnish them with collection jars and a microscope if you want to step it up a notch.
Practice times tables with a card game. Play War … with a twist. Instead of flipping one card at a time, flip two. Multiply the two cards together, and whoever has the highest product wins that round. You can practice other math functions as well, like addition and subtraction.
Practice astronomy with your smartphone. There are a variety of top-rated apps that when pointed towards the heavens will reveal the mysteries of the night sky – or at least tell you you’re facing Cygnus, not Orion. Use your phone in the yard or in the comfort of your living room to learn the summer constellations and spin yarns about their origins.
Practice reading with your library card. Summer reading programs are a great incentive to keep your child mentally stimulated during the summer months – which might have something to do with the prizes. Dallas and Fort Worth are both offering programs; check with your local library to sign up.
Practice history with a field trip back in time. Dallas Heritage Village and Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village offer a glimpse into the lifestyles of past Texans. Learn the ins and outs of blacksmithing, farming, weaving, cooking and other pioneer pursuits while getting a taste of 19th-century living in the Lone Star State.
Practice fractions with a cookbook. Choose a recipe together, then help your child convert the amounts to make more or fewer servings (and your kids will learn that, yes, fractions do happen in real life). And then of course you can figure out how many cookies will be left if you each eat two (or three or four).
Practice paleontology with a shovel. DinoDig at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History lets your kids get their hands dirty digging through actual sand for actual fossils in a simulated excavation environment. How cool is that? And through September 1, older kids can uncover a fossil at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science's exhibit The World's Largest Dinosaurs.
Practice chemistry with cornstarch. Mix two cups of cornstarch with about 1.5 cups of water (add more water if the mixture is too starchy or more starch if it’s too runny) and watch the kids’ eyes get big. If you try to scoop the goop, it melts out of your hands, but if you pound it with your fist, it holds firm. Use science vocab like “liquid” and “solid” to drive the lesson home.
Practice grammar with Mad Libs. A classic game of fill-in-the-blank is perfect for cementing those parts of speech. You and the kids can even make your own stories to fill in – just be sure they include the adverb-adjective-exclamation lingo like the store-bought versions.
Practice art history with a gallery tour. There’s a smattering of top-tier art museums in DFW, including the DMA and the Nasher in Dallas and the Kimbell, the Modern and the Amon Carter in Fort Worth. These museums regularly offer children’s programming and events, or you can explore the old-fashioned way by wandering from painting to painting.
Or practice art history with sidewalk chalk. Let your kids pick out their favorite painting or artist (Eric Carle totally counts) and create a washable outdoor mural in that style. Talking about their work in terms like “color,” “line,” “texture” and “value” will help your kids learn proper art vocabulary on their way to becoming little connoisseurs.
Updated June 2014