How Are Your Children Staying Smart This Summer?

Updated on July 25, 2012
J.M. asks from Chesterfield, MO
20 answers

What are your kids doing all day and staying out of this heat? I work from home so i can't take them to the pool or on outings everyday. My kids just want to play video games and play on the computer all day, but I would like to see them spend a few minutes learning something too. It's hard to get them to read during the day. they would rather do it before bed. What are some fun maybe free websites that are keeping your kids smart?

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answers from St. Louis on

even in this heat, my son has to do something outside before any electronics. Usually he chooses walking/running the dogs, but has been known to just play with them in the yard.

Been using this system for years now, & it will be coming to an end....he'll be 16 later this week. :)

As for the "smart", he's been working on merit badges....working toward Eagle Scout. Some of the badges require research....& OMG....learning! He actually told me that it was "almost too much for summertime". LOL!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

My kids are learning RESPONSIBILITY! We just got a new puppy! Kids are 8 and 10 and are on potty and play duty rotations! LOL!
And they read for 30min-1hr each day. They like drawing/art time and board games. I'm thinking that in August, I will have them do a math sheet a few times per week just so they dont' forget stuff like long division and multiplication facts - maybe flashcards. Nothing too heavy, just keep up the skills. And we watch lots of science shows that I dvr on space, animals etc. Out new fav is Hunting the Elements from PBS!

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Columbus on
My kids do workbooks every day, reading clubs at the library and two book stores (prizes awarded!), and my daughter just started math tutoring. I sound like a school Nazi based on this list, but it's less than an hour out of each day.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I am not certain what age you are looking to entertain. But a few websites that come to mind are,, and

We started a token system here. For every book he reads, he gets a token. For every journal entry (must be at least one page), he gets a token. Each token is worth 15 minutes of computer/video game time that can be cashed in at my discretion. It has really motivated him to want to read and write, but my son will be in first grade.

Don't discount other toys either. Legos teach a lot about spacial reasoning and problem solving. Board games teach everything from counting skills to social skills. Art projects can help with fine motor skills (which improves hand writing). They also brush up on scissor skills. Mixing paint is a science project. And cooking involves lots of math and reading.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I don't buy into the "must keep them academically involved all summer long" mantra. I mean, yes, they will forget a few things if they do absolutely nothing, but summer is SUMMER. They suffer burnout if they are still doing school all summer.
My kids are 11 and 14 and my 14 yr old is registered for AP and Honors classes when he starts back in a few weeks. Most of them have summer reading requirements. So he is doing that. But they do lots of "other" stuff over the summer that I find just as important:
* 7 day church camp that has 3 classes a day on the theological level of practically being at seminary (all taught by seminary trained pastors who are knowledgeable and can translate both greek and hebrew), which also gives them daily physical activity in the mountains--swimming, rock slides, hiking, canoeing, and playing "war" games like "Outpost". They come home exhausted physically and mentally, but they LOVE it.
* Both kids are having orthodontic work done (my 14 yr old's is major-- braces plus a herbst device), so there is growth in maturity just in dealing with all that.
* They roller blade, ripstik, ride electric scooters, and swim regularly--fresh air and sunshine!
* We have vacationed as a family (waterpark/overnight trip--loads of fun)
* They have competed in a martial arts tournament
* They maintain their martial arts over the summer-it is a year round sport. And for my 14 yr old (who is 2nd Dan) this includes progressing towards his next degree, which means devising his own one-step routines, and planning his own 6 board board break and perfecting it, plus mentoring younger students, helping in lower ranked belts classes, etc.
* They are leading the games for the younger kids at VBS

And yeah... they play games on the computer (mostly minecraft) and PS3. They're kids. They also do chores like mowing the yard, helping with laundry, etc. And we have had numerous family guests stay with us over the summer, and we play board games (like Settlers of Catan), along with hitting the beach, etc.

Just learning personal responsibility (which is a long-term growth thing, not something they can learn all at once) is a huge deal. They have learned a lot of that this summer, particularly with the orthodontics stuff and camp. They also have summer birthdays, so they have used their money management skills a lot, with birthday money, etc.

Maybe I will regret not making my son practice his algebra, but I doubt it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I guess I'm pretty much cool with summer brain rot that involves swimming, basketball, playing tag & dodgeball with the neighborhood gang, visiting the shore, battling waves, checking out cool & historical places, video games.
My kid is interested on history & spends time online reading about what interests him & watching some stuff on the military & history channels. He also has several (ok- a lot) of history type books he lives to look through.
I don't stress too much about reading, math etc on the's such a short time I just let him have fun. School will start soon enough!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

What makes you think that the TV and games aren't educational? Even more educational than books? If you have an enriched environment, talk to your kids a lot, then TV and games aren't negatives, they can be positives. Check this out:

Learning happens all the time, you don't have to seek it out.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My kids are staying smart through traveling. We have been gone way too much this summer, but seeing and experiencing new things has been fabulous for us and them.

My kids love for an educational and fun website. They like to play outside and play different number with football, hula hoops, swimming, etc.

Not all TV is bad either...some shows are educational and teach them lots of great things. So depending on their ages, that might be good for them too.

Can you cook a different lunch with them daily and teach them about different food groups, colors, portions, etc?

Do they play games like kids scrabble or yahtzee?

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm a high school teacher, so I'm home with my boys this summer (ages 8 and 14). The both like the computer, but don't live on it.

We're all readers, and my oldest has a few summer assignments that involve reading, too, so sometimes in the afternoon when it's super hot we'll close all the blinds making the house dark, and turn the A/C on extra cool. Then we'll get cozy on the couch or in a big reading chair and read for a couple of hours. We'll all discuss what we're reading. It's like a reading club except that we all read different books.

We live on a farm just south of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and we all love art, so we decided at the beginning of summer that we would hit all of the museums in the area this summer. This week we went to the last one in Ft. Worth, and next week we will begin going to the Dallas museums. In each room of each museum we each pick our favorite work and tell each other why it's our favorite. We love our museum days!

I also agree with the person who posted about learning through responsibility. Our boys stay busy at home helping on the farm. It's a small farm, just a few acres, but we have animals and a garden, so there is always plenty to do. They are both old enough to help a ton. Today is cleaning day, so they will be helping me clean house all afternoon. We turn on some '80s music sing and clean all afternoon.

Much of the time, though, they are busy using their own imaginations. They get along well together, and my 14 year old is good at playing with my 8 year old. They come up with all kinds of adventures together, and that builds wonderful creativity. If I entertained them all the time, they wouldn't have time to allow that creativity to grow. Right now they are drawing a very elaborate comic strip together. It's a continuation of one they started in June.

Enjoy your summer with you children! :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Its summer, they are learning about bugs, dirt, balance control by riding bikes. Mastering the art of wiffle ball with the neighbors. Learning how to identify fish at the lake. I haven't made my kids pick up a book since school got out although I do think they have read a few on their own but I for one am going to let my kids be kids.

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answers from Chicago on

Video games can be confiscated quite easily, if they are getting carried away with them. The tv can be turned off, or you can put a parental block on all the channels (depending on your service provider.)

There is much to be said for sending them outside to play--they should be getting at least 1 hr of active play each day.

As for keeping them "smart" - how are they at doing projects? Perhaps you could take them to the library this weekend and look for a book of hands-on projects. They could be done outdoors or indoors.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We are in AZ, so we are in all day except around 4pm when the pool is shaded with the sun behind the house. Prior summers I stressed about the kids being on the computer, wii or tv too much and that maybe I should have them work on some worksheets for math or something. Not this summer. It occured to me that 10 months out of the year they work really hard at school, and ALL day. By the time they get home, they get a snack, do homework until dinner, eat, get a "free" hour, then showers and bed. They are really only on the computer, tv and wii on the weekends, and that is minimal since we keep them busy with activities on weekends. So this summer, I'm not stressing about them "learning" anything. My kids get A's and B's and I want them to have a break, which is what *I* believer summer is for. We are paying for my son to go to boys and girls club where he has activities all day and my daughter stays home with me where she plays computer games, tv, wii, writing stories, listening to music and play her guitars. She also goes shopping with me and I have been teaching her how to cook. Just my opinion. Hope you get some good suggestions. Good luck! =)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

We maintain the "no TV or computers on weekdays" rule even in summer. I hear you, I can't ALWAYS take them out to do stuff either, so sometimes rather than staying contained and zoned out in front of a screen, they're running wild, being loud and making a mess all over the house, but it's still better for their brains (I like to tell myself). They always find something to "play" when they can't watch something (they're not getting any video games until they can buy them, so hopefully that wont' be for YEEEEARS). We're lucky to have a yard too, so I can just "let them out" since they're not as bothered by heat as I am. And after a whole day of playing and cleaning up and sweating in the yard, I do let them watch a little TV while I make dinner some days. We also have piles of books laying around for when they're too tired to run. You can also maximize your outings by getting books pertaining to them as follow up and they'll be more interested. Sunday we went to a real coal mine, so I grabbed a bunch of coal mining books from the library to follow it up. They wouldn't have been interested in the books without me guiding them unless they were exposed...but they've been flipping through them all week since they had fun at the mine. It's amazing how you can find books to follow up almost any activity. But mostly, I make sure they play instead of being in front of screens so their minds are active instead of passive. You don't have to go cold turkey, but you can always decrease the screen time.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I pick up those curriculum books every year at Costco and each kid has to complete 5 sheets a day, of their choosing.

They also have to practice the piano or other instrument daily.

If we're home, like you, I'd have my kids watch one documentary film a day before I allowed video games on.

They also have chores: vacuuming the basement, cleaning toilets, walking the dog, setting the table, making their beds, etc.

And I encourage them to hang out with friends. So we have sleepovers and play time a lot. Even if they play video games with friends, at least they are with someone else and not isolated.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

I work from home, too, so I hear ya. Mostly, I am just allowing them to enjoy the summer. I try to spend a few hours of quality time with them after I work my shift, and we will go on an outing a few days a week (mostly because I enjoy getting out). We made a "Summer Bucket List" and it has been fun to check things off. Some things are mostly just fun and recreational- swimming, waterslides, splash pad, bike riding, hikes- but even those CAN be educational. My 4 year old learned to do a back float this week, the older 2 are learning to "be brave" and go on the waterslides, sometimes we will do a nature scavenger hunt on the hike, and in any case we are at least going out and being active. Other days we will just stay home and invite some neighbor kids over. They are learning to cooperate, share and resolve disputes (right?! There has GOT to be some sort of benefit to those neighbor squabbles!) Sometimes we go somewhere educational, like tomorrow we will go to the dinosaur park.
My kids do use video game and tv time more than I would like, but I do have them earn it by doing jobs. We do a "mom buck" system. 1 mom buck = 30 min video game time, and they generally have to do 2-3 chores for a mom buck. They also get a $3.00 Mom buck allowance per week that they can trade for real money, dates with mom/dad, picking dinner, video games, etc. We just started a chore chart and they have to complete all the chores right when they get up, before they can even think of tv or vid games. My house has at least stayed a lot cleaner since we started this! I am also trying to hire a mothers helper to come in a few hours a day and play with and read to my kids.
Other than that, I have been hit and miss with reading time, but I am already having a hard time keeping afloat with work and home responsibilities, so pushing the academics is really low on my priority list!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My children are not losing anything over summer break. I know that sounds cocky and full of it and I don't mean it that way at all. What I do mean is that my children are always engaged in something; even if it's watching TV they're asking questions or learning new concepts. For my youngest I use the PBS Sprout website as a motivator for potty training.

I'm teaching my children how to swim this summer as well as how to properly keep their regular chores going and not slacking just because it is summer. They both read like crazy on their own and we make trips to the library often. I allow my oldest(8)to watch WWII documentary films with me as it is a personal enjoyment of mine plus it has to do with our heritage.

I don't think you must always push children to learn or give them worksheets as exploring the world or how to do things is a learning experience in itself. I understand you work at home but are you able to let me outside to play w/o you?


answers from Tampa on

My son plays teacher with his baby sister. He's six and she 5m old but he loves showing her flash cards and reading to her



answers from Cleveland on

i have offered a few educational tings for my kids this summer that they have enjoyed in the past. but i just realilzed last week that they are not taking advantage of anything and it's ticking me off.

we go to the library evey week, Ds is a fab reader and i've picked out a few classics like how to eat fried worms, stuart little, stuff like that, I've shown him the books, I've actually checked some out and brought them home thinking then he would pick them up, He refuses, my smart boy has read only pokemon all summer :(

as for computer games, starfall for younger ones abcya for a little older ones, math magician etc the deal is if they play one of these for 10 mins then they can play one of their choosing, scholastic, or disney jr well they might play the educational one for 3 mins and then they are on the other when i turn my back. so we are done with that.

we have a jumpstart wii game that you have to solve math probs to play they both refuse that one.

I've trired jigsaw puzzles no, blah, they are poops

I try to console myself that they are getting to be kids and relax this summer. but i know it's just telling me they are addicted to junk, sort of like kids will make themselves sick eating candy and icecream if left to it. maybe this afternoon i'll kick their butts out of the house and let them fend for themselves.


answers from Iowa City on

My older one is taking a summer science class. She also likes She has an activity book that she uses with basic math and reading. Otherwise, she and her sister just do normal activities...playing, drawing, swimming, tv, etc.

Your kids may want to play video games all day but you can say no, go read a book or paint a picture.



answers from Pittsburgh on

My son is PLAYING on the 4 days a week he is home from camp. He goes out and plays in the yard - digs, rolls, climbs, makes up stories and games - the things we used to do as kids. We swim in the pool, he is learning to ride a bike. He colors, draws, paints, plays with lego, plays with his figures/stuffed animals/'guys'. We are not using the computer or the tv. DS spends most of his time outdoors despite the heat. Didn't we all used to be outside all the time unless it was pouring down rain?

If you are working from home full time - I would get some help. I don't see that is any different from working out of the home - children still need attention and supervision.

Who says tv and video games are not educational? Actually the American Academy of Pediatrics says so - and their recommendations are supported by quite a bit of research.

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