As summer rolls around, every parent knows how important it is to keep kids entertained. It’s also equally important to make sure that their education continues so they don’t suffer from “summer brain” when they go back to school. Aside from spending money on summer camps and tutors, there are plenty of free and helpful resources for parents to turn to when their kids are bored.
Let’s start with one of the obvious ones, your local library. Gone are the days when libraries just had rows and rows of bookshelves, modern libraries offer so much more. Many libraries will allow you to check out laptops (sometimes to use in the library) but also have software of all kinds available. In addition, most libraries now have digital collections, so if you don’t find the book you’re searching for you can find it online. Look for apps like Hoopla, Overdrive, and Libby that all offer digital versions of books. Plus, with these apps, you also have the option of choosing audible books so you can have stories read to you directly from your phone or make it a family storytime and hook up a speaker so everyone can hear. Libraries may also offer summertime rentals like S’more kits, inflatable, or any of a variety of things you might not think of at a library. Especially during the summer, libraries often put on plays, have reading time, offer tutors and a wide variety of other services. If you don’t know what your local library has to offer, check their website or call the library and talk to their staff to find out what they have. Pro tip: if your local library doesn’t offer a whole lot of summer options, check the next neighborhood, town, or city library near you and make a road trip out of learning.
If your kids need some educational sites during the summer, probably one of the most famous and complete is Khan Academy. This website offers classes on almost any subject at no charge and the explanations and instructions are professional and thorough. Khan Academy even offers a Disney Imagineering course if your kids are interested in how the Disney parks create their immersive environments, down to how to design attractions and characters. Another option is Duolingo, which can be downloaded onto a phone or tablet. The app teaches learners a wide range of languages and offers mini-lessons that can be completed in a short time. They also offer recorded conversations in the language of your choice so you can train your ear on how to listen to the language. The app offers virtual rewards and results throughout to keep your kids motivated to continue learning.
If you want some more hands-on activities to keep your kids busy, you can check out your local Home Depot. The hardware store offers free Maker classes for kids where they get to build a project like a wooden tractor, birdhouse, or even a putting green. All the materials and sign-up for the workshop are free and if they aren’t offering in-person classes, they sometimes have kits that you can pick up and do at home. After your child finishes the project, they get a certificate, Home Depot apron and even a pin they can add to their new apron. These workshops are held monthly and vary by location, so check their website or call your local store for information.
Another hands-on and fun activity is the Kids Bowl Free program. This program allows kids to bowl at a local bowling alley free of charge. You can check their website to see which bowling alleys in your area are participating and if the bowling alley is currently open for business.
Depending on where you live, you can also check for free days at local zoos, museums, and other family-friendly places. Most cities sponsor a free day at area zoos and museums and you can check their website to see if your city offers these services. If you can’t go in person, check the website of various zoos and museums as they often offer immersive online experiences like animals on camera, and educational information. Pro tip: be sure to get your pass and arrive early as these days tend to be very popular and fill up fast.
Another option for parents is to be a tourist in your own town. Places like city hall and other government buildings often have amazing architecture and history and can be toured for free. You can also call specific areas of interest and see if they will offer family tours or have scheduled tours that you might be able to participate in. Again, many government buildings, especially with long histories have robust websites that might offer virtual tours and a plethora of information you may have never learned before. Some cities even offer passports where you can go to different city locations and have your passport stamped to show you were there. Check your city’s website or call the city information line for what they might have to offer.
Summer doesn’t mean your kids won’t have a chance to learn, it just might be a different kind of learning environment than they have at school. Summers also don’t have to be expensive, there are hundreds of options in cities everywhere for free activities and learning resources if you take a look around. Remember, summers go by fast, so make this one the best summer of learning your kids have ever had.