Cool Summer School

By Tricia Goyer

When I was a child, my favorite summer moments happened in the library. Yes, beach days are fun, but I’d rather spend time scanning shelves of books. How crazy is that?! As a mom, I wanted to bring a bit of summer learning into our home. Of course, my kids weren’t interested in spending their days in the library, so I brought in summer learning other ways.

1. Summer classes and camps. Many schools, colleges, and museums have summer classes or camps. These programs make learning fun. My son Cory took a soapbox derby class where they designed and made their own cars and learned about engineering. My daughter took art classes in the park and had a great time weaving, painting, and more.

2. Play in the garden. We planted a garden once. It was not a pretty sight, but we learned a lot. Even if you have a small plot (or just a pot) your kids can have fun growing something. Also, check out library books about plants, photosynthesis, and ecosystems to learn about the growing process.

3. Get cooking. I clearly remember my daughter flipping pancakes at the age of five dressed in a pink tutu. Summer is a great time to start cooking classes with your kids. Have them help you make a shopping list, go shopping, and cook. Teach or reinforce measurements and cooking terms. They’ll love it, and hey, you’ve got to eat, don’t you?

4. Create stories and plays. Creating stories is fun, but don’t just count on paper and pens. Talk about characters, dialogue, and action, and act out their story, and record it. My kids loved to put on circus skits or recreate their favorite Bible stories or fairy tales.

5. Host a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Choose items up and down your street, such as an oak tree, a fire hydrant, and a brown door, and write them on index cards. Then take your kids on a walk and see who can find the items first. This reinforces reading skills, and they don’t even know it!

6. Create a map of your home. Help your kids draw a map and teach them new words, such as north, south, east, west, map key, scale, etc.

7. Create a weekly date to be a tourist in your town. Stop by a local hotel and pick up tourist attraction brochures from the front lobby; find things to do that are free or inexpensive. Create a memory book and have your children write down what they experience.

8. Reading clubs. Most libraries have summer reading clubs where kids can earn points or prizes for books read. I also created a prize box for my children, and they could get additional prizes for reading. (And the prizes I picked out were “educational,” such as science kits and art supplies.)

9. Pick a summer topic. Want to learn about oceans, puppy care, or photography? Pick a summer topic as a family and see how much you can learn together.

In the end your kids will have no idea they’re learning. They’ll just be enjoying the time together … and the fun!


6 (Almost) Free Summer Activities

by Katie Howard Clemens

Moms have to be creative in the summer. During days when our little people are underfoot 24/7, busy moms need a plan to keep those little people busy and out of trouble. While I am not opposed to some TV viewing, I don’t want my children watching TV all day. With a limited budget, I have had to be extra creative to come up with a fun summer plan.  Following are some examples:

1. Table murals: We have a great kitchen table, and I have a ton of butcher paper and tape.  So we make table murals. Simply tape the butcher paper to the table, and turn the kids loose with crayons, markers, or watercolor paints.

2. Farmers’ markets:  Our local farmers’ market is bursting with fresh fruit, veggies, farm-fresh eggs, and even meat from local growers. It can be a fun outing for kiddos. Let them choose something new and different to bring home, and then prepare it together for dinner.  Another option is to go straight to a farm.  My kids and I head to a blueberry farm near our home to pick our own blueberries right from the bushes.  They eat all the berries they can hold, and we take the rest home to freeze. Blueberry pancakes in December are delicious when you don’t have to pay $5 a pint for the blueberries at the store, and we remember the fun summer adventure we had picking them.

3. “Summer Bucket of Fun”:  I found sturdy pink and blue buckets at the dollar store. A little puffy paint decoration later, and I had a “Mom’s Summer Bucket of Fun” for each child. While I was at the dollar store, I also picked up a wide array of fun and cheap activities that I have carefully hidden away—bubbles, sidewalk chalk, crayons, finger paint, jacks, puzzles, etc. I spent less than $50 and had well over 20 different activities for each child. I placed a different activity into the bucket each morning, along with a snack and some coloring and activity sheets I previously printed for free from websites like

4. Library:  Books, books, and more books! Indoor summer fun in an air-conditioned building! The library is the perfect place to get out of the heat on a hot summer day when you don’t want to be cooped up at home.

5. Bowling:    For the cost of shoe rental, children under 15 can bowl two free games every day all summer long at participating bowling allies all over the U.S. Find one near you at You can also get a family pass for $24.95 that will allow up to four adults (or teens over 15) the same two free games per day all summer long.

6. Downtime:  Little brains need time to relax and recharge, too. Make sure you plan some time into your day for rest. Neither one of my kids will nap for me anymore, but we still have a daily quiet time. They don’t have to sleep, but their feet need to be off the floor. They can either look at books or listen to relaxing music.

Children also need times when there are no planned activities … when they are forced to be creative and find new ways to play and occupy themselves. When my kids tell me during the summer, “Mom, I’m bored,” my standard answer is, “Great! What are you going to do about it?” I don’t think it is my job to entertain my children every minute of the day. I want to teach them to be creative and come up with ideas on their own, too.


10 Ways to Maintain Summer Sanity

by Julia DesCarpentrie

Summer…  My kids home all day with me, neighbor children coming and going, slumber parties.  My house is overflowing with children during the summer and I love it!  However, as a mother of six, and with friends visiting our home, I need a little extra organization to keep my sanity.  We are spontaneous during summer break but also need some structure.

Some of the tricks in my toolbox:

1. I have several early risers so we have quiet time until 7 am.  The early birds may read a book or do a puzzle quietly until then.  After 7:00, it’s snuggle time with Mom!

2. After lunch, if we are home, everyone has a rest time.  Again, books or puzzles are appropriate activities as well as playing quietly in their room.  After rest time, rooms must be tidy before coming out.  I work part-time from home and this is my office time.

3. Everyone in our home is assigned a certain color of cup to avoid dirtying a new cup every time they want a drink.  Visitors receive a cup with their name written on a wide rubber band or a disposable cup with their name in permanent marker.

4. For outings, we have the bottom shelf of the refrigerator stocked with reusable water bottles.  Containers are filled with grapes, sliced veggies, cheese cubes, etc., so we are ready for a picnic on short notice.

5. We do not head to the pool or library until morning chores are complete (beds made, rooms tidy, breakfast cleaned up, laundry started, plus one additional weekly chore done).

6. We limit our screen time (tablets, smartphones, video games, computer, television) with “Tech Twigs”—popsicle sticks labeled with the kids’ names.  Each child receives five per week, with each stick allowing for 30 minutes of screen time.

7. Every evening before bed we have a “10-minute Tidy.”  Any toys not picked up head to a box labeled “Toy Jail.”  Toys can be redeemed by completing a chore from a chore list.

8. An additional chore list is posted inside a cabinet for those looking to earn a little extra money.  It also quickly cures, “Mom, I’m bored!” or can free a belonging from Toy Jail.

9. Dirty clothing or shoes left on the floor will cost the offender 25 cents apiece, with money going into Mom’s Starbucks fund.  I made enough for a caramel macchiato within the first week, but as the kids learned their lesson, my income diminished.

10.  At the beginning of summer we devise a Summer Fun Calendar with dates for activities at the library’s summer reading program, friend swaps, parent/child dates, etc.  We also scheduled a technology-free week and several “fun at home” days.  One day every week is reserved for grocery shopping and catching up on housework.

“Cool Summer School” copyright © 2015 by Tricia Goyer. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

“6 (Almost) Free Summer Activities” and “10 Ways to Maintain Summer Sanity” copyright © 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.