Try these tips for keeping kids on the go in the summer — so they can be their best learners year-round.
When school is out, playtime begins. Of course, every family defines playtime differently. Fun ways to stay active during the summer might mean romping around the backyard swing set, putting on a play, or volunteering to lead sing-alongs at the local nursing home.
No matter how they’re done, kids’ summer activities offer the ideal opportunity to get out and play. Summer is a time of wonder and delight, as kids explore their world, set goals and find happiness. Explore these tried-and-true ways to keep kids active and healthy during the summer, and they’ll be ready to tackle a new school year when fall comes around.
Why It’s Important for Kids to Stay Active in Summer
Play is “essential to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth,” the American Academy of Pediatrics says. In other words, play matters to every aspect of a child’s life, happiness and success.
The U.S. Department of Health recommends that children ages 6 to 17 years old get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily.
Kids who are physically active have better grades, school attendance, memory and classroom behaviors. When children play with each other, they are navigating their social environments.
They are learning to read social cues and understand the perspectives of others – a key factor in developing empathy. It’s a chance to share ideas and feelings while negotiating rules and reaching compromises.
Play helps children adjust to new settings and be better prepared for school. When play involves building things, they are learning problem-solving and mathematical skills. Dress-up play teaches storytelling and vocabulary.
Even parents benefit by joining their children in play, because they see the world from the child’s vantage point and learn to communicate more effectively. Enduring relationships are built because the child feels that the parent is paying attention. Children who are less verbal might find ways to express their feelings or frustrations through play.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
Regular physical activity helps children and adolescents build cardiovascular fitness and strong bones and muscles. It helps them control their weight and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can reduce the chances of developing health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and obesity.
Play teaches kids to try new things as they push their limits to race down a hill or jump off a diving board. As they play with each other, they are learning to follow rules and self-regulate anticipation or frustration.
13 Fun Ways to Keep Kids on the Go This Summer
No matter where you live, there are plenty of summer activities that are fun and engaging — and many of them are free. Try these tips for keeping kids on the go in the summer — so they can be the best learners year-round.
1. Make a Social Impact in the Community
As you think about how to keep kids active this summer, remember that play and activity don’t have to be organized and rigid. Community service gives children physical activity and time in new surroundings, while they learn respect, helpfulness, understanding, patience and leadership.
Find opportunities such as these:
- Read to nursing home residents. Nothing brightens the day of older people like visits from young people.
- Stock food pantries. Service teaches kids about the needs in their own communities.
- Clean up local parks. Have your child join an organized cleanup, or carry a bag and gloves to pick up trash during a walk in the park.
- Make craft kits for hospitals. Hospitalized children face a mighty enemy: boredom. Craft kits let them pass the time and express their creativity.
2. Spend a Day in the Park
One of the fun ways to stay active outdoors this summer is by heading to your local park. Walk over for free play, or make it an excursion with kite flying, picnicking, wildlife watching, geocaching or photography sessions.
In Pennsylvania, every family is a short hop from at least one state park. Go swimming, horseback riding, canoeing or stargazing. Sign up for a nature program. Learn the history behind the park’s trees and structures.
3. Find a Hiking Trail
Pennsylvania’s most popular outdoor activity? It’s hiking. Go rugged in a state forest or state park or placid along a level rail trail, including many that are wheelchair-accessible. Trails often offer fun, educational events. The world-famous Appalachian Trail goes through Pennsylvania, with numerous entry points for day hiking.
4. Engage in the Creative Arts
Summer brings out the creative spirit. Try these artistic endeavors at home or with friends:
- Write stories and poems. This is no time for assigned schoolwork. Unleash the free verse and creative writing.
- Stage an at-home play. Turn old clothes into costumes, hang a shower-curtain backdrop and put on a show. Find a script online or at the local library, or have your kids write their own.
- Put on a musical performance. No need to wait for a formal recital.
- Read books together. Reading time is bonding time. Reading also helps prevent the “summer slide” in learning.
- Get crafty. Your house is loaded with supplies for crafts just waiting to be made. Tie-dye a shirt, or grow herbs in egg cartons.
5. Get Outdoors for a Backyard Adventure
No need to load up the car with food and gear. Open the back door and find adventure:
- Build a fort.
- Plan a campout, complete with tent, bonfire and s’mores.
- Turn on a sprinkler or fill a kiddie pool.
- Start a family garden, for fun and education all summer long.
- Make a fairy garden.
6. Look for a Local Day Camp
Day camps are as varied as the municipalities, churches, colleges and theaters offering them. Kids can have fun in local parks or expand their academics in camps devoted to STEM learning. They can hone their acting skills or immerse in faith-based learning.
7. Take Summer Classes to Learn New Skills
Learning doesn’t have to stop just because it’s summer. Kids who are passionate about a subject find that summer is ideal for learning new skills, outside the confines of the traditional classroom. Here are some activities to try if you want to learn a new skill:
- Take sewing and knitting classes at local craft shops.
- Try new fitness routines at gymnastics or dance studios.
- Look for baking and decorating classes at bakeries.
- Learn to play an instrument.
- Study poetry or creative writing at a local community college.
- Learn to swim or kayak.
- Get certified for babysitting or lifeguarding.
- Throw a pot or learn to draw at a local art association.
8. Head to Fairs and Carnivals
Everyone loves spending long summer days and nights at fairs and carnivals. Celebrate the strawberry harvest, or support your local fire company. Try your skill at the carnival games and, of course, taste the goodness of local foods and a treat from the funnel cake truck.
9. Learn Cooking and Baking Skills
Cooking and baking are like math and reading lessons, but with a yummy reward at the end. Cooking teaches kids critical thinking, creativity and collaboration. A favorite family recipe teaches them their cultural history. Sharing their creations teaches children the joy of socializing over food.
10. Start a Small Business
Many entrepreneurs get their start with a lemonade stand or lawnmowing gig. Others find that digital commerce has opened new avenues for selling their products and services. Gabrielle Flank, who is a Commonwealth Charter Academy cyber school graduate, worked with her sister to create a line of natural makeup products.
11. Check out Museums and Historical Sites
The past is another world to explore. Local and state historical sites offer tours and reenactors who introduce children to historical crafts and lifestyles. Kids can ride the rails or go underground in coal mines. Museums bring kids face to face with great art and natural marvels.
12. Find an Outdoor Movie Night
Get out the snacks, blankets and folding chairs. Movies under the stars are a time-honored tradition offered by local parks-and-rec boards and community groups. Or, make your own movie night for the family or neighborhood with a projector and a screen. Pick a family-friendly movie, pop the popcorn and let the scenes flicker.
13. Create and Track Fun Exercise Routines
Want to help your kids stay fit this summer? Ban the word “exercise” from your family vocabulary, and turn instead to fun fitness. Make fitness a family affair with these ideas:
- Kid-friendly yoga. Kids are natural-born yogis. Let the little ones pretend to be cats, cows and dogs as they hold the classic poses.
- Neighborhood scavenger hunts. List things that kids can find near the home. Get neighbors in on the act by putting teddy bears or rainbows in their windows.
- Goofy races. Hold an egg on a spoon while fast-walking to a finish line. Hop on one leg. Balance a book on your head. Crab walk. Bear walk.
- Dance, dance. Hold a backyard dance party, with the kids’ favorite playlist.
Fun Ways to Keep Students Active This Summer
Fitness and activity help your child become a stronger student, socially well rounded and emotionally balanced. CCA’s personalized approach to learning encourages kids to be their best and happiest in all aspects of their lives. With a more flexible, family-oriented lifestyle, your child can pursue activities and community service that build a strong body and strong character. Learn more about CCA’s efforts to help students be the best learners year-round.