Fight summer brain fatigue

Five ways to keep kids engaged and enlightened over the summer break.

By GreatSchools Staff

Kid Kubrick

Arm your kids with a video camera — something relatively inexpensive, like the Flip ($199), is fine — and let them try making their own films. For a more collaborative experience, gather a group of their friends, so they can assemble their own cast. Suggest they act out a scene from a favorite book, or let them work together to write a short screenplay. When they're finished with their film, family and friends make the perfect audience.

For deeper insights into the filmmaking process, parents can talk to children about famous film directors before watching a few of their kid-friendly films. While your young filmmakers might not produce the next 2001: A Space Odyssey, their movies should be a lot of fun for everyone, not to mention a unique chance to learn.

Littlest book club

Since reading is such a solitary activity, one way to make it feel more social, and thus more enjoyable, is by scheduling a regular time for your child and one or two of their closest friends — or siblings — to shoot the breeze over an age-appropriate book. Younger kids will need parents to oversee the meetings and ask questions to keep them on track.

No time to meet face-to-face? Make it an email meeting.

For tips on how to lead this social coup, see “It's not just for Oprah: Book clubs for kids.”


How does your garden grow?

Outfit your child with a pair of gardening gloves and help them start a garden at home. And whether you’re growing herbs (like basil, parsley, chervil, and even epazote) — or something a little more substantial, like fruits or vegetables, tending a garden can be an excellent way to focus on a simple task with surprisingly tangible — and tasty — rewards.

You can plant a garden in your backyard or get together with other families to start one at school or on a community plot. Even more exciting for this generation’s green thumbs: urban farms are sprouting up in some cities, where older kids can log time as volunteers.

Rubber Slippers in Italy/Flickr

Museum studies

There are few better ways to have an awe-inspiring time learning about the world than at a city's science museums, planetariums, and zoos. What's more, in addition to their engaging interactive exhibits, many of these offer special summer programs geared for kids.

Take the planetarium tour, and study up on Orion's belt before a camping trip. Or feed a giraffe to see how far those leaves have to travel. And for extra info, many museums also have websites, like the Met’s MuseumKids, that focus specifically on family activities and events.


Learn nuts and bolts

Parents planning a summertime trip can take advantage of their new locales and learn about how things are made during factory tours. Factories make all kinds of things, everything from candy to clothes. In Fairfield, Calif., you can visit a jelly bean factory; in Arkansas, a glass blowing studio; and in Hawaii, there’s a manufacturer of macademia nuts.

To learn more about America’s awesome industrial heritage, take a look at Watch It Made in the U.S.A.: A Visitor's Guide to the Best Factory Tours and Company Museums by Karen Axelrod and Bruce Brumberg (Avalon Travel Publishing, 2006, $21.95).