Ten Summer Success Activities for Kids: Ways to Reduce Screen Time and Increase Their Fun

Most of us parents want summer to be flexible and fun for our kids, yet we don’t want that to mean they have complete freedom for their brains to wither away in front of a screen all day.  We need a SUMMER SUCCESS PLAN for our kids that is fun, memorable, a change of pace that won’t break the bank, and it would be a bonus if our kids actually developed in key areas of life at the same time!

That all seems a bit too much to ask for one summer especially with the limited time we parents have to monitor and coordinate a meaningful break.  So, what’s going to motivate us to make this SUMMER SUCCESS PLAN?  Well, let me ask you a question:

How many summers do we get with our children?

Oh dear, that question kind of makes me hold my breath for a moment.  Suddenly the realization of  having only 18 or less summers with our growing kids makes the summer days so much more valuable.  It’s time to be intentional.

Yes, summer should be full of leisure, fun, and rejuvenation but what it should not be is wasted. Don’t waste this precious time.  Summer can be relaxing and developmental all at the same time! But it will require a little brainstorming and planning to make it fit both of those aspects into the limited 8-10 weeks we’ve got.

Don’t worry, these activities are not all parent-centered activities.  After all, our kids need time alone just as much as we adults crave time alone.  This post is just about making the most of your child’s summer days.

I’d love for you and your child to set some GOALS for summer break.  So, to help with the specifics of how to really make the most of your child’s summer through goal setting with your child, 

Click here to read “Give Your Child the Gift of Goal Setting”.  

Whether or not you or your child sets some goals for this summer, you can use the following list of activities to help your kids grow and develop in the next two months.  I would encourage you to pick out which of the following activities must be completed each day by your child before he or she is free to get in front of a screen for leisure. 

The following list is pretty much my “we never have ENOUGH time to give this subject the quality emphasis it deserves during the school year” list, but we’ll just call it the “SUMMER SUCCESS ACTIVITIES for KIDS” list for short.

Ten Summer Success Activities for Kids:

1. A little Academics – The two subjects that I usually emphasize in the summer are Typing and Math (I also emphasize geography, but I’ll talk about that separately in a bit).

A. Improve Accurate Typing Skills–  Most children today have no problem using a keyboard, but eventually, for writing lots of papers in college, they’re going to need to have accurate typing skills.  This is a super easy  summer activity for kids.  I simply have my kids use Typing.com.  This website is free and fun.  I let them know I’d like them to do two lessons per day (they’re very short and kids enjoy them so I’ve never had one of my children resist the lessons) and that they can’t do any of the games on the website until they’ve been given approval from me, which I give when I see a certain level of proficiency and effort on their part

B. Math BasketI like to keep a basket of math manipulatives for my kids to use each day.  For young children it might be an abacus, counting monkeys, wrap-ups, or www.xtramath.com (another free website) for a fun and quick way to learn their basic math facts.  For older kids, it could be math games, or Usborne Books has exceptional math supplements that are fun to use, and I also really like the laminated quick guides (look on Amazon or Rainbow Resources) regarding different math topics – such as Algebra or Geometry formulas.  Just 10 minutes a day can keep their skills sharp.

2. JournalingMake this more fun by taking them to the store and letting them pick out a journal or notebook to use for this project. Keeping a journal improves kids’ writing skills, provides a mentally healthy outlet for expressing their thoughts, and can be a great keepsake, if they want it to be. Let them know you won’t read their journal unless they ask you to read something and don’t correct their grammar or spelling, because that’s not the goal of journaling.  If they can’t think of anything to write about, you can get them a writing prompts book, but really it would be best if they write about what they’re thinking, feeling, praying, doing, and wrestling with in their lives.  Or they could simply make a prayer journal. (A prayer plan they could use can be the acronym PRAY: Praise God, Repent to God, Ask God for His guidance and His help, and say Yes to God’s leading. They could journal their prayers.)

3. Musical Instrument or Voice Maybe you can’t afford the time or money to put them in music lessons during the school year. You could ask a teacher for a summer course that might be less expensive.  Or, you’d be surprised how many free tutorials you can find online to help your child learn an instrument.  Music has been an invaluable part of our children’s lives and all four of my grown kids are still using their music abilities as adults.  This week, my two younger sons are volunteering at a church camp on the worship band.  Music is another wonderful outlet for emotional stability.  Many studies have been done on the way music affects brain development as well.  Give your kids the gift of music and I think you won’t regret it!

4. Geography So I’ve graduated four kids and have three still in school.  Geography used to be a real challenge to adequately fit into my kids’ brains.  Sure, there’s the a geography course every so many years in school, and it is incorporated some into history texts, but I really wanted more for my kids in this field because I.am.terrible.at.geography and I don’t want them to share my feebleness!  That’s when I discovered crossseven.org!  It is wonderful for a lot of reasons, but for this post I’m only going to talk about the geographical reason why I love this website!  Cross Seven offers these very short learning videos that are catchy little jingles about different valuable academic facts.  I’ve used this website for the past five years nearly year-round and am always amazed at how much my kids learn from it.  Now once they reach middle school they do start to feel that they’re kind of outgrowing most of the little learning songs, but they still like the geography jingles throughout high school.  The geography videos will show a map of an area and use a song to teach the geographical sites on the map. Oh, my, my kids have learned so much geography this way!  They look forward to using it every day and it is zero work for me while they learn this information!  This is not a free website, $11.97/ month, with no contract commitment and for that price you actually get learning jingles in many categories: math, science, history, grammar, Bible, Latin, hymns, and geography.  We use all of these categories until somewhere in middle school and then they just continue with geography. (If you use my link to register, I do get a small referral commission, and I wouldn’t refer you to this website if I didn’t use it and love it for my family.  Here’s my referral link to www.crossseven.org).

5. Art Okay, I am totally and completely not an artsy person. I have zero creativity and messing with all the little intricate details just doesn’t work well for my still-trying-to-develop-patience self.  But that doesn’t mean that arts and crafts don’t have their place in our world.  I know it’s good for people to have these creative outlets, not to mention that some of my kids just love art, so I need to foster these opportunities for that reason also.  Art projects and summer seem to just go hand-in-hand.  They can do messy art outside, or they can listen to audio books while they do art inside.  (Our family is a huge fan of audio books so I’m going to share our favorites with you here).


  • Adventures in Odyssey

  • Jonathan Parks

  • Chuck Black books on CD, especially boys love his writing style and topics, but my girls loved all of his series as well.

  • Lamplighters books on CD

  • Focus on the Family Radio Theatre

  • History CD’s by Diana Waring, Mystery of History, and Story of the World

  • Awana Club books on CD

6. Nature Exploration – There are lots of studies on the important ways our kids thrive both physically and emotionally when they spend time in nature. Have your child make some nature collections, plant seeds in a garden or in some containers, take nature photos and follow up with research on these different new discoveries.  If you can, provide a magnifying glass, some jars, a catching net, flashlight, microscope, binoculars, and a sketch pad.  Check out books from the library on birds, gardening, bugs, the water cycle, and earth science

Emma reading on the front porch with Copper

7. Reading If we can help our children to develop a love for reading, that will help them both in their academic futures but in all the rest of life as well. I have my kids pick out their reading choices for the summer at the beginning of summer.  I approve the books, but they get to choose them.  I do also give them some categories that they for sure need to include in the summer selections.  Generally, I have them pick two books about any Christian missionaries in other countries, two books about the time period of whatever history they’ll be doing in the coming  school year (such as reading the Little House on the Prairie series if they’re going to be studying American history, or they might choose The Hiding Place if they’re going to be learning about WWII next school year), two books from a topic of their choice (often these books are discovery based, like how to play the guitar or a book on volcanoes), and a self-improvement book (generally this is one based on the summer self-improvement goals they’ve set as we mentioned above.  One of my favorites for teenagers to read is Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris).

Who says reading has to be boring? You can wear a cowboy hat and hold your favorite stuffed animal while you read.

Now I’ll be honest with you, I don’t give allowance at our house (not that I’m against it, I just don’t) but I do give money for reading books.  And this money provides them with some good summer spending money. 

8. Enrichment Outings– Summer is the best time for special events and family fun at new locations. How about we schedule events that include enriching our family members’ character while we’re at it.  Sure, go to the museum and to the lake, but also, let your kids experience the wonderful emotion of caring beyond themselves.  Here are some Enrichment Outings that we do with a focus on caring beyond yourself:

*Go to a Nursing Home once a month to play games with residents in the memory care department, *Volunteer in the church nursery or kids’ department or any other way at church – for our family church is a place we SERVE *Help at a mission or soup kitchen *Drop off clothes at a sponsored children’s home in your community or help a struggling family out by providing a meal or playing with the kids or cleaning their house *Adopt a “grandparent” in your neighborhood who could use some help on their yard or just to visit together or play a game with them.

One summer, my third daughter, Abby, and I had probably the greatest mother/daughter summer of all time.  We selected one other mother/daughter pair and we went through a book called Secret Keeper Girls 8 Great Dates for You and Your Daughter by D Gresh.  It was an amazing, life changing experience for all four of us!

The first week was a tea adventure (shopping at an antique store to hunt for fancy china tea cups, going to a tea shop to select some boxes of tea to purchase, and then we finished up with a tea party at my mother’s home.  At the tea party we discussed that our daughters’ bodies are treasures like fine china, not Styrofoam cups.  We expect them to treasure their bodies and other people to treasure their bodies enough to protect them and honor them in how our daughters dress, what they put into their bodies, and how they reserve their intimate self for marriage).  That was just week one!  Each week was a precious memory that we’ll never forget.

9. Physical Development

What’s a physical change or improvement that your child needs to work on?  Is it getting more active, changing an eating habit, or developing a skill?  Maybe there’s a sport they’ve always wanted to try and summer would be the perfect time to give it a shot! (okay, yes, pun intended).  Head over to a used sporting goods store (in the Midwest we have Play It Again Sports as our go-to store for finding sports bargains and for reselling last summer’s sporting adventure). 

We have a tennis court and a swimming pool in our subdivision so those are two simple options for us, but you could also invest in some golf discs and head to the nearest disc golf park, or our family also really enjoys hiking new areas as well. (By “family” I mean “everyone but me.”  I’m afraid that allergies and a hatred for bugs and snakes gives me an aversion to hiking trails, but I still schedule these outings for the family.  I pack a sack lunch, we head to the new location, and they hike while I read.  It’s a glorious thing.)  Your child’s summer physical goal might be as basic as “learning to ride a bike” or as exciting as “learning to scuba dive.”

10. Relationship Development– As I mentioned earlier in this post, people skills are a vital part of a successful life. Knowing how to get along with people, show that you care, express your ideas effectively, present yourself respectably, these are all people skills that will affect every relationship in your child’s present and future with their spouse, children, siblings, coworkers, boss, customers, neighbors, pastor, and so on. 

I am passionate about teaching people how to communicate effectively – that’s why I’m The Practically Speaking MOM – because I want to give practical tools and insights into how to communicate in ways that strengthen relationships, encourage people, and bring God glory.  Now, how do we translate this into practical activities our kids can do this summer?  Let’s get a game plan here: Brainstorm a list with your child of the relationships in his or her life that need the most improvement. Then get some dates written on your calendar where you could let your child develop some of those relationships, whether it’s with a friend, a sibling, or you! If it’s scheduled, you’re more likely to nail down an activity to do with that person that could provide a growth opportunity.Then brainstorm about one or two people skills that your child needs to work on – such as not give sarcastic responses to people, or look at the person who’s talking to them, or learning to enunciate their words more clearly so that people can understand what they’re saying.  Get a little system of reward and regret about fixing one of these issues.  For example, let them know you’ll give them this jar of nickels.  Every time they respond sarcastically, they need to take a nickle out of their jar and put it in the “regret bank” jar.  

That’s their “regret” for responding sarcastically and they lose the nickel.  If they go an entire day with no sarcastic remarks, they get an extra 30 minutes for xbox play tomorrow – that’s their “reward.”  Let them help to come up with this plan, if possible, as it will be more effective if they’ve helped to create the “regrets” and “rewards” Talk about your child’s relationship with God. Help them find some specific ways to grow closer to God this summer.

This is wonderful kids Bible study series. The text has beautiful pictures and great stories as well as things to discuss together. You can get it as an audio version if you prefer and there’s also a notebooking journal available too.

Maybe you’ll go to the Christian bookstore and let them pick out a devotional for their age, pull together some craft supplies to make some cute Bible verses that they want to memorize (I’m not talking anything amazing here – colored notecards, some markers and glitter glue can be enough to make it great), pick a book of the Bible that you and your child will read separately each day and talk about together a couple times a week, or maybe you’ll get some videos that you can watch at lunch each day.  Here’s some we like:

The Practically Speaking MOM’s Family Favorites List of God-Us Relationship Building/Worldview Videos – For Younger: What’s in the Bible series by the original creator of Veggie Tales

– For Older: True U from the Creators of Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project

-For All Ages: Moody Science Classics, Drive Thru History, anything by Brian Young (he might occasionally believe a little differently from me, but he has fascinating animal and science facts that my kids really enjoy) or Masterbooks

Those 18 or less summers that your child has at home can be a special time of growth in several key areas while still being fun and relaxing.  It just takes some intentionality to make it happen! 

Go ahead and give some of these ideas a try, you might just happen to create some lifelong memories on your quest for your child’s summer success.

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