We don't overbook our summer. Most days we just hang out in the back yard eating popsicles and doing chalk paint, or reading or hanging out in swim robes or racing boats in the backyard. But, if we do go somewhere I like to have our kids get the most out of it. Sometimes that means building a day around it or learning something new before we go. Here's some ways that be build on day trips and family vacations to keep our kids busy, happy and learning all summer.
Activities to go with OutingsWe recently went to the Denver Zoo. I brought home the zoo map and made a quick study skills page for Thing One to go with it. He love pouring over the map and the info on it to find the answers.
If you are in Colorado and planning a trip to the Denver Zoo you can download my study skills worksheet free here.
It was really easy to make up our own worksheet, but if you aren't into that or don't have time, you can always just find an activity sheet that goes along with what you are doing. I feel like our kids get more out of outings when we talk about them and learn more about them before or after we go. I love Education.com for free worksheets. They send me an email every week with a set of suggested worksheets all divided by grade. I just browse through anything that looks interesting and download pages I think Thing One will really enjoy. I love how they divide up the activities by grade. You can find a similar activity for both your preschool and third grader, so everyone's on the same page, but at their level.
Here's a few other worksheets you might like:
- Spending a day in the mountains - we'd do this activity page about mountain animals
- Visiting Grandparents in Seattle - keep kids busy on the plane learning all about Seattle here. (click here for all the cities/regions).
- A day at the aquarium - click here to see all the animal habitat worksheets.
Projects Around the HouseWe have a lot of wasps around our house. This year I am getting a good wasp trap. Need a useful afternoon activity? Have the kids make their own wasp trap like this one. Be sure to make a trap that only attracts wasps, not bees. (The garden needs bees!) Once you trap them kids can study how they look and you could do a worksheet about them like this one.
National ParksLast year before we went to Arches and Canyonlands I downloaded some coloring pages and Jr. Ranger activities. Thing One did a few and we read through it together before we left. This let him know what to expect, what kinds of animals to look for, and what the area was going to be like (hot! desert!). We talked about how animals keep cool and how we could keep cool while hiking in intense heat. This spring, we let the kids make hiking sticks before we went to The Grand Tetons. We bought some 3/4" dowels at Hobby Lobby, cut them to size, drilled a hole two inches from the top to string some bear bells (jungle bells on a ribbon) through, and let the kids paint them. There were times that this came in handy for Thing One (especially hiking in snow), but be warned: sticks will be turned into weapons. You may or may not regret letting your child bring a huge stick.
Once we got to the Visitor centers he got the real booklet and completed it, earning his Jr. Ranger badge in Canyonlands and The Grand Tetons. We also checked out a free explorer pack from the visitor center. It's a backpack filled with activities, binoculars, a magnifying glass and other stuff that helped Things One and Two feel like explorers during our day in Canyonlands.
I highly recommend the Jr. Ranger program for kids if you are visiting any national parks this summer! The awesome thing about National Parks and Memorials is there's one close to just about everyone. Even if you aren't planning a trip this summer, the National Park service has added a web ranger site which also looks like lots of fun for kids.
Want more National Park activities? Check out these 23 pages of worksheets about Yellowstone National Park here!