Learning on Day outings is great way to spend summer and combat learning loss. Summer is here and kids are home and not on a schedule. I don’t know how many posts I see from friends asking for wine suggestions. My kids are excited because now they don’t have to share their mom with her students. They call her summer mommy, and she is all theirs. To ensure that precious summertime doesn’t slip by or hearing “there’s nothing to do” here are some activities to get out of the house and build some memories.

Need a couple of ideas of what to do rather than the typical zoo, movies, and trampoline park? Here are a few fun and impromptu ideas for some games and little tweaks to different outings that sneak in a little bit of learning.

Photo by H W on Unsplash
Photo by H W on Unsplash


Check out the local museums in your area. Many have free or a small admission. Most will have season passes, which is a great option to break up several visits.

If left to their own devices, my kids would quickly cruise through the exhibits and then go straight to the gift shop or concession stand. They need a purpose to spend time enjoying the exhibit. This is where some challenges or games come in handy.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Write it-Find it

This game can work in just about any type of museum. Our favorite place to play this game is in art museums.

Players divide into partners. Each partner will find a piece of art or an exhibit to describe. This will be kept secret until the reveal. Each person will write observations of the piece so that the other partner can find the piece that is being described.

What they learn: Written communication and making specific observations

Treasure Map

In this game, each player will secretly decide the exhibit that will be the treasure. Then the task will be to make a map for others to find the treasure. Names of exhibits and signs cannot be used in the map. The directions can only use measurement and clues that the hider leaves on the map.

What they learn: Measurement, drawing to scale, and strategy

Farmers Markets

Check out community pages for farmers markets, fairs, and park events. During summer months, markets are ongoing and weekly. These typically do not have admission fees. Often there are activities for kids and music. One of our favorites has free community exercise classes. Tweak these ideas to suit the ages of your children. Sometimes markets are incredibly busy with people. Make sure to go over a plan with kids on where to meet if separated, a buddy system, and who they should seek out for help.

photo by Karen Wagner

Dinner on a Dime

In this challenge, each child is given some cash and a meal course they are in charge of. Their task is to decide what will be served and how to prepare it. I started doing this game as a way to have my kids eat more veggies. Never before this game have my children said, “Mom, I want to try turnips” Now their curiosity of different produce gets them trying lots of nutritious goodies. Since they are encountering so many different foods, it encourages them to talk with different vendors about what is in season, different types of produce, how to prepare the food, and what to look for in each veggie, fruit, herb etc. My youngest has also become quite a little bargainer since he tries to make sure he has enough leftover money for his favorite fresh squeezed lemonade.

What they learn: Nutrition, culinary curiosity, money management, oral communication

photo credit to Karen Wagner

Breaking News

In this game kids interview different vendors. I typically give them a headline such as “What’s growing now?” “The most interesting fruit or vegetable” “Best way to grow ______” etc. As they have gotten older, they have made up their own, and have also gotten to know different vendors to get permission to make videos. Maybe next time we go, I’ll add one to my blog.

What they learn: Oral communication, gardening techniques, presentation skills

State Parks and Nature Preserves

Photo by Ethan Dow on Unsplash

State parks can be exciting places to visit. With different seasons and climate the plants and animals that can be found are different. Fees range for different states, but for my state, Nebraska, a yearly vehicle entry park permit can be purchased for $31. It can be used at any of our state parks. There are three that are within a 30 minute drive from our house so we alternate. In addition to the different activities to purchase at each park: water slides, pool, paddle boats, archery etc. there are many different free things to do as well.

Sound Lab

Find a quiet place on a hiking trail. Everyone close their eyes and for one minute, count all of the different sounds that could be heard. After the minute, compare answers. My kids have fun comparing the number at different places along the hike and to try to come up with explanations for the differences. Sometimes we graph the information. However, there are times that the quiet just gives them a reason to fight with each other for breathing too loud!

What they learn: Collecting, representing and interpreting data, and observations

What’s living in there?

This can be done on land or water. A few items are necessary however.

On land-throw a hula hoop in a random place on the ground. Kids count how many different living organisms they find. This can be compared in different places within the park, or even on different times. I have had them compare to our yard. Depending on their ages, there can be conversations about what would happen if a disease killed all of the grasses or trees or black ants etc. They will learn more about biodiversity and ecosystems in school, but it good for them to connect these concepts in their own world.

In water- Set up bins with water from the pond, lake or stream you are working in. Using dip nets, glide the nets in a sweeping motion in the water. Collect any critters and put them in the water bin. I recommend using multiple bins to separate one animal that might eat another. Like the “on land” version, count up the number of different species that are found. Field guides are also helpful if you wanted to have kids look up what they find.

What they learn: Categorizing, Observation, Collecting specimens, and prediction

These are just a few of the multiple opportunities to keep summer days fun, engaging, and inexpensive.

What ideas do you have for summer fun with kids?