Focus on Family: Fun educational summer activity suggestions from Beth Engelman

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Beth Engelman

Beth's Suggestions:

Floating Number Symbol Memory Game
A fun activity that reinforces word / symbol correspondence. It's great fun to play in the backyard, bathtub or even a wading pool.
Gather materials: rubber bath toys (for example: mini rubber ducks), permanent marker.
Write a number  (word or numeral on the bottom of each toy. Make sure each numeral matches up with its corresponding word (for example 1 and “one”; 2 and “two.” etc.)
Place all the toys in a tub or pool of water. Kids take turns choosing a floating toy, looking at the word or numeral on the bottom and then looking for its match.
For added difficulty add in a third set of toys with a set of dots that also match each number (for example 3, three and three dots).

DIY Bug Catcher
Get children outside in nature and let them explore in sand, water, dirt, and bugs with a bug catcher made out of a recycled orange juice bottle.
Gather materials: Clear plastic bottle, permanent marker, plastic netting (such as the kind you find in a berry container or clementine’s bag), duck tape and scissors.
Directions: Use a marker to draw a “window” on one side of the bottle. Carefully cut the window out with sharp scissors (adults only). Fill the bottle with grass, twigs, rocks and other natural objects that will make a bug feel at home.  Trim the netting to cover the window and secure with duck tape. Now you are ready for your bug hunt! Twist off the cap to let the bugs in!

Farmer’s Market Scavenger Hunt
More than just a place to get fresh produce, your local farmer’s market is chock full of great opportunities for kids to learn. For example, send your kids on a scavenger hunt where they have to locate items according to their color or shapes. For older kids you can ask them to find a series of items that add up to a specific number, or give them $5 and see how many different items can they buy with that single amount.

DIY Tangrams
Tangrams are a great way to reinforce visual spatial awareness. This particular version is compact enough to store in  and play on a tiny mint tin such as an Altoid box, making it the perfect game for long car rides and plane trips.
Gather materials: Glue stick, Mod Podge, magnetic tape, mint tin (such as an Altoid Box), printout of Tangrams shapes and puzzles (there are many versions on the internet but I like the ones created by Delia on her site as they are custom fitted for this travel game.)
Carefully glue and Mod Podge the tangram shapes to the magnetic tape. Cut out each shape with sharp scissors or a craft knife (adults only). Glue the puzzles to the bottom of the tin and cover with Mod Podge for added durability. Once everything dries you are ready to play.

Free Reading Programs
You still have time to take advantage of these free reading programs that encourage kids to read, write, discover and explore.

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Triathlon: Fill out your free “reading” journal, do the activities and win a free book! More information:

Meatheads Voracious Reading Program: Read 5 books, fill out a certificate and earn a fee Jr Meatheads burger or cheeseburger. More information:

TD Bank: Read 10 books, fill out the summer reading form and TD Bank will deposit $10 in your new or existing TD Simple Savings account (a great way to teach your kids about saving money!) More information:

Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge: Become a reading superhero, unlock stories and earn a free book. Plus there are tons of activities, games and projects! For more information visit: