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Summer slide can be a problem for every parent – regardless of whether your kids are homeschooled or in a classroom setting. We don’t want our kids to forget all of the information we spent all year teaching. The problem is that by the end of the school year our kids want nothing to do with formal lessons (at least mine don’t!). We need to use educational toys for sneaky summer learning.
The idea is to fill our homes with educational toys that our kids want to play with. Things that ‘feel’ educational are out. Kids can spot those from a mile away. My kids have given me the side-eye more than once when I have presented “A fun new game!” that is really just math drills in card form.
Instead, we need educational toys that don’t feel educational. Kids need to choose to play with these items.
I’m a big believer in learning through play. I have seen it work in my home and when I was a classroom teacher. Many subjects can be learned through play. I’ll let you in on a little secret too. Even older kids (middle schoolish) enjoy learning through play.
Grab a few of these educational toys for sneaky summer learning. They make fantastic last day of homeschool gifts.
Educational Toys for Summer Learning
Speedy Words is a fun card game that helps kids build their vocabulary. There are always two cards showing – one with a letter and another with an object/country/person’s name/food/city/etc. The object is to the be the first person to correctly say a word that matches the category and begins with the letter. This has led to some interesting rabbit trails when my family has played. I like to keep this game in my field trip bag. It is great to pull out and play while waiting.
Poetry magnets are a natural way to encourage kids to build poems, messages, or sentences. Just keep the magnets on the fridge and kids (and husbands, in my experience) will build a quick note whenever they are in the house. A funny message from mom always gets the kids laughing and writing their own message.
There are so many types of journals marketed to kids these days. It can be overwhelming trying to choose. The trick is to identify your goal for the journal and match that up with your child’s personality and life style. Some might say that journals are not educational toys for summer, however I disagree. Summer journals can be completely different than school journals. They can be silly. They can be completely nontraditional. A summer journal can feel like a toy.
There are kid-friendly journals for:
- documenting travel
- expressing gratitude
- creating comic books
- fostering growth mindset
- mother – daughter journals
- father – son journals
Ticket to Ride is a family favorite in my house. The object of the game is to earn the most points. Players earn points by building trains, making the longest train in the game, and completing their routes. There are several versions of this game, but my family prefers the US edition.
Scrambled States of America was our very first geography board game. Each player has a few state cards – some with silly accessories such as hats. A card is flipped asking for something specific. It could be a state that begins with a certain letter, ha a certain letter somewhere in the name, is in a specific geographical area, or wearing an accessory. It is all quite silly, but is a fun way to learn US geography.
Mapominoes is part dominoes game and part map building. You match up the cards like dominoes to build a map of the country or continent you are studying. Each card contains information to help you place it in the right spot, even with no prior geography knowledge. We don’t have this yet, but I’m thinking about ordering the Europe version as an educational toy for summer for my own kids. This game has several editions:
Yahtzee is a dice game that includes plenty of practice with addition and skip counting (or multiplication – however you want to think about it). Keep track of the dice rolls in attempt to score the highest amount of points.
Puzzles are a great way to develop spatial awareness. We like to spread out a puzzle on our dining room table and work on it as a family. We typically do the majority of our schoolwork in the dining room, so summer is the perfect time to pull out a puzzle.
There are tons of puzzle scenes available. This children’s storybook theme is adorable. It would be a great way to tie books into the conversation.
My kids loved playing with pattern blocks when they were younger. Their set included templates to create specific images, but they almost never used them. Instead, they used their imagination. Sometimes they built their own images, sometimes they stacked the blocks to make larger objects, and sometimes they created patterns.
Monopoly is my son’s all-time favorite board game. He calls for a match anytime we have a few hours to spare. My kids are ultra-competitive with each other so the games go. on. forever. They are learning about investments, risk, budgeting, and the art of negotiation though, so I don’t mind too much.
I know. This sounds like a strange math toy. I mean, it isn’t even really a toy at all. Hear me out though.
My son recently stumbled across a tape measure in our garage. He took it and started wandering the house with it. By the end of the afternoon he had calculated the area several rooms. Why? Because he was bored and wanted to use math to prove his sister’s room was bigger. I also caught him measuring the height of several pieces of information. Who knows what he will do with that information, but he was happily practicing math skills, so I’m going to call it a win.
My daughter was never more interested in colonial history than after she received a colonial costume. Wearing that costume led to reading books about the life of colonial girls. Williamsburg is still one of her favorite field trip spots (although I could never convince her to wear the costume out in public).
Professor Noggin card trivia games all have two levels – easy and hard. It levels the playing field when parents are playing against children. There are tons of Professor Noggin varieties in the history genre:
These electronic snap circuits are a great way for kids to safely explore electric circuits. Kids can use this kit to build a fan, AM radio, doorbell, alarm, and more. My son first used this set to build a fan when he was only 4 years old, so it is easy enough for little ones.
Marble runs are a great way to get some hands on physics practice. What makes the marble roll? What makes it stop? My kids received a marble run a few years ago and still use it all the time. It is the only toy that has earned a spot in our living room. This is definitely an educational toy for summer that doesn’t feel educational.
Pocket microscopes are a must for any child who likes to explore nature. My kids have used our pocket microscope to examine sea shells they collected, the petals of flowers growing in our yard, leaves, and even dust. I have found that I don’t even need to give any instructions. If I set it out on the table they will quickly find something that piques their curiosity.
It seems to be a universal truth that kids love animals. We have a sweet dog, but my kids are always begging for more pets – cats, birds, hedgehogs specifically. Rather than add more pets to our household, we occasionally buy an animal habitat to examine. The animals either have short life-spans or are released after we have spent a little time observing them. We currently have butterfly chrysalis in our living room.
There are many animal habitats available:
STEMtrunk is an educational subscription rental service (kind of like Netflix, back when they mailed dvds). After you sign up for the subscription they mail out a new STEM toy each month. We used this one summer and had a great time doing things like building a computer. It was a great way to try out expensive tech toys without the enormous price tag. You can read all about our STEMtrunk experience.
What are your favorite educational toys for summer?
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