Featured Image

The Big List of Fun, Non-Academic Summer Activities

We all know students should read more over the summer, but what can you do to enhance learning without breaking out the books? Here are a few ideas!

The weather’s nice, school’s out, and students are home for the summer. They’ve just finished a year of testing and expanding their knowledge. So how can parents, teachers, child care providers, and the like make sure kids are keeping their brains active without cracking open a textbook? 

Author S. Rushton writes that the “brain changes physiologically as a result of experience. New dendrites are formed daily, ‘hooking’ new information to prior experiences.” While electronic games and toys may keep students quiet and happy, they don’t build physical muscles, fill their lungs with air, or improve coordination—imperative components for higher-functioning and developing brains.

Non-academic activities should be seen as a vital component of enjoyable learning. This learning will not be tested; it’s there to relish, and learning which occurs under these circumstances is as important than what’s learned in a formal classroom setting. Activities are continually building background knowledge, adding sensory input, constructing memories, and fine-tuning both fine and gross motor coordination.

Here are some ideas for wonderful, enriching, and kid-friendly summer activities.


  • Ride a bike, walk, or swim
  • Climb trees or a rock wall
  • Play in a sandpit
  • Build a garden and grow some plants
  • Camp in the backyard
  • Meet friends at the local park
  • Make milk-carton boats
  • Write in shaving cream
  • Blow bubbles, large and small
  • Run through a sprinkler
  • Picnic and walk in a park
  • Pick leaves or flowers for an art project
  • Identify birds, flowers, and trees in your neighborhood
  • Set up a bird feeder
  • Birdwatch
  • Throw basketballs for fun
  • Try juggling orperfecting magic tricks

Messy areas

  • Build with paper mâché (clean up after the mess, and no matter how great it is, throw it away eventually—keeping it brings white ants! I unfortunately learned this from experience.)
  • Make homemade paper
  • Turn homemade paper into cards for special occasions
  • Press flowers and use the pressed flowers for the cards
  • Cook from scratch—make cookies, pancakes, or cakes
  • Add frosting to the cookies or cake
  • Do science experiments


  • Act out a story—a retelling of a favorite tale, a debut play, or a new spin on a movie
  • Check out a local museum or art gallery and enroll in the children’s programs
  • Create puppets and put on a puppet show
  • Make home movies and videos

Arts and crafts

  • Paint rocks
  • Draw and paint through many mediums: art, clay, playdough, or finger paints
  • Create a collage piece
  • Learn how to create “pop-up” cards (sometimes known as Paper Engineering)  
  • Make origami pieces and turn them into art displays
  • Paint with a variety of tools: brushes, rollers, sticks and twigs, fingers and feet 
  • Make flowers from tissue paper and paste them into cards
  • Learn to quill and create some amazing pieces
  • Create popsicle puppets
  • Create animals with scraps 

Places to visit

  • Art galleries
  • Museums
  • Science museums
  • Botanical gardens
  • Zoos
  • Playgrounds
  • Beaches
  • National and state parks

Learn more about becoming a teacher in our Education and Teaching section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

education elementary school fun student activities students summer teaching

About Lois Letchford

Lois Letchford is a leading educator and author of the book “Reversed: A Memoir.”


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Makiyah Murray

Makiyah Murray

High School Class of 2021

The college application process has been a stressful one, but CollegeXpress has eased some of that stress with its readily available college resources. At the beginning of the process, I frequently used the college search feature, and now that I’m almost done applying, I’ve started using the scholarship search. Both of these resources have made it easier to find relevant information.



High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress helped open me up to many colleges that fit my interests. I’m only a sophomore in high school, so I like having a lot to look at, and CX does a great job of picking colleges that meet my wants. It's a great website that I'll continue to use until it comes time for me to apply for colleges. I also like that it notifies me through email with options to look at. Thanks CX!

Keydi Banegas

Keydi Banegas

Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson


CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

Hannah Nelsen

Hannah Nelsen

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me look at colleges that fit my interests by taking my profile and matching it to colleges that have the programs I'm looking for. It has the ability to connect me to colleges so I can be contacted by them and look at them more in-depth to find what's right for me. Additionally, the scholarship database is super beneficial for getting scholarships for college. Not only does it help lift the financial burden of college but it shows all the opportunities available. Overall, CollegeXpress has been very helpful to me.

College Matches