Wishing there was some way you could find educational activities for your children this summer, but feeling like you don’t have the time?
When is the last time you visited your school or library’s website? How about the nearby university’s? There are a number of places that commonly host summer learning experiences. Even better, many of them are free or inexpensive. Summer learning opportunities don’t have to be formal or pre-planned, but if you are looking for the right opportunity to keep your student thinking, they are out there in a flurry.
But since they aren’t always easy to find, we’ve created a list of quick Google searches that any parent can use to uncover fun and exciting opportunities—the kind that keep children learning over the summer (even if they don’t know it).
Search: “[City Name] Library”
You’ll often see libraries partnering with large companies headquartered in the city. Naturally, summer reading programs are a hands-down favorite, but county library systems offer a variety of activities that ranging from hour long to summer long.
Besides reading programs, libraries offer family game nights, challenges, crafts, writing workshops and even programs designed to encourage innovation. Some, like Chicago’s Summer Learning Challenge, offer students the chance to win prizes.
Search tips: Once you get to the library site, check out all of the banners and news sections, as May and June are the times when programs are really being pushed. If nothing turns up, search the site for the keywords “summer” or “summer learning.”
Search: “[City Name] schools”
Similar to libraries, schools frequently partner with educational organizations like colleges and science centers.
You’ll likely come across project-based and hands-on subjects that students don’t have access to during the school year. In Cleveland, students can go to a free program at one of the city’s STEM schools to learn how to use the tools and software necessary to make a model car. Cool, huh?
Search tips: Once you get to the school’s site, find the search box and type in “summer.” If you aren’t too far out of city limits, you can double your potential by searching your immediate city as well as the larger municipality (Chicago and one of its suburbs for example).
Search: “[University] free summer programs”
Larger universities and community colleges have a lot to offer when it comes to programs that are more affordable. Unlike some searches where you see the word “camps,” there won’t be a three-digit price tag next to it (if there’s a price tag at all).
Search tips: Once you start your search, look out for words like “youth programs” and “camps”—two of the most common phrases we found. And you probably know your major universities, but if you’re new to your area, a quick Wikipedia search (eg “Universities in Cleveland”) can pull up a list of schools for you.
Search: “[City] parks and recreation”
Some cities, like Louisville even have more robust program guides which are full of information and programming for one or more locations. Others devote entire web pages to activities they are running throughout the summer. In many cities, this might be your best bet for coming across free summer camps.
Search tips: Sometimes you’ll find programs on the front page, but others require a little extra searching. Check out all tabs or dropdowns related to “summer” or “summer” programs. If you come across a PDF like the one above, use “Ctrl+F” to enable the search feature. Type in “free” to scroll through any free option across the entire pdf.
Search: “[State] state parks”
Regardless of how many state parks your state has, there’s often a central website for announcements and calendars. If you live close enough to one, states parks make a worthwhile option for students interested in science and being outdoors. These programs are mostly science, art, and hands-on activities.
Search tips: After landing at the website, enter “summer” into the search box. If you’re lucky enough to live near a national park, do an extra search for the name of the park.
Bonus Search: “[Name] nature center”
Nature centers are often more accessible than state or national parks, and while they can be a wildcard for affordable or free summer programs, there’s no harm in a few minutes of searching. Your nature center could be the one!
Search tips: While some nature centers share the name of their city or town, some might have a separate name. In which, do a quick search for “nature center [zip code].”
Even the busiest parents can knock out most of these searches in an hour or so. And once you have the peace of mind that your student can learn and have fun this summer, it will feel even more worthwhile.
Keep in mind that some events might already be full, so jumping on the computer SOON is a good idea. But don’t fret, because with all the options available, you should be able to find something. If not, there are a lot of energetic and fun tutors out there that could make an awesome individualized summer learning experience for students at any level.