During the summer months, finding challenging and exciting activities to keep your kids busy can be harder than completing an American Ninja Warrior course. Lucky for you, we’ve done the legwork and found 11 programs that are not only awesome, but promise to engage little minds and bodies for hours on end. Read on to find one that fits your family.
Summer brain drain can be kept at bay with a six week, online learning adventure from Brain Chase. How does it work? Starting on June 20th, 2016, kids (grade 2 – 8) from all around the world will be searching for the Mask of Tomoe Gozen. Using clues and a decoder ring, tiny treasure hunters will join forces with Mae Merriweather and her digital crew from the Grayson Academy of Antiquities, to find the mysterious treasure.
After completing the four weekly challenges, which can be solved using math, reading and language skills, an original animated webisode with kid archaeologists from the Grayson Academy of Antiquities will be unlocked—each one contains hidden clues to the location of the buried treasure. The first participant to figure out where the mask is buried will jet off to the location for the chance to unearth a real-life buried treasure—the key to a $10,000 scholarship!
Find out more: brainchase.com
photo: orangefred via flickr
Your local Apple store is so much more than the Genius Bar. This summer, Apple Camp is back, and it’s designed to help spark the imaginations of kiddos ages eight to twelve. During this (free!) three-day workshop, little movie makers will shoot their own footage, create an original song in GarageBand on an iPad, and put it all together in iMovie on a Mac. Campers will debut their masterpieces at the Apple Camp Film Festival. Be sure to sign up here to get an email announcing open registration, because spots go quickly!
Find out more: apple.com/retail/camp
photo: Rebecca Landis via flickr
Calling all mini-makers and curious kids! The Lowe’s Build & Grow clinics are year-round, but the hands-on experience kids receive is as awesome as any special summer school or workshop. Pre-register online, and then on a Saturday at 10 a.m., have your budding builders show up at Lowe’s, to build easy wooden projects like bird feeders, cars, and even Marvel superheroes. At the end of the two-hour workshop, mini-makers receive a free apron, goggles, and a patch! See the entire summer building schedule here.
Find out more: lowesbuildandgrow.com
All Things Outdoor
Bass Pro Shops is like Disneyland for outdoor sports aficionados, and it’s also a great place to keep the kids busy during the summer. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from June 25 – Jul. 24, 2016, Bass Pro will offer 20-minute “summer camp” workshops. Emerging sportsmen and women will learn about bird watching, fishing, archery, kayaking, water safety, camping and just about any adventure imaginable. After each workshop is over, summer camp survivors also get a chance to enjoy free crafts, and activities. Be sure to contact your local Bass Pro for details.
Find out more: bassproshop.com/familysummercamp
photo: Zhao via flickr
Does your kiddo dream in crafty? If so, the workshops and classes offered for kids ages three and up at Michael’s could be the perfect prescription for beating summer brain drain. The creative themes deal in all sorts of different materials: paints, paper, string, tie-dye, and more. Dates and times are every few days, in the morning and evening, and vary in price from free – $15.
Find out more: michaels.com/classes-and-events
photo: Patrick via flickr
Budding bowlers can perfect their technique all summer long thanks to Kids Bowl Free, which allows them to play up to two games a day free of charge. All that’s missing is a pair of those sweet and stylish bowling shoes. To find a participating bowling alley near you, click here.
Find out more: kidsbowlfree.com
photo: Neeta Lind via flickr
Taking in a movie on the silver screen can get pretty expensive when you’ve got a gaggle of tots, and that’s not even counting the crazy high snack prices. Luckily, you can head to your local Cinemark theater throughout the summer to catch $1 flicks (or, buy a bundle of 10 screenings for $5), all of which are G or PG rated, and kid-approved. Even better, most movies show before noon, making it easy to catch a flick and head home for nap time. For more information, click here.
Find out more: cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse
photo: Steven Depolo via Flickr
Roll with It
Xanadu your heart out, and head for the local roller rink to get the kiddos moving this summer. Whether they’re skating or blading, it’ll get the blood pumping, and the cool, A/C-induced temps are a total bonus! The Kids Skate Free program allows families to take advantage of this offer once a week (during summer months), so click here to find out if it’s happening at your local rink.
Find out more: kidsskatefree.com
photo: email@example.com via Flickr
Little bookworms can keep up with reading skills in a fun and engaging way when they participate in Book Adventure by Sylvan Learning. There are over 8,000 books in the Book Adventure archives, and with a little help from Sherlock Bailey (the Book Adventure mascot) kids can log on to create their own booklist. Then, after reading each book, participants take a short quiz in order to collect points that can be traded in for cool prizes like temporary tattoos, subscriptions to Highlights magazine, free candy, and more.
Find out more: bookadventure.com
photo: daveynin via Flickr
If you’ve got a National Park near you (or are planning to travel to one this summer), be sure to sign your mini explorers up for the NPS Junior Ranger Program. First order of business is to outfit each kiddo with a handy Junior Ranger guidebook—each book is filled with historical facts, cool tips about all the National Parks, has places to jot down field notes, and even has a spot for ranger autographs. Most Junior Rangers are five to thirteen, but anyone can sign up!
Every adventurer gets the chance to complete a series of activities, share answers with a park ranger, and will receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate. To learn more, click here. Be sure to check out our picks for most thrilling national parks, too.
Find out more: nps.gov/kids/jrRangers
photo: Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism via flickr
Museums on Us
Calling all Bank of America or Merrill Lynch cardholders—snag free admission to more than 150 museums, science centers, and botanical gardens across the country on two days every month by just showing your card. Find out if your favorite museum is participating and what days the deal runs by clicking here.
Find out more: museums.bankofamerica.com
—Susie Foresman & Gabby Cullen