Photo: Common Sense Media

By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media

When you think about summertime, you might think about swimming, camping, bike riding, and other outdoor fun. The reality is that summer also means lots more time in front of the TV.

According to a study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, kids watch about 20 more minutes of TV a day in the summer than during the school year. Of course, kids need their downtime, but all that sitting around isn’t great for kids’ bodies — or minds. Here’s an idea: Combine their favorite shows with cool activities to get them moving and thinking. We get you started below with some fun — and smart — ideas.

Preschoolers

Dot. (STEM) Activity: Have kids follow in Dot’s footsteps by combining technology with nature. Use your phone’s camera to document birds, butterflies, or other outdoor creatures, then come home and research your favorite finds online.

Julie’s Greenroom (arts) Activity: Kids can write and perform their own short play or concert. Turn the living room or backyard into a theater using sheets as curtains, and invite friends and family to serve as a supportive audience!

Peg + Cat (math) Activity: Ask preschoolers to help with simple cooking tasks, including sorting and counting vegetables or dry beans or measuring sugar and flour for cookies.

Dino Dana (science)  Activity: Press small dinosaur toys into clay or Play-doh to create “fossils.” Slightly older junior paleontologists could also use that clay to create their own dino skeletons.

Wallykazam (literacy) Activity: Walk around the house or a park together and come up with words that rhyme with what you see — for example, “cat” and “hat” and “tree” and “bee.”

Ready, Jet, Go (STEM) Activity: Visit a local planetarium, or stay up a little later and take a look at the stars and planets before bedtime.

Little Kids

Electric Company (literacy) Activity: Ask kids to come up with a rhyming rap about their daily lives and then perform it for the family.

Wonder Quest (STEM)  Activity: Minecraft fans can try their hand at their own engineering projects. Design a machine with a purpose using Legos or household items.

Dear America (history) Activity: Visit the library and look for more information about the time period discussed in the episode.

Nutriventures (nutrition) Activity: Go to the grocery store and have kids choose one fruit or vegetable for every color of the rainbow, and go home and prepare a feast.

Big Kids

All In with Cam Newton (perseverance) Activity: Does your kid already have a dream job? Seek out an expert in that field and see if they have the time to chat with your aspiring firefighter, doctor, engineer, or actor.

MythBusters (science) Activity: Make a list of questions kids are curious about. Visit a science museum or library to see if you can find any of the answers.

The Halo Effect (empathy) Activity: Choose a volunteer opportunity that works for your family, and then spend a day or weekend helping others.

Anne with an E (imagination)  Activity: Create a fantastic backstory for one of your favorite outdoor places. It could be haunted or filled with fairies, or it could be a portal to another world. Kids can write and illustrate what’s in their imaginations.

Spirit: Riding Free (courage) Activity: Visit a local farm or petting zoo and get a closer look at a horse. Families can talk about how horses and people work together.

Tweens

Andi Mack (arts and crafts) Activity: Andi loves making jewelry and crafts in her backyard “Andi Shack.” Families can learn a simple skill together (crocheting, weaving, drawing) and set up their own “shack” for creative summer pursuits.

Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey (science) Activity: Go to a planetarium and watch a show about the stars and planets. Discuss what you learned from both shows.

Kids’ BBQ Championship (nutrition) Activity: Get out the grill and prepare your favorite foods as a family, or let the kids take the lead.

Horrible Histories (history) Activity: Act out a history lesson you learned in school in the manner of the show’s actors. Make it funny!

Polly Conway, Common Sense Media’s TV editor, contributed to this story.