5 Educational Websites for Summer Learning

Are you out of school yet? It feels funny to ask that, seeing that my daughter’s kindergarten year ended on May 18. But I know most schools get out later than that. I didn’t graduate until June 16 in Virginia, where we had the no-starting-until-after-Labor-Day rule.

I’m sure, like me, you don’t want your child’s reading level to go down during the summer, not do you want him or her to stop learning. But how do you make it fun? There are a million great ways (I highly recommend I Can Teach My Child if you have a toddler/preschooler/kindergartner). And one tool we use at home is our basic desktop computer.

While I certainly don’t want to fry my kid’s brain with screens all the time, she is allowed to use the computer a couple times a week for a half-hour or so. We are pretty insistent that she stay on educational sites, despite her new interest in finding URLs on brochures and wanting to visit the “Lego GIRLS” site. (Bleccch.)

Here are some of our favorite sites and some others I’ve seen highly recommended.


ABCMouse.com (paid) – ABCMouse is an “interactive classroom” for kids ages 2 through 7. Our kids started using it about age 4, when they could control the mouse. It teaches basic reading and math skills as well as offering simple lessons on animals, space, and more. The learning path has 6 levels, going from pre-reader to kindergarten levels. My daughter is 6 1/2 and can read well, but she still enjoys the lessons, earning tickets, and playing around with the different features. It’s about $8/month, but you can try it out on a 30-day trial.


ReadingEggs.com (paid) – Reading Eggs is a service we were gifted through my daughter’s school. Its curriculum is a little wider than ABC Mouse, spanning ages 3 to 14. Through Reading Eggs, kids can work on letter sounds, sight words, spelling, and a bunch more! Like ABC Mouse, there are levels that you move through and receive “golden eggs” as prizes, making it feel like a game. The cost is about $50 for 6 months or $59 for a year, with a 2-week free trial.


PBSKids.org (free) – Since we don’t have cable, my kids are pretty familiar with the beloved PBS characters: Curious George, Cat in the Hat, Daniel Tiger, Sid the Science Kid, the Wild Kratts … need I go on? On the PBS Kids website, little ones can play games related to the series, as well as watch short videos or print out pictures to color or activities to do. My kids especially love the “pipe game” from Odd Squad, which helps with spacial reasoning.


Discovery Kids (free) – Is your child obsessed with dinosaurs? Space? Sharks? Discovery Kids might be a good site to visit, then. There are games that vary from building a roller coaster to exploring volcanoes to virtual jigsaw puzzles. The “Puterbugs” system jumped out at me – a game focusing on teaching typing alongside reading, writing, and math.


Superbook (free) – Looking for something to enhance spiritual learning? Based on the CBN series Superbook, this site has games, videos, a virtual Bible with daily “challenge” and character discovery, trivia, and more. Kids can even submit their prayer requests. For fun, I tried out the Bible Brain Busters game. Definitely suited for older kids (because you need to read and answer fast), some of the questions were funny and some tricky, but they will definitely learn something. Mom and Dad might enjoy quizzing each other, too.

Do you have any favorite websites for kids’ learning?

Keeping Young Minds Active During the Summer

Summer is a time for relaxation and family fun, but most parents would agree that their children should be actively engaged in educational activities and experiences over the school break. To keep your child productive, consider the following ideas, broken down into each major subject area:

1. Heed the Need to Read: Countless studies show the importance of summer reading: Kids who read in the summer outperform their peers in the fall. Avoid the “summer slide” by making sure your kids read often during the summer.

●Most libraries have a summer reading program with incentives and prizes. Visiting the library once a week can be a fun family escape. Research shows that kids who choose their own books (with parent approval) read more.

●Create a time during the day when no TV or electronics are allowed.

● Read to your child and listen to your child read.

●Listen to books on CD  while traveling.

●Model reading.

2. Do the Math! Few would argue the importance of math. Skills that are not used are often forgotten, so practice is essential. Besides specialized math tutoring facilities, which are gaining popularity and producing increasingly impressive results, there are many ways to keep math skills sharp at home. Consider these fun activities that allow your child to practice math:

● Follow recipes

● Read maps, and calculate mileage on trips.

● Use flashcards to practice facts.

● Utilize online math practice sites for kids, such as the following:


AAA math.com


3. Invite ‘em to Write! Good writing skills provide evidence of learning and understanding. Writing makes thoughts and ideas visible and gives children a clear way to express themselves. Encourage your children to write using these ideas:

● Keep a journal on trips and at home.

●Write letters and emails, requiring correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

●Let your child record her voice telling a story, then dictate that story onto paper.

●Encourage your child to write one short story a week. Keep them in a folder as a keepsake from the summer.

4. Smart Summer Science:  Science helps us to understand the world around us. Besides being educational, science can be lots of fun! The following activities reinforce important science concepts:

●Visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums.

●Dig for fossils.

●Gaze at stars, find constellations and track the moon’s phases.

●There are many fun experiments that can be done at home. Visit the following web sites for ideas:

National Geographic Kids

PBS Kids-Dragonfly TV



5. Make History with Social Studies Activities-Summer provides an escape from  that sometimes-boring history class. Use the summer months to strengthen your child’s interest in things of the past. History teaches helps us learn from our past and prepares us for the future. Geography knowledge is vital, but often over-looked. There are many activities that can encourage your child’s social studies understanding:

● Visit history museums and historical places.

●Research your family tree.

●Make a map of your neighborhood using a GPS .

●Research and report upon the locations (states/countries) that you visit on vacation.


Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fifth grade teacher living in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education.

Word Play for Day

Check out this great article and summer fun idea from ParentLife writer and local school counselor, Bill Conger, about musician Roger Day.

music_dream_lil.jpgRoger Day doesn’t have any trouble getting in touch with his inner child. As a children’s performer, the former camp counselor travels the nation entertaining preschool- and elementary-age children with silly songs that he created like "It’s a No-No to Kiss a Rhino!" and "Mosquito Burrito."

"What I love about doing children’s music is that it’s all my own stuff," Day said following a July 9th gig at the Brentwood Library near Nashville, Tennessee. "It’s my own creativity. It’s my own imagination. I’m not doing other people’s music. I think that’s great for kids to see so that they are encouraged to use their imagination too.”

An entertainer on the college circuit, Day never envisioned making a living in the kid’s market. After his wife had the couple’s third child, he became a stay-at-home dad while mom returned to her speech therapist job with special needs children. During those three years, he played a few more college dates, but he felt led to transition to children’s music full-time in the late 90s. "I told everybody I’m going to do kid’s music, and everybody said, ‘Greeeeat! Good luck with that’  because nobody really had an idea of what you could do with it."

His songs are more than goofy ditties that kids sing. It’s also another way of educating them, something he has witnessed personally. "My son, who’s 16, mentioned at the end of school that they were studying ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ because in one of my very first songs ‘Reach Up’ I talk about having no time for albatrosses hanging around us. He said that when he studied ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,’ he thought: Albatross! I know what that is! My hope is that kids when they’re taking their SAT will say: ‘I wonder how many chambers there are in a snake heart? Ah, 3. How do I know that? Oh, that Roger Day song talked about it.’ "

To check out more about Roger Day’s music and his touring schedule, visit his Web site www.rogerday.com.

What is the best kid music that you secretly like to listen to?