Summer break is just around the corner, and like most moms I’m scrambling to figure out how to keep us all sane and in one piece for the next few months. It’s all fun and exciting to be home for the first few hours of the first day, and then the bickering and boredom seems to set in. The last thing my children’s growing brains need is 3 months of inactivity and mind numbing television. We fill some of the hours with swimming lessons, walks to the park, and trips to the library, but honestly, I need to get my regular stuff done and have a few minutes of quiet time. Beyond that, my children are quite capable of entertaining and teaching themselves, if they have the opportunity and desire.
That’s why this summer we are doing some un-schooling. That’s right! I’m letting my children out of the classroom and library to do some hands on, all by themselves learning. They get to choose the subject, the activity, the tools, and they get to work, play and tinker with it until they figure it out. I’m still here, probably washing a million dishes or picking up every shoe in the house again, but I’m here if they have a specific question. It’s entirely possible that I won’t know the answers, but between them, me, and Google, we’ll figure it out.
There are an endless number of things you kids can teach themselves to to. Between the internet, library, outdoors, and community, resources are everywhere and just waiting to be picked up, looked at, played with, and used to create, discover, and learn. So many of these options are free, but there are also amazing resources you can buy that provide hours and hours of educational fun. I’m going to share a few of the top items on our list for this summer.
11 Awesome Things Your Kids Can Teach Themselves to do This Summer
How many times have your kids asked you to buy them a balloon animal or hat? My kids are obsessed with them, the bigger, brighter and more colorful the better. The crazy thing is that for just a bit more than one balloon animal, you can buy a kit with balloons, a pump, and instructions to build all kinds of animals and other fun things on your own. We purchased a set for my 9-year-old and after she went through the entire book, she kept going using youtube videos to create increasingly difficult pets. Our house turned into a verifiable balloon animal zoo, and she ended up filling trash bags full of the animals to deliver too all of the kids in the neighborhood.
On any given summer growing up, there were at least three broken weed wackers in our garage. They were all in pieces and at some stage of being pulled apart or put back together. My dad would pick them up for almost nothing at garage sales and bring them home for my brothers to work on. They’d break out their screwdrivers and wrenches and go to town dissecting the various parts of the machine. They learned identify the different mechanisms and how they worked together, and sometimes they could even figure out how to fix them. It was great fun, and helped them prepare for future engineering degrees and general repairs for their vehicles or other household items.
Girls love this sort of things too. You can give them the old broken vacuum, the busted blender, or whatever else you’d planned to throw out. Just make sure it’s unplugged and let them work.
My girls often ask me to help them with a sewing project, but I don’t always have hours and hours to sit over their shoulder and protect them and my sewing machine from each other. However, I recently discovered that there are a good many sewing projects they can take on without the machine. My 4th grade daughter and her friend whipped out these stuffed animals in just a few hours after school. My only input, helping them find the fabric box, buttons, and stuffing. Another afternoon my daughter took the sleeve off and old jean jacket destined for the garbage, and turned it into a dress for her doll. Both times she used a needle and thread, and figured it out essentially all on her own. The end products might not be fit for a pinterest tutorial, but they were completely kid DIY, and they love them.
Playing an Instrument
My pre-teen has been begging to learn the guitar. There’s a class offered in Jr. High next year, but we just couldn’t squeeze it into her schedule. Lucky for us, my cute mom was getting rid of an old guitar. It’s missing some strings and a bit dusty, but we can fix that. My daughters first project, figure out how to restring the guitar. I’ll buy the supplies, but she gets to put it together. Then, she’ll use books, youtube tutorials, and trial and error to teach herself to play.
The piano is another great option. They range in price from very high to inexpensive keyboards, and there are so many great resources out there to teach them to play. There are bloggers and youtubers who do free piano instruction as well as apps and music books. Just the opportunity to sit down and pick out the tune of your favorite songs or learn cords can be so rewarding and great for your mind.
I remember my first typing class on an old school Apple computer in my elementary lab. Sadly, I didn’t really become proficient at typing until much later after being forced to type a lot and often for papers in high school and college. Alternatively, my oldest daughter was typing 40 wpm in 3rd grade because of a great program at her school and her love of writing. She would spend at least an hour a day writing her next novel on Google docs or experimenting with Google sheets and presentations. There are also many free or inexpensive typing programs available for download or use online. This could be a great skill for your child to develop on their own this summer.
My husband has been working on finishing our basement, and there are any number of wood scraps lying around on a given day. The dust and noise is irritating, but it provides my kids with amazing opportunities to learn. Often they join him for a bit, measuring, holding, or hauling, but sometimes they just want to take a hammer to nails and we can’t let them do that on our framing. Instead, there is a pile of scraps, an extra hammer, and some nails waiting to be shaped into whatever they can come up with. They are learning on a very basic level how structures work, what makes them sound, and how to design with that in mind. It’s great fun, and if we can’t keep all of their projects, we can at least take pictures.
There are so many things you can build without wood and nails if that isn’t an option for you. Use scraps from the kitchen to build boats or cardboard to create just about anything.
The technology field is quickly becoming a top destination for smart, hardworking students, and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly kids can pick up the skills. Very young children can now pick up coding and pass any knowledge most parents have on the subject in a very short amount of time. My personal laptop is off limits, but we have a computer set up for the kids to work at and experiment on. They can use websites like Code.org or books like the one pictured above.
Not too long ago we visited a children’s museum that had build your own circuit boards. It was the area of the museum that my children couldn’t bear to leave. They loved connecting wires and switches to turn on fans and lights. I’m not going to lie, I was having a lot of fun too. It was such a neat project, and looked fairly simple to recreate. I’m hoping to make this a diy activity option for my kids this year. Grandma got us a Snap Circuits kit as well which is a lot of fun to work on, and is a great option if you don’t want to build it yourself.
I always wished I could draw, but my stick figures indicate that I am still deficient in that area. My children are quickly passing me up as they create beautiful, interesting, and sometimes even silly art. There are so many drawing books that teach skills. A few of our favorites are in the Ed Emberly’s series like the one above. My children love the step by step instructions to create some of their favorite animals or scenes. You can increase the difficulty as their skills progress, and of course, display way too much of it on your refrigerator.
Cooking is so much fun, and it’s amazing what you learn along the way. My kids have gained a better understanding of finances, nutrition, and fractions while cooking with me in the kitchen. We’re finally getting to a point where they want to take on cooking projects on their own. They find recipes, evaluate costs and health concerns, alter recipes, and make great food for our family. Sometimes their projects work out, and sometimes they don’t work out so well. I guess that’s part of the learning process. They also make messes, which is a significant downside to this particular subject area, but at our house the cleanup is part of the cooking project. It’s all worth it when they are able to make dinner when you’re busy to get to it.
We have favorite cooking blogs my children can check for recipes, or they love checking out recipe books from our local library. The older ones are starting to put together their own collections of favorite recipes to use as they move out on their own and have families. Cooking is a great thing for the kids to work on this summer.
We have a house nearly full of girls, so this one is of particular interest in our house. Learning to do neat braids, buns and updos is a lot of fun, and can be a valuable skill. Someday I hope to take pictures of them doing each other’s hair for prom, weddings, or just for fun. As you’ve probably seen on social media, there are countless videos and tutorials for all kinds of fun hairstyles. Hopefully there are enough to keep them going for most of the summer. They can practice on themselves, their sisters, their friends or even a doll.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of things kids can teach themselves to do this summer. Whether you use one of our favorites or have a different one of your own, I hope you kids get lots of chances to diy play and learn. Have a great summer everyone!!
*Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the list. I’ve included a few links in this post to some fun, suggested products. They are affiliate links, so if you choose to buy them through these links, I get a bit of a commission for referring you. It helps compensate me for my time, and allows me to buy and try out other fun things with my kids. Just wanted to let you know. Have a good one!