Summer means fun stuff like swimming, camping, bike riding, and…lots of 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. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here’s an idea: Combine their favorite shows with cool activities to get them moving and thinking. These fun—and smart—ideas are all super easy to do (because it’s your summer, too).
Peg + Cat, age 3+
The Show: Peg and her feline friend Cat always have a problem; luckily, it’s easily solved by math!
The Activity: For a fun measurement-based activity, ask preschoolers to help with simple cooking tasks, including sorting and counting vegetables or measuring sugar and flour for cookies. This could also work for an outdoor “recipe” like mudpies, using leaves, sand, pebbles, and the like.
Dino Dana, age 4+
The Show: Young dino lovers will find a friend in Dana, a kid whose special field guide allows her to see actual dinosaurs.
The Activity: Kids can press small dinosaur toys into clay or Play-Doh to create “fossils.” Or, use that clay to create dino skeletons.
Julie’s Greenroom, age 4+
The Show: Legendary actor and singer Julie Andrews leads a cast of puppets who love learning about the arts.
The Activity: For your own musical-loving kids, try having them write and perform—or just improvise—their own short play or concert. Turn the living room or backyard into a theater using sheets as curtains and invite all your stuffed animals and dolls to be the audience.
Lucas the Spider, age 4+
The Show: YouTube’s favorite adorable big-eyed critter (imagine a teddy bear who also happens to be a bug) is welcoming all kinds of folks to the arachnid world.
The Activity: If you’re not too spooked, take a look at the various spiders around your home or in a local park and identify them.
Wallykazam, age 4+
The Show: Young troll Wally has a magic stick that creates objects out of words—which means lots of great adventures for him and his friends.
The Activity: If your kids are just learning reading basics, 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.”
Craig of the Creek, age 6+
The Show: Craig and his friends find fun and an escape from the real world when they visit their neighborhood creek.
The Activity: If you’re not near a creek, set up a water table and explore different ways to make the water flow. Or, check out local nature preserves, state parks, and other outdoor areas. Do your own exploring, or take a guided hike and learn about the natural world not too far from your home.
Wonder Quest, age 6+
The Show: A pixelated cat named Stampy is the heart of this Minecraft-inspired show that highlights curiosity.
The Activity: Minecraft fans can try their hand at their own engineering projects. Design a machine with a purpose using Legos or household items.
American Ninja Warrior, age 9+
The Show: This fun whole-family show pits super-sporty contestants against a nearly impossible obstacle course.
The Activity: Turn your backyard or living room into your own version of Mount Midoriyama. Indoors, you can lay out pillows to jump on (or between) and have kids crawl under tables. Outside, the sky’s the limit!
Mighty Mustangs, age 9+
The Show: A diverse group of girls make up the Mustangs, a soccer (or football, as this Aussie show calls it) team that works together to win at the game and at life.
The Activity: You don’t have to be on a team to grab a ball, take it to the park, and kick it around Mustang-style with some simple practice activities.
Andi Mack, age 10+
The Show: Energetic, creative tween Andi loves making jewelry and crafts in her backyard “Andi Shack.”
The Activity: Learn a simple skill together (crocheting, weaving, drawing) and set up your own “shack” for creative summer pursuits.
For more suggestions while school’s out, check out our pieces on Preventing The Summer Slide (a.k.a. Summer “Brain Drain”), How To Pick Your Toddler’s First TV Shows, 20 Ways To Bring Fun Into Your Family Life, and 10 Toddler TV Shows That Won’t Make Your Skin Crawl.
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