Free Educational Summer Activities for Children

Think about when you take time off of work to go on vacation. It can be hard to get back in the groove of things when you return; this is similar to what your kids experience when they have time off from school.

When school is out of session, many children struggle to find educational opportunities in the summer months. According to the National Summer Learning Association, research spanning 100 years show that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer break than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer break (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004). It is critical for kids to keep their minds active to avoid the summer learning loss that so many children unfortunately experience.

Summer is actually a great time to strengthen a child’s academic skills while still balancing other nonacademic fun summer activities. Here is a diverse list of FREE educational summer activities for your kids to enjoy this summer that will help prevent digression in their academic skills:

Literacy Luau at Bright Horizons at Round Rock

On Saturday, July 18th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bright Horizons at Round Rock is offering a Hawaiian-themed event that will include storytelling using Smart board technology, family-oriented literacy activities and a hula dance performance from Island Rhythms Hula Company. Parents can also learn how to document literacy for all ages!

Summer Playgrounds Program 

Summer Playgrounds is a drop-in program providing quality recreational experiences that promote creativity, teamwork and healthy lifestyles. Some activities the children participate in include organized sports, arts and crafts, games, team building and nutrition lessons. Children ages 6 through 12 are welcome to participate, and the program will continue until August 7th. 

  • Hours of operation are: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and registration is required on your child’s first day of attendance.
  • The following parks hold Summer Playgrounds Programs: Bartholomew District Park, Chestnut Pocket Park, Davis-White Northeast District Park, Dick Nichols District Park, Little Zilker Neighborhood Park, Garrison District Park, Oakview Neighborhood Park, Quail Creek Neighborhood Park, Ramsey Neighborhood park and Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park.
Nature Nights at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. you are invited to take your kids to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Nature Nights, where they offer educational explorations of plants, animals and general knowledge on the ecology of Central Texas. There are interactive presentations, hikes with experts in their fields and nature crafts for kids of all ages. Tickets are free, but on a first come, first serve basis. There are two more Nature Nights available this summer for your family to participate in!

  • Thursday, July 16th – Harnessing Fire – The Austin Fire Department- wildfire division, Austin Water Utility, Balcones U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy of Texas, Texas Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the University of Texas at Austin Fire Prevention Services will bring equipment for kids to view. There will be a fire extinguisher training, a fire safety house and radio practice. Kids and parents will be able to participate in habitat hikes that discuss prescribed burns, and how they are used at the Wildflower Center to heal the land and promote healthy landscapes.
  • Thursday, July 23rd – Birds of Prey – Come listen to the experts from the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. Joining them will be their raptor ambassadors as they discuss the issues concerning the future of birds of prey. The Girl Scouts and Kairos Academy will each have a fun activity for families to participate in.
Bullock Texas State History Museum

Visit this history museum and connect with Texas stories told by evolving artifacts, rare documents, photographs and special exhibits. There are special activity guides you can download to help your kids focus on specific topics and skills during their visit. The “Find and Sketch” guide asks that children find artifacts that represent ideas and then has them sketch them out. The “Photo Scavenger Hunt” guide allows for children to channel their inner photographer and search for artifacts that represent specific ideas and then capture a photo of them. Children should be able to explain the connection of how the photo connects links to the idea. These guides will help your children use their creative skills in an interactive way at the museum while gaining knowledge on Texas history. Museum hours are Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to  5 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Bullock Texas State History Museum offers free admission on the first Sunday of each month.

Bug Stalking Photography Exhibit at the Dougherty Arts Center

From now until August 15th, you can take your kids to this free photography exhibit featuring some of the world’s most fascinating insects and bugs. Photographer Michelle Dapra Atkinson has been stalking these tiny creatures for almost a decade. In the beautiful macro bug portraits you see close-up characteristics of these critters in their colorful environment. Children will be able to explore the insects and bugs and compare and contrast the unique features of their environments from observing the photos.

  • Operating Hours: Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Sunday’s.
Teen Volunteer Programs at the Thinkery

Teens have the chance to build their resumes by joinging the teen volunteer programs at the Thinkery this summer! The Thinkery hosts a diverse selection of volunteer and employment programs to Austin teens. You must be 13-18 years of age to apply to be a volunteer. Volunteer opportunities can take place over one day, one month, one semester or one year! Teens will be empowered with responsibility and accountability, they will gain deeper insights to understanding of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and science), learn to solve problems in a creative manner and work in a safe environment with positive role models. Each teen that participates will gain new skills and valuable work experience that can positively contribute to their future academic and career endeavors.

RoboCode Kids

The Austin Public Library provides a selection of educational summer programs for children and teens. RoboCode Kids inspires innovation and cultivates creativity by exposing Kindergarten through 8th grade students to robotics, computer programming and 3D printing. This program takes a comprehensive approach and teaches participants to build fully-functioning robots, guides students though objective-based computer programming, and brings student ideas to life by allowing them to design and 3D print robot parts. This event begins at 3:30 p.m. and is hosted at the Yarborough Branch Library on July 16th.

Children not only  struggle to find educational opportunities in the summer months, but some also struggle to find basic needs such as healthy meals. Use the free summer meals finder to find where you can get healthy meals for your kids or call 2-1-1 for more assistance.

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