Summer is a time for playing soccer, baseball, T-ball, basketball and softball. It is also a time for playing in the pool, relaxing at the beach, and exploring the trees and creeks. Academically, some families are taking a break from lessons, other families are starting up for the year, finishing last year’s courses, or doing a lighter version of school.

If you are on a break or taking advantage of a lighter schedule but want to sneak in some academics, games are a fantastic way to do this! Even if you are in the full swing of lessons, games can give the kids a feeling of summertime fun-time. Here are some ideas you may not know were out there!

Are you at the ball diamond this summer? A lot of families are. Check out these reading options: Abner Doubleday: Boy Baseball Pioneer, Babe Ruth (Childhood of Famous Americans series) or even Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia. Or study the math and science of sports with Baseball Math: Grandslam Activities & Projects or Sports Science for Young People. The whole family can test their baseball knowledge with a Professor Noggin’s Baseball quiz game.

Are your kiddos giving you the old, “We’re bored… what can we do?” already? Find a book to introduce them to some great new outdoor games if the old standbys are getting stale. You might check out 201 Small Sided Sports Games which is a great P.E. and group game resource. We also like the 303 Kid Approved Exercises and Active Games series which has books available at different age levels.

For parts of the country where it’s already too hot to spent time outdoors, there are lots of ways to keep skills sharp using card or board games. Mix up a few decks of flash cards and play “Around the World Flash Cards” with all of the kids. Each child has a chair, and one child goes to stand next to another child, where they face off to answer a math fact. The first child to correctly moves on to the next opponent, while the other player sits down. It’s great competition between older and younger players! Use a standard deck of cards to play Math War, or find many other inexpensive versions available. You can find even more ideas here. A simple set of number dice offers multiple opportunities for games. includes 6- and 12-sided dice for endless practice in math operations with a fun twist. Or there are tile-based classics like Mathable or Equate where you build equations from tiles on the board. Trade out boring spelling practice with games like Boggle, Bananagrams, Spill and Spell, or Quiddler. Or use the game components (tiles, dice, etc.) to practice each students’ tricky spelling lists in a hands-on way. Historical events can be challenging for the whole family when everyone is trying to place events in order! Check out the Timeline games series, Perspective or Chronology to challenge everyone’s historical knowledge this summer. Even games that aren’t strictly educational like Ticket to Ride or Settlers of Catan will keep their thinking skills and strategy sharp while taking a “break” from math, reading, geography and critical thinking…(or are they?) Games give your students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in a text or workbook to another format. This transference of learning shows that can apply what they know. So whether you are on a break, on a lighter schedule or in full school mode – there is a game or some unexpected reading you can add to your summertime fun-time!