Summer Activities

Summer Break is one of the grandest American traditions and sets the American educational system apart from its counterparts in Europe and elsewhere. Summer Break is an exercise in leisure. As Josef Pieper said in his seminal essay Leisure, the Basis of Culture, leisure is nothing less than “one of the foundations of Western culture” (19).

There is increasing evidence—medical, scientific, and anecdotal—that excessive and unsupervised use of screens in children is harmful to their mental, social, and emotional development. At Great Hearts Irving, we can confidently add that the unsupervised use of screens (and especially social media) is equally harmful to children’s moral development as well. This summer, we implore you, do everything you can to avoid plopping your children down in front of the TV, the tablet, or the video game for hours on end. This summer, we encourage you to think about how you can spend your family’s summer in the healthiest way possible. Here are some healthy and wholesome activities we recommend.

We have so many new suggestions, we’ve divided them up into categories! Below you will find information on:

Local Museums

The Metroplex is home to many world-class museums. The following museums have permanent collections which are 100% free to visit:

The following charge admission but come highly recommended by our teachers:

Nature Centers and Outings

It is crucial for children’s healthy development that they spend time in nature. Here in the middle of the concrete jungle, it’s important to create opportunities for our kids to see plants, animals, and wild native habitats for themselves. Here are some local spots you can make an outing to:

Acts of Service

One of the best ways we can spend our extra free time over the summer is by showing the virtue of citizenship and performing acts of service for our family members, friends, or neighbors. Here are some ideas:

  • New! Visiting grandparents
  • New! Volunteering at a local shelter
  • New! Interviewing an neighbor, community helper, or elder
  • New! Helping with the laundry
  • New! Matching all the socks in the drawer
  • New! Bringing snacks to the local Fire House
  • New! Offering to mow your neighbor’s lawn or weed their garden
  • New! Offering to walk a neighbor’s pet
  • New! Picking up trash at the local park
  • New! Cleaning out the garage
  • Cleaning and organizing a closet

Outdoor Activities

Children should spend lots of time outdoors. Everyday bumps, bruises, and scrapes from playing ball in the yard, climbing a tree in the park, or slipping up the hill while on a family hike are a sign of an active, healthy childhood lifestyle. Some ways your family might spend time outdoors this summer include:

  • New! Playing in the sprinkler
  • New! Making a slip-n-slide
  • New! Having a water balloon fight
  • New! Creating a scavenger hunt in your backyard or neighborhood
  • New! Making stained glass chalk art (works well on wooden fences)
  • New! Learning to do the splits, the backbend, or a cartwheel
  • New! Playing Elastic Jump Rope
  • New! Taking a nature walk
  • New! Having a picnic
  • New! Visiting the library (and getting your very own library card!)
  • New! Going on a treasure hunt
  • Having a family cookout
  • Playing catch
  • Planting in the garden (Summer is a great time to plant tomatoes, peppers, beans, berries, cucumbers, squash, and more!)
  • Digging up worms to go fishing
  • Going fishing!
  • Going swimming (ideally in a non-chlorinated body of water)
  • Going to the park
  • Going to the zoo
  • Going to a botanical garden
  • Going on a family hike
  • Collecting rocks, feathers, shells, or other natural things
  • Organizing a neighborhood game of street hockey, stick ball, or kickball
  • Flying kites
  • Riding bikes
  • Climbing trees
  • Building a fort
  • Taking a walk
  • Taking a walk in the rain and splashing in puddles
  • Making a game of hopscotch with sidewalk chalk
  • Learning how to play hopscotch
  • Making and playing a game of foursquare
  • Taking the neighbor’s dog for a walk
  • Reenacting famous battles or duels from history
  • Finding pictures in the clouds
  • Camping out in the backyard
  • Bird-watching
  • Catching insects
  • Gathering leaves to use in identifying types of trees
  • Stargazing

Don’t forget the hats, sunscreen, and mosquito spray! And be sure to drink plenty of water.

Indoor Activities

Texas summers can get very hot, and we’re famous for our summer thunderstorms. When the weather just won’t allow you to be outside, here are some indoor activities you can use to keep your children off screens:

Arts and Crafts

One of kids’ favorite things to do indoors is to make something creative. Here are some ideas for crafts:

  • New! Sewing something
  • New! Learning to knit (finger knitting is especially easy)
  • New! Tie-dying a book bag or t-shirt with natural dye from food
  • New! Painting rocks for the garden
  • New! Printing out some family photos and make a collage
  • New! Learning to fold origami
  • New! Making a bird or butterfly feeder
  • New! Writing and illustrating your own storybook
  • Painting a picture
  • Doing a jigsaw puzzle
  • Building a model car
  • Building a birdhouse

Special Recommendations from Mrs. Pantin

Visit my hometown of Albany, Texas on either of the last two weekends in June. There is much to do: BBQ on the courthouse lawn, a free organ concert at Matthew Memorial Presbyterian Church giving a chance to hear a rare, “tracker” pipe organ, and, most especially, the annual production of the Fandangle, “Texas’ oldest outdoor musical.”

I also recommend a trip east to Carthage, Texas. Outside of town (ask at the Courthouse for directions) is the last surviving international boundary marker between the United States and the Republic of Texas.

Lastly, grow your own sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes thrive in the heat of the Texas summer sun. North Haven Gardens in Dallas offers several types of slips, and they’ll be ready for harvest in late October if planted the first week of June. Water evenly.

For more ideas on great summer activities for kids, we recommend two very new (but very old-fashioned) books: