Family paddling in a canoe with a face at the bow

Once the school year is over, most children put away their backpacks and avoid anything educational for the summer. But you can encourage them to keep learning during their break and make it fun! Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage, has some easy ideas for you to try.

Are you about to hit the road for your family’s summer vacation? You can turn this newest adventure into a series of math problems. For your younger kids, you can choose a color and then count how many cars in that color you all see in five minutes. Or have them add up the numbers on a license plate. If your children are older, have them work out how long you can drive on a full tank of gas or estimate your remaining travel time based on highway distance signs.

Traveling can teach your children other skills that will support them as they grow up. Patience being the first one, like with how long it takes to get to your vacation spot and dealing with difficulties while away from home. Also, learning to try new things second. You may experience some hiccups while traveling. Include your children in how you deal with these obstacles as a family, so they start learning problem-solving skills as well.

And let’s not forget about all the opportunities you can add into your children’s lives while at home.

Sign up for your library’s summer reading program, and your children may win prizes for either the number of books they read or the amount of time they spend reading over the summer. Usually, the libraries also offer fun family events to enjoy as a family to accompany these reading challenges.

An amazing variety of day camps to encourage your child’s burgeoning interests. Do they like computer coding? There are camps to learn the basics. If they love being outdoors, there are camps that can teach them how to explore safely and enjoy the beauty surrounding them. These outdoor camps may include opportunities to learn how to rock climb, ride horses, and outdoor sports to keep them physically active. There are art camps for children to explore their creative side, focusing on graphic design, painting, drawing, creative writing, and photography. Any of these camps can give your child insights into what might interest them in the future as a career.

You can also volunteer as a family over the summer. It’s a wonderful way to teach your children the importance of serving others. As a family, select a charity to support. You can choose to work on projects for which the charity needs help, like painting outdoor walls at a local playground or school or feeding the needy. Or you choose to raise funds for charity, like running a lemonade stand or hosting a car wash. Your children can learn that their time, skills, and willingness to work are valuable resources.

Summer is also an excellent time for family time. Take walks to explore the surrounding world. These walks can become valuable science lessons as you try to figure out the names of different plants and if they can be food or medicine, listen to different birdcalls to determine which bird is singing, and look for small little animals as you explore nature. Or you can plant a garden together and watch how vegetables and fruits grow. Then you can use that farming bounty to plan and cook a meal as a family.

The resurgence of the popularity of board games is a nice takeaway from the past few years. Family time spent playing one of these games can grow your children’s decision-making skills. Select games that teach basic principles of personal finance—Game of Life, Pay Day, Monopoly, Catan—or ones that focus on money management, like Cash Flow 101 and Cover Your Assets. With these games, your children learn basic financial concepts while having fun as a family.

If you have high school students in the house who are already “bored” this summer, have them start their scholarship search—whether their higher education is a couple of years away or if it begins this fall. Start by visiting the website of Federal Student Aid, the federal agency that administers the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It also offers scholarship guidance as well as links to other informational resources. Many free online scholarship sites like Sallie Mae, FinAid, and FastWeb exist. Your child will create a profile that matches them to eligible scholarships. Working a job over the summer is another great learning opportunity for your older children. Besides earning money that can go to their Ohio 529 savings account, a job can teach your child essential time-management, money-management, social, and listening skills. 

All these ideas can provide your children with valuable life lessons as they explore the world around them and their role in it.

Since 1989, Ohio’s 529 Plan has been helping families across the nation save tax-free for their children’s education. Ohio’s 529 Plan covers qualified costs tax-free at any four-year college or university, two-year community college, trade or vocational school, apprenticeship approved by the U.S. Labor Department, or certificate program nationwide that accepts federal financial aid. Learn, plan, and start for as little as $25 today at CollegeAdvantage

This article was originally posted in July 2023 and has been updated to reflect new information for 2024.

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