With two weeks of holiday break stretched out ahead, here are some fun ways to keep kids occupied and engaged, as collected over time on MindShift.
1. DIVE INTO MINECRAFT.
Simply put, Minecraft is a game that lets you build worlds out of blocks. But Minecraft’s visual simplicity belies what is a completely open-ended and therefore terrifically complex world. And the best of that world: it’s up to the player to design. Minecraft is what’s known as a “sandbox” game, giving players almost complete freedom to build within it. While many video games are focused on certain goals — level up, save the princess, destroy the aliens, for example — Minecraft has no clear-cut missions, at least not in that way. Players in Minecraft must scavenge for resources in order to build things — mining for stone to build buildings, mining for coal to build fire. One of the only limitations in-game is time — the sun sets each evening and when it’s dark, spiders and skeletons come out and can attack the characters.
2. MAKE A FILM.
The next Steven Spielberg might emerge from a summer movie-making project. Kids can exercise their writing, creativity, organization, and artistic skills by making their own movies, just as any director does: writing scripts, choosing actors, practicing lines, not to mention actually filming and editing. For those who own an Apple computer, iMovie makes the process very simple. YouTube also offers free editing, and you can find other editing software online.
3. START A DIY PROJECT.
Refrigerators and fireplace mantles might still be covered with children’s projects, but more and more, those projects are finding a home online. That’s just one of the purposes for DIY.org, a site that allows kids to upload photos of their projects and share it with their friends, family, and the public. Check out all the amazing kid-made projects from across the world.
4. LEARN TO PROGRAM.
It’s hard to argue with the importance of teaching students how to use computers — how to turn on, log on, search the Web, and use applications. These skills are absolutely necessary for students’ academic success as well as for their future job prospects. Here are five tools to introduce kids to programming.
5. BECOME A CITIZEN SCIENTIST.
Citizen science takes scientific inquiry and research out of the lab (and out of the sole purview of scientists and researchers) and puts it in the hand of those without formal scientific training — “citizens,” volunteers, and, yes, students. There are a number of ways that students can engage in citizen science projects over the summer, whether they’re spotting animals or identifying plants. Here are a few suggested apps and websites.
6. AUTHOR A WRITING PROJECT.
Budding writers can start a week-long writing project focused on a specific theme. Write about animal skeletons and types of clouds; or invent TV cartoon characters based on exotic animals, or spend the week writing about magic or food or chocolate. Re-imagine your favorite fairytales with your chosen theme. Write and draw short stories, poems, or illustrations inspired by the subject you’ve chosen. Turn the storytelling process upside down by using pictures and math equations to tell a story, or describe a classroom through a teacher’s eyes, or describe the days of the week as if they were people. Find hundreds of writing prompts on this Tumblr blog.