They call it “summer slide” for a reason. Many kids don’t read—or learn anything—during the summer break. What’s worse, they can lose a grade level or more in reading ability. As a mom of three, I know that forcing reading on some kids can cause the biggest battle of the day. Gently encouraging reading works for some kids, but for others (let’s just say my youngest), you may want to offer something like a rewards system. Here are seven ideas to keep kids learning all summer long.

Join Your Library

Many libraries have summer reading programs, and offer reward to encourage kids to read. Some libraries also offer summer classes for kids of all ages. Teens can even volunteer to read to younger children or to help with summer programs at some libraries. Make sure that your kids have their own library cards, and take them to choose books every week or so. There’s nothing like coming home with a stack of new reading options.

Offer Rewards

As most parents know, incentives work well for some kids and not for others.  For example, I offer my son an ice cream as an incentive for 15 minutes of reading.  If I offered ice cream for an hour of reading, he’d melt down faster than that cone on a hot day. Or your child can work toward a special outing—a visit to a toy store, lunch at a favorite restaurant, or an afternoon at an amusement park—after he or she reads X amount of books. Sit down with your child to come up with ambitious but realistic goals.

Visit a Local Museum

Museums and science centers are some of my favorite places on a steamy day! I have spent many days over the years at these educational centers and they are fun for all ages. Kids forget they are learning and immerse themselves in new experiences. If you’ve visited your local museums multiple times, why not drive a few hours to visit a new one?

Write Letters

Have your kids write letters to far-flung grandparents or cousins about their summer adventures (emails are fine too!). Encourage them to include drawings, too.  This is a great way to engage kids in creative writing and drawing, and to practice handwriting, too.

Visit Bookstores

On a hot or rainy day, spend a few hours browsing at your favorite independant book store. Bookstores often feature children’s events and book readings. Tweens and teens may appreciate a magazine subscription or two. Encourage your child to check out the magazine section at a large bookstore and choose a few favorites.

Monthly Subscription Box

Consider signing up for an educational subscription box (you can find many choices online).  These boxes offer everything from science experiments to crafts, and keep kids engaged in interesting activities based on their age and interests (including astronomy, science, geology, building, magic, cooking, and more).

Travel Whenever Possible

From battlefields to arboretums, everything is a learning experience when you’re on the road. Farms and big cities offer cultural experiences that will take both you and your children out of your usual routines. Visit Renaissance festivals, planetariums, aquariums, and farmers markets. Go to the beach or take a hike. These outings don’t have to break the bank; just pack a picnic and hit the road. In the summer, “the school of life” offers the most valuable education of all—and precious family time, too.

More summer learning ideas.