It’s not long until the schools are out and no doubt we will be busy playing outside, travelling, and the kids having a well deserved rest after a year in school too, with plenty of unscheduled free time to use their imagination and make up their own games. It’s important to me to get the right balance over the summer. It’s essential for kids to keep a little learning going to prevent the “summer slide” but I definitely feel that they do need a break too.  I deal with this by keeping learning fun and encouraging them to pursue whichever areas which they are interested in to help fuel their passion for learning, since they have to rigidly follow the National Curriculum all year which doesn’t have so much flexibility. My boys are all still pretty young, so learning through play is the best way to go, reinforcing the simple concepts for Mr T and Mr R and allowing Mr Z to discover and explore the slightly more advanced topics in his own playful ways.

10 ways to learn through play this summer

{This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Thanks for your support}

I often find that the simplest toys can offer so many opportunities for learning through play, although I’m happy with everything in moderation and technology gives some wonderful learning opportunities too!

Here are ten of our favourite ways to learn through play. 

Wooden toys

Simple wooden toys have so many possibilities. Building Blocks can be used for colour recognition, construction, maths, art work and so much more. Check out our 18 activities with wooden blocks for lots of play ideas if you need some more inspiration.

Wooden trains are fantastic for developing imagination and story telling skills, and you can easily incorporate plenty of letter or number games while still keeping things fun.  The little carriages with letters and numbers are great! (UK / US)

Small world toys are also great for language development and story telling. As children get older they could develop this by writing or drawing their stories after acting them out, or writing a play to perform with the toys. Some of our favourites are:

  • Hape Discovery Spaceship (UK / US)
  • Melissa and Doug Medieval Folding Castle (UK / US)
  • Haba My First Play World Sets (UK / US)


learning through play with chalk

It’s such an important step when children start mark making. Like reading it opens up so many possibilities to them in terms of learning and creativity. The quintessential mark making toy for the summer has got to be chalk! There are so many ways to play with chalk, and we have spent many a fun hour outside chalking the floor and the walls in the sunshine!

Check out some of our favourite ways to play and learn with chalk. We’ve just installed a chalk board onto our playroom wall so we can continue the chalk fun indoors on rainy days. Pretty much any paper and pencil games will also translate well to a chalk board, unless it’s one which involves folding the paper.

Playdough and Other Sensory and Messy Play

learning through play with sensory play

One of the best ways to learn is by getting in there and feeling, touching and experiencing different things. This is how babies learn about the world around them. It’s the earliest science, and something that still has so much benefit as kids get older. A lot of children definitely absorb more through this type of active and involved playful learning. There’s a huge list of ideas in my introduction to sensory play which will also give you more info on what is sensory play and what are the benefit of it. Some of our favourite easy to get hold of substances to use are:

Click through each one for fun ideas involving that sensory material


Books are really one of the ultimate resources for learning. Instilling a love of books in my children from a young age has always been important to me. Books can open a door to anywhere in the world, past or present, near, far, real or imaginary and I hope my kids can always feel that books and reading are fun! To keep things enjoyable I don’t always pressure Mr Z to read the school reading scheme books every day, instead I will let him choose suitable books that appeal to his interests – a mixture of fiction and non fiction. Of course I do follow the reading schemes with him too, but during the summer holidays he would have total freedom with his reading. He chooses to read a lot of Mr Men and Disney stories, and anything football or racing car related is also a hit these days.

Here are some playful products to help children with their reading and some fun literacy games and activities to play at home

My younger boys are not yet reading independently but books are no less important for their age group. Here’s our ultimate list of books for toddlers and preschoolers.

Card Games

There are so many different games that can be played with simple packs of cards, whether traditional cards, flash cards, top trumps or Pokemon cards. Many of these develop quick and logical thinking and numeracy skills. They give great opportunities for turn taking, and there are many games you can play with flashcards to help language development and to reinforce learning of topics in a playful way.

Take a look at all these ways to play with flashcards.

Field Trip

field trip ideas for kids - castles

There’s no learning like getting out “in the field”! By experiencing things first hand, kids imaginations can really be sparked. They will end up thinking of much more questions and absorbing much more information about the topic they are experiencing. We have been visiting a lot of castles and ruins lately, along with a lot of different coastal areas. These trips can be combined with all sorts of learning once back at home. We used our beach trips as inspiration for an alphabet project and for seaside crafts.

There are some brilliant interactive science museums around too which cater even to very young children. If you are around London then the Science Museum and the National History Museum are obvious choices, and The Look Out Bracknell is brilliant if you are a little further out.

Even simple summer activities like visiting a Pick Your Own farm can have plenty of learning potential as you chat about what you’re doing, what you can see and share any other relevant information while your child’s enthusiasm has been sparked.


science experiment ideas for kids

There are so many simple science experiments that you can work on at home in a playful and fun way. Check out these science experiments for kids for some inspiration, these are more for the slightly older child of around 7+ although some can be adapted to make them more accessible for younger children.

Project Work


It’s easy to link up projects to the field trips you have enjoyed together, or just follow your child’s lead into whatever topic interests them at the moment. How about making an Egyptian Pyramid out of paper , making art in the style of Van Gogh, or learning about the moon?


Kids learning through baking - numeracy skills in a practical life setting

Baking is one of the best ways to practise numeracy skills in a real life situation, and is also a great life skill for kids to get under their belt. These are some of the simple recipes my kids enjoy making:

Easy Apple Biscuits

Decorated Biscuits

Mr Men themed Baking ideas

Puff Pastry Pizza

Quick and easy pizza bread


kids learning through technology

I’m not against using technology in moderation to help with learning. Here are some of the apps we use:

10 great apps for kids

10 more apps for kids 

I’m also a huge fan of Reading Eggs and Mathseed for a fun way for children to learn through technology. My kids love this and have really learned a lot through these programmes. We’ve also been using Rosetta Stone for language learning.

This post is part of the Schools Out Summer Series, where I’m sharing my top 10 tips for things to do in the Summer alongside lots more amazing bloggers from the Kid Blogger Network. You can check out all of the posts via the button below. 



Photo Source: Shutterstock (modified)