by Calle Mendenhall

Summertime is hard for parents, especially those who work. Shuffling kids around to various practices, games, tournaments and camps leaves little time for educational activities. Plus, kids want their downtime to watch tv and play on their devices. Given these limitations, here are five fun and sneaky ways to engage your kids’ minds this summer without them realizing what you’re up to:

Help in the Kitchen.

The kitchen is filled with tons of math and science activities. If your child is older, have them cook dinner one evening with a recipe involving fractions. For example, if you have a family of 5 and the recipe serves 4, your child will have to convert fractions to the same measuring units to get the recipe right. If your child is younger, ask them to help you bake a dessert one weekend.

Your child can count out how many cookies there are or chocolate chips inside the cookies. They could also count how many pie slices make the whole pie and how many are left after eating a slice!

Create a Weekly Library Lunch Date.

People often forget about libraries, which offer plenty of free or inexpensive activities. Most libraries encourage summer reading through different programs, often involving prizes or free food at a local restaurant after finishing a certain number of books. Parents can make library day fun by treating their little ones to a burger and milkshake before or after going to the library. Encourage your child to read for an hour each day.

Visit Local Museums and the Zoo.

Museums are a great summer activity when the weather is unbearably hot or raining. Most have great websites detailing each exhibit. Find an item or two at the museum and give your kids clues to find the items. For example, ask your child to find a painting by one of the most famous impressionists who lived North of Paris. This scavenger hunt will motivate your child to read the signs and plaques at the museum to find the answer. Similarly, a visit to the zoo is a wonderful learning experience for children of all ages. Zoos often have animal encounters where guests can learn more about the animals and see them more closely.

Arts & Crafts.

A great way to sneak in some learning is to let your child choose a craft or art project. Take them to the nearest big box or hobby store and let them decide whether they want to paint, draw, mold clay, color or any other option the store may have. If your child feels like they control their activity, they will be more inclined to enjoy it.

Write to a Friend.

Before the internet, people corresponded with pen pals or family members who lived far away through letters. If you are traveling this summer, have your child get the addresses of a couple of their friends. When you are on vacation, let your child pick out postcards or send a letter using hotel stationery to those friends about the trip. Writing letters encourages kids to work on their handwriting and writing comprehension. If your child is old enough to have an email address, encourage your child to send an email to one of their friends or relatives describing the place where you are vacationing and the activities your family is doing.