Look beyond the books at your local library. Many libraries are true resource centers, offering a wide array of educational and cultural activities. Your child can participate in group learning projects, learn a foreign language, build technology skills and more. Young children in particular can have a lot of fun participating in storytelling activities, while teens can often use libraries to learn about colleges and universities and the steps that need to be taken to qualify for admission.
Encourage ambitious independent learning projects. If your child enjoys writing and storytelling, consider journaling activities. These can be as simple as keeping a diary or more inventive tasks such as using prose, photography and illustrations to chronicle summertime activities such as family trips or camp. If your child is especially visual, consider using a loose-leaf notebook that enables individual pages to be taken out and posted in family-friendly areas such as the kitchen or playroom.
Scientifically-minded students can find many exciting "science fair"-type projects through books at their local library and through Web sites that specialize in sharing this type of information. One of the most comprehensive sites is "Science Fair Central," offered by The Discovery Channel at http://school.discoveryeducation.com/sciencefaircentral/.
Students who enjoy mathematics can test and strengthen their skills through Figure This! (www.figurethis.org). Created by The National Science Foundation in partnership with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, this initiative features engaging mathematics challenges that are designed to be completed by children and families together. While they tend to be "fun," the challenges are also an effective primer for the rigorous mathematics that most students will be required to master in school.
Volunteer. Lending a hand to those in need and engaging in community service projects can build a strong sense of self-esteem and people-skills. Most communities offer ample opportunities to volunteer through churches, schools, local government initiatives and neighborhood associations. You can also find an abundance of well-structured volunteer programs in every state by visiting the "Learn and Serve America" Web site, part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, at www.learnandserve.gov.
Turn to teachers and school counselors for help. After spending many months with your child, teachers and guidance counselors can be good sources of information on summer learning activities that tie into your child's interests and aptitudes. Talking with these educators can also give you great ideas for summertime learning opportunities that strengthen your child's grounding in "the basics" and expand horizons and expectations for the year to come.