A guide to summer fun for your children

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As summertime approaches and the weather gets warmer, children become more eager to get out of the house and play outside. Summer is definitely a fun time of the year for kids, but for parents summer can be a challenging time, especially when it comes to finding things for your children to do if they are not enrolled in summer school.

Every year, parents with young children ask us, “What are some fun activities for kids in preschool or kindergarten through third grade to do during the summer?” My staff and I understand how challenging this can be, especially if you are recently new to the area, if English is not your primary language, or if some programs are cost prohibitive.

Way to Grow is here to help you. We’ve compiled a lengthy list of fun, free (or low-cost) summer activities that will keep your active child entertained and engaged.

Summer reading programs

Book It to the Parks on June 21 for this one-day summer reading event celebrating the opening of 50 new Little Free Libraries throughout the city. Authors, guest readers and radio hosts will read children’s books at story times in various Minneapolis parks from 7 am – 8 pm. For a list of parks and story times, visit the Minneapolis Foundation website listed below.

Half Price Books has launched “Feed Your Brain,” a summer reading program encouraging kids from preschool to high school to log reading hours and earn “bookworm bucks.” Program information is available on the Half Price Books (hpb) website listed below.

Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program lets kids earn a free book if they read eight books during the summer. To learn more, visit the Barnes & Noble website listed below.

Bookawocky, the metro area libraries’ summer reading program, offers reading clubs, free library events and activities, reading lists and programs for kids. The Hennepin County Library’s website (hclib) is listed below for further information.

Read and Ride Day, Wednesday, Aug. 30 at the Minnesota State Fair, is a great chance for your child to get a discount on an admission ticket if he/she is a library card holder. To learn more, visit the State Fair website listed below.   

Fun and play

Waterparks and swimming pools throughout the metro area and Minneapolis parks offer children swimming lessons and have wading pools for tots who are accompanied by parents. Contact each location for hours, fees (if applicable) and locations.

  • North Commons Waterpark, North Minneapolis, 612-370-4921
  • Lupient Waterpark, Northeast Minneapolis, 612-370-4937
  • Webber Natural Swimming Pool, South Minneapolis, 612-370-4972

Wee Wednesdays at Midtown Global Market, a fun, FREE 45-minute structured group activity for children five years and under, begins at 10:30 am each Wednesday. Parents are encouraged to mingle while they watch their children play. Learn more by visiting the Global Market website listed below.

Fun with crafts

On rainy summer days when your children play inside, consider these activities that are entertaining for children of all ages:

  • Flash cards will help your child identify and pronounce letters of the alphabet and count numbers.
  • Finger painting is a way to encourage your child to have fun with finger paints and at the same time improve his/her fine motor skills.
  • A Cheerios hanging bird feeder or an egg carton sailboat are easy-to-do crafts made with familiar household items that can help your child understand how to put pieces together.

Educational and personal growth

Urban Ventures’ Learning Lab is designed for children enrolled in grades 1-8 and offers enrichment opportunities such as music, STEM, and entrepreneurship programs. To enroll, call 612-545-9848 or email Nichole Flowers@ urbanventures.org.

Park Avenue Freedom School has a summer school program for children grades K-8 that uses culturally appropriate role models and includes out-of-school activities to sustain and improve academic performance, confidence and self-esteem. For more information, call 612-825-6864.

WE WIN Institute runs a summer program three days per week for children from K-8. Kids will enjoy a variety of academic and social activities, reading and African drumming. For more information, call 612-721-2364.

Brian Coyle Center offers a wide range of school and summer programs for K-12 graders, including day camps and field trips, overnight camping opportunities, athletic teams and tutoring services. For more information, call 612-338-5282.










Carolyn Smallwood is CEO of Way to Grow. Since joining Way to Grow in 2004, Carolyn has pledged to be the voice for all Twin Cities children. She is deeply committed to issues that concern our children and recently sat on Governor Dayton’s Early Learning Council; she currently co-chairs Mayor Betsy Hodges’ Cradle to K Cabinet, and serves on MN Comeback board and the MinneMinds Executive Committee. To learn more about Carolyn and how you can help Way to Grow do even more for children, visit http://waytogrow.org.