Being a former elementary and middle school teacher, I like to try and fit in learning experiences with the kids without them even knowing it. These are ideas you can do with your kids all the time and they will be having fun, spending quality time with you, and be learning as well.
Kids learn by example, and if you set the example that reading is important then it will be for them. Reading on a regular basis correlates to higher test scores and a more extensive vocabulary. Libraries are a great resource, and shopping and looking around bookstores is fun as well. Also, check out what this teacher says about reading nightly.
This is a fun game you can play with the kids while in the car (and I’ve been spending a lot of time driving on vacations and to and from activities). Practice letters, colors, shapes, reading, math, etc. Example: I spy the letter D (Dunkin’ Donuts). How many do you see? (2). I spy a white triangle (sail on the Chelo’s sign). How many people are on the sign? (4).
Cooking is fun, and kids can learn a lot from measuring, mixing, and baking. Math and science skills can be practiced by discussing and measuring ingredients, seeing what happens when things are mixed together, learn what different amounts of ingredients can do, and even dividing up amounts (cupcakes into groups).
I like to pick up fun educational books that I find for the kids. I make it out to be a fun thing, not a chore. Many good books can be found at Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Costco, etc. (or online). Kids can even use the workbooks to “play school,” and the books are easy to pack for a fun vacation activity. Also, let kids have some “computer time” to play/learn. I found some sites I think are educational that you can check out.
Plan educational field trip for the kids! They think they are just getting out of the house and doing something fun on the weekend. Children’s Museums, Aquariums, Zoos, Nature Centers, and Historic Sites are all great places to take the kids.
While my parents were watching my kids recently, they took them to the Hidden Pond Nature Center and The Air and Space Museum. My kids found both of them to be so much fun (and very educational). My kids also love learning about history. We visited the Smith Castle in North Kingstown, RI recently, and they learned so much! Field trips are so much fun for the kids; they don’t even realize they are learning!