A Lazy Mom’s Guide to Keeping Brains Engaged All Summer

As parents we are keenly aware that kids need downtime, freedom for creative play and sacred space to relax. That said, learning is an important component of said playtime. Just because we do not need to hyper-schedule their daily lives, we can still encourage learning even in the free time. If you are looking for things to do with kids in New Orleans, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got an ultimate guide to summer fun in New Orleans with endless options of fun and a list of free things to do in New Orleans with Kids. But if you are looking for ideas that contain a learning component for when you do not want to do all the things in and around New Orleans, check out the list below. Of course consideration must be given to your child(ren)’s ages and the stages they are in. And if you find yourself looking for a creative outlet, we’ve got DIY ideas for you! 

Encouraging Learning During the Summer :: In & Out-of-the-Box Ideas

As much as we focus on academics, kids need downtime, especially in the summer. That is not saying that they need to be complete couch potatoes, of course, but summer is the perfect time to incorporate out-of-the-box learning ideas. Learning opportunities can be framed as fun new experiences, even if it is as simple as a walk around the neighborhood. Request that your child to be your “helper” and they’ll be more inclined to participate. There are many ways to encourage learning without kids even realizing that is what is happening. 

Out-of-the-Box-Ideas ::

Sewing classes: Sewing is becoming a lost art, but it’s still a really important and valuable skill. Classes are available locally at craft and fabric stores.

Parish Recreation programs: From art to karate to dance classes, check your Parish Recreation Department bulletin for inexpensive classes and camps during the week and on weekends.

Neighborhood scavenger hunts: Short on transportation? Take a walk around and look for things identifiable by color, letter, or unique quality. Even simple games of I Spy can go a long way. We have Halloween, Easter and Christmas themed neighborhood scavenger hunt ideas. 

Geocaching: The GNO area has a ton of spots for this family-friendly activity.

Wildlife Refuges and National Parks: Jean Lafitte, Bayou Segnette, Bayou Sauvage & Big Branch are all within an hour drive of the GNO area. Using your phone, take a photo of the plant and wildlife species featured in the ranger stations or welcome centers. Create your own scavenger hunts and try to find these species while out walking on the trails.

Battlefields & Forts: Chalmette Battlefield, Fort Pike, and Fort Jackson are great places to take your kids for a little history lesson and to run around.

Museums: Bayou Country Children’s Museum in Thibodaux, Children’s Discovery Center in Hammond, Knock Knock Museum in Baton Rouge, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport, Louisiana Children’s Museum, CAC, Ogden, WWII, and McKenna Museum of African-American Art all offer unique ways to discover arts & sciences within an hour of New Orleans.

Planetariums: Watch the stars at the Kenner Planetarium and in the Planetarium located inside the Luling Library.

Canoeing and Swamp Tours: Explore the swamps that surround us!

Ferry Rides: How many kids can say that they live so close to a ferry that goes across the mighty Mississippi? Make a day of the boat ride and the shops and galleries near the downtown and Algiers Point landings, or spend the day exploring St. Bernard or Plaquemines Parish.

Train Rides: You can take the Amtrak to Slidell for less than $20 a ticket.

Longue Vue House & Gardens: Interactive outdoor activities and beautiful gardens are plentiful at this beautiful property.

Farmers and seafood markets: Here, kids can learn about our local natural resources, and also work on their math skills. Check out the Crescent City Farmers Market (multiple locations) or Gretna Market.

4-H and LSU Ag Center: Check their page for updated outreach activities in each parish.

Attending different places of worship: Whether it’s a different location of your same faith, or a visit to a completely different religion’s place of worship, learning about the traditions and beliefs of others makes kids respectful and understanding citizens.

Playgrounds in new neighborhoods: Kids are likely to make friends with other kids wherever they go. Take them to a playground in a neighborhood outside of your own to meet new people and explore new equipment.

Finally, do not discount life skills or street smarts opportunities, like safety in public places, observing or assisting with adding air to or changing tires. Caring for neighbors who need extra help, volunteer opportunities, and random acts of kindness build pride, confidence, and empathy. Make sure you throw a couple of lazy days in there for everyone to recharge.

What activities do you like to do to encourage learning during the summer?

Lindsay is a native New Orleanian, displaced only by her years at Mississippi State, where she earned a B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries and a minor in English. She came home shortly after Katrina, to work as a zookeeper and be a part of the rebuilding of her beloved city. She dragged her husband Drake, a Tennessee native, along with her. Their son Bennett joined the family in 2010, and in 2014 they welcomed identical twin girls, Genevieve and Kellen Clair. She now works full-time as an Environmental Scientist while working on her Master's and serving part-time as NOM’s resident Jill of All Trades. Powered by espresso, cake, and craft beer, her happy place is on a beach or in the woods. Need to identify a plant, tree, or animal? Lindsay’s a wealth of random knowledge. She loves to cook and sprinkle a little glitter on everything.


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