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Earlier in the summer I wrote this blog post about getting your computer ready for a kid-friendly summer, and I focused pretty heavily on safety. I tend to do that, because worrying is my speciality. What I left out of that blog post was the crucial element: fun! No one wants an unending lecture about the perils of Internet use, especially a bored nine year old. So this time around, I’m going to take a look at some fun computer projects and activities that your kids can do over the course of the summer. Don’t worry, I’ll sneak some learning opportunities in there.

Take to the skies!

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This project is the perfect combination of creative computer use and physical activity. The goal is to use a drone camera to capture footage of a significant area nearby, and then edit the video into a movie to show the rest of the family. The Protocol Galileo Quadcopter Drone with Camera is a good example of an affordable drone that will get your child started on their cinematic journey. This is a project more suited to older kids. If your child isn’t in their teen years yet, plan to be heavily involved in the project.

Become a YouTube sensation!

Okay, actually achieving YouTube stardom is highly unlikely. But your kid can have a tremendous amount of fun creating videos to share with friends and family. They can perform songs, recite their newest poetic creations, or do their own ‘how-to’ crafting video: they’re only limited by their imagination. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of video creators showing their Minecraft building skills or doing Pokemon tips and tricks, and there is always room for more. Keep an eye on the privacy settings, for sharing the videos and for the comment section. (The Internet can be a rough place)

Fun educational games for the younger crowd!

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Don’t mention the educational value, and just send your kid over to Prodigy the Math Game. It’s a roleplaying game that uses math problems as the combat mechanic. They build and improve a collection of additional characters, and all the while your kid is working on their math skills. There are premium features available for a monthly subscription, like access to more exotic in-game items and the ability for you to track your child’s progress and areas of improvement, but the basic free game is strong enough on its own.

And for a collection of fast, free age-appropriate games, check out the kids-friendly television channel websites like PBSkids or Disney. They have web browser games based on their television shows and movies, and the variety of games is impressive.

Fun educational games for the older kids: Explore the world of STEM!

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math: the foundations of understanding the physical world around us, and the tools to build some really cool stuff. Though there are sites for a wide age range of kids, your older ones will get the most out of these topics. For example, the site TryEngineering.org has a couple of really neat free web games about designing solar cars or bionic limbs. You might discover that you have a budding engineer in the house. You can also take scavenger hunts to the next level, by giving the kids a list of items that they have to first find, and then research.

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Need to set their sights even higher? How about space? The Kerbal Space Program is a fun space flight simulation game that will test your teen’s ability to build and adapt their space ships to get the Kerbals successfully into space. 

Arts and Crafts!

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Family pictures are usually pretty static and passive, but they can be great material for a fun craft project. Using a photo printer like the Canon PIXMA PRO-100 Wireless Professional All-in-One Inkjet Photo Printer allows the kids to print out a selection of pictures they choose for their project. The next stage of the project is up to your young creators. They can make a collage poster of all the photos, with their own illustrations and writing in the spaces between the pictures to give them context and tell a story. Or they can make their own ‘dreambook’, combining the photos of their loved ones with images exotic locations and activities for their idea of the perfect vacation.

Build your own website!

With all of the creative work they’ve done so far, there’s only one item missing. Building a website to show off their work is a great way to increase their tech skills, and every kid loves to have a place to show off their projects. There are a few different free site options, with varying features and levels of complexity. Wix.com is a straight forward, drag and drop website creator that can easily handle the demands of your kid’s first website. Add in the video footage from their drone adventures, a picture of their photo collage, and a daily update on their summer adventures, and now your child can share their experiences with family and friends across the globe. Make sure that any comments left on their site have to be approved before posting. You want to make sure that the comments sections don’t get filled with spam and inappropriate noise.

Fun for the sake of fun!

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Not every waking moment needs to have a teachable lesson. Sometimes, it’s just about playing games. There are a host of freemium (free to play with premium content you can purchase) games that are entertaining, at least for the first few days. Games like League of Legends and Warframe are great for the teens in your house, while games like Herotopia are great for the younger crowd. And Minecraft is the one size fits all fun solution for every age range (including mom and dad).

Mixing it up is the Key!

No matter how fantastic any one project or game is, your kid will get tired of it eventually. Switching between a few ongoing activities will keep things exciting and fun for the length of summer. Add in some quality time working with you, screen breaks to rest their eyes, and some sunshine and fresh air, and you have the recipe for a perfect summer of fun.

images from Prodigygame.com, kerbalspaceprogram.com, microsoft.com, minecraft.net