Summer is a welcome break from school and a chance to spend time together as a family. But parents may worry that too much time in the swimming pool will stall their child’s learning. By finding the right combination of fun and education, you can make sure your kids expand their minds all summer long.

Here are some ideas for covering math and language arts without, as kids might say, sucking the fun out of summer.

Math Activities

It’s the subject that can strike fear in kids and parents. Experts say the best way to neutralize the fear of math is to make it relevant to kids. Here are some fun ways to do just that.

Picnic learning: Let your kids take charge of a family picnic. Give them a budget and let them plan the menu, shop for the food, and pack everything. For more challenge, add nutritional goals, such as grams of protein per serving and overall calories.

Pan for gold: Bury pennies in a sandbox and have children use colanders or sieves to find them. Then have them count their loot. Compare findings and crown the winner.

Estimating time and distance: The next time your child asks “Are we there yet?” help her figure it out. Using tools like a map or road signs, ask her to estimate how far you’ve traveled and how much longer it will take to reach your destination. On routine trips, ask questions like “It’s 2:15, and it will take 25 minutes to get to the doctor’s office. Will we arrive before your 3:00 appointment?”

License plate learning: When you’re on the road, have your kids study the license plate on the car in front of you. Have them rearrange the numbers on the plate to make the largest three-digit number possible. The person with the largest number wins the round. Change it up by asking for the smallest number possible. Introduce algebra by using plate numbers to solve math problems. For example, add two numbers to get the answer 6 (for example, 3 + 3). Or use three numbers to get 6, such as (3 + 3) x 1 = 6.

Grocery game: Cut out photos of grocery items from magazines, catalogs, and flyers. Help your child glue them to individual index cards. As you develop your grocery list, ask your child to find the picture of the needed item. Ask your child to count the cards to determine how many items you need. For added challenge, have your child group items by food group and count the number of items in each group.

Clipping coupons: Teach money management by involving your children in your family’s grocery budget. Instruct your kids to look in newspapers and flyers and clip coupons for items on your list. Then give your child some coins and ask him to count out how much is saved by a single coupon. How many different coin combinations can he make to total the savings—such as 50 cents—using nickels, dimes, quarters? Have your child figure out the total savings.

Grouping groceries: As you put away groceries, play Guess My Rule. Group items based on a common feature—such as cold items or canned items. Challenge your child to guess what rule you used to group items. Switch roles and ask her to use another rule to regroup the items. See if you can guess her rule—glass jars, cardboard packages, food groups? This is a great way to help your child develop classifying and mathematical reasoning skills and the ability to analyze data.

Language Arts Activities

One of the best ways to help children develop a love of language is to encourage them to play with words. Start with these word games and activities that will have kids reading and writing for the fun of it.

Word search: Enlarge and copy a portion of the newspaper or magazine. Write four or five words at the top of the paper and ask your child to search for them in the article, using a highlighter to mark the words.

Home theater: Create a stage where your children can put on plays, do dramatic readings, recite poems, and sing songs. Assign everyone in the family part of a one-act play to read. Perform for the grandparents. Go to plays or children’s theater presentations to pick up acting and production tips.

Picture a book: When reading from books without pictures, have children cut pictures from magazines that look like the characters and settings they visualize. Or create separate sketches and compare them. Put the pictures together and let children retell the story.

Summer journal: Let your child choose or make a special journal to record thoughts, feelings, activities, and sketches. The journal will help him remember activities and deepen his understanding of experiences.

History rewrite: Choose a famous historical event your child has studied. Talk about the event—where and why it happened, the time period, and the people involved. Next, select another place with which your child is familiar. Ask her to retell the tale, setting it in the new location. She can rely on imagination and discussion, or research the place to come up with realistic details. If you have more than one player, give them different places to see how their stories differ. As an alternative, change the historical time instead of the place and discuss how you’ve changed history.

Volunteer reading: Is there an elderly relative, a neighbor, or a younger friend your child can read to over the summer? Reading for an audience is a different experience than reading independently. Your child will build confidence in his reading skills and feel good about giving of his time to someone else.

The recipe for a perfect summer has just the right mix of relaxation, physical activity, family togetherness, and learning. You may need to tinker a bit to find the right combination for your family. Once you do, you’ll be able to cook up a summer full of fun and engaging activities.

Journalist Patti Ghezzi covered education and schools for 10 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She lives in Avondale Estates, Ga., with her family, which includes husband Jason, daughter Celia, and geriatric mutt Albany.