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The After-School Projects To Keep Kids Busy This School Year

While it may seem like it just started, summer is quickly winding down and the new school year is upon us. Back-to-school means homework, studying and earlier bedtimes, but while kids need - and deserve - some free time to step away from the books, there’s no reason why they should spend all of their free time playing video games and watching television.

Instead, give them a project that won’t merely keep them occupied, but will also teach them new skills that’ll help them in later life. From robotics to linguistics, it’s easy for kids to find productive uses for their time. We’re sharing four of our favorites here.

Build a computer

If your kids have been begging for a new computer, why don’t you indulge them – but, with a big caveat – they’ve got to build it themselves!

If they’re a bit older, you can source the components yourselves from Amazon or Newegg, and let them build it themselves, relying upon online instruction guides and YouTube tutorials.

That said, younger kids don’t have to miss out. Kano, for example, sells educational computer kits that are aimed squarely at younger kids. They start by assembling the machine using pieces that slot together, a bit like Lego. Then, they’ve got a machine that’s pre-loaded with software designed to teach skills in software development and electronics, albeit in an age-appropriate way.

Learn a language

In an increasingly globalized world, language skills have never been so important. So, why don’t you set your child the challenge of learning a new tongue?

A good starting point is Duolingo, which teaches languages using a practical, heavily gamified approach. This free site boasts courses in Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Arabic, and more.

Then, you can reinforce your child’s formative learnings with free books from Project Gutenberg, foreign language films on Netflix, and by finding them an overseas pen-pal.

Teach them to cook

It’s never too early to learn to cook. Whether your child is still in elementary school, or about to head off to college, a solid grounding in the culinary arts will ensure they don’t have to subsist off fast food and ramen noodles when you’re not around.

If you’ve got an iPad, download the Kitchen Stories app, which offers beautiful HD video recipe guides. In no time, your kids will be cooking up stunning dishes (and hopefully washing the dishes, too).

Get artsy

There’s nothing better than markers and paper to get the creative juices going. If you’re looking to keep your kids busy this school year, invest in some art supplies. The best part about this is that you don’t need to download any apps and you can minimize unnecessary screen time, as it’s all centered around your child’s own creative imagination.

And if you want to preserve these precious artworks for the future (or, at the very least, so you can embarrass them when they bring a date home), you can use the next-generation Wi-Fi Cloud-Enabled ScanSnap iX1500 to create a perfect digital copy. Just let the paint dry first!

What projects do you engage your kids with during the summer that are both fun and educational?