Who says summer can’t be just as educational and fun as school? Customizing a vacation schedule for each child in the family is an eye-opening adventure in and of itself. If you want a peaceful, happy summer, help your kids stretch their wings beyond the usual, school-year routine. Transform your kids’ summer into weeks of entertaining growth by thoughtfully scheduling activities they will love and appreciate.
When it comes to stringing together local experiences, imagine the beads that would go on a charm bracelet for each of your kids. Which beads best represent your child’s interests? A soccer ball, a book and pair of hiking boots? Or perhaps a fairy wand, ballet slippers and a teacup? No matter what the collection of interests, gather up some regional guides, hop online, and ask friends what they have planned for their kids. You are going on a summer activity hunt and you don’t want to miss out on any of your options.
Take a customized approach to summer fun and meet the needs of your kids locally. You can find day camps, classes, workshops and activities in your area that will keep smiles on your kids’ faces all summer long.
Ink Year-round Commitments. You may already have school-year activities that extend into summer like scouting or 4-H. Be sure to get these commitments on your child’s schedule first, so you don’t inadvertently overbook. If your child participates in a sport or another competitive activity, training camps may be required during summer. These can be enriching because kids who train over the summer often rejoin their teams playing at a higher level than the prior season.
Ask For Referrals. Chances are good that parents who have lived in your area for several years have the scoop on the best day camps and summer programs. Poll your friends individually or post a question on social media to gather information. Specify each child’s interests to draw the most relevant recommendations, then hand pick a summer plan to delight each child. Don’t send the fun-loving child who longs for improv classes to the same activities as the serious sibling who adores long games of chess. They can swap adventures on the car-ride home, but make sure their activities reflect their passions.
Don’t Overlook Summer School. Generally speaking, if your child needs a leg-up on academics during the school year, summer school is a smart choice. Since the summer before high school, we have signed our daughter up to take a wellness course in the summer. Getting a jump on pre-requisites allows her to take an extra art elective during the school year, which provides a welcome break during an intense school day. Ask your child’s school counselor if taking summer school courses might benefit your child’s schedule next year. Some districts allow online learning or swapping summer athletic training to fulfill physical education requirements.
Check Local Resources. Schools, libraries, and community centers are great resources for summer activities. Be sure to track down any printed or online guides they may offer. Also check towns near where you live to see if they offer programs that may interest your child. By driving one town over, we found a community theater production our daughter can participate in inexpensively each summer. Now that’s worth a ten-minute drive.
Consider Your Child’s Needs. Sometimes a kid-centric focus is part of an activity’s allure. But if you know your child flourishes in a structured environment with adult leadership, trust your instincts. Be mindful of how much structure and supervision each offering includes. Some kids are more self-motivated than others. Consider scaffolding more leadership into your child’s summer experiences over time. If your child is reticent about trying new activities, see if school friends would like to try a new activity together. Kids of working parents often appreciate an opportunity to participate in summer programming, if you can pick up most of the driving.
Go Your Own Way. Sometimes you want your child to benefit from the experience of trying a new experience without school friends. So go ahead and enroll in activities where enthusiasm for the topic will trump any first-day butterflies. Do not cave to peer pressure if all of the other kids are doing an activity that is not a good match for your child. If the program focus isn’t a good fit, the experience isn’t going to be enriching no matter how many friends are in attendance. Make timely, age-appropriate choices for your children, and when religion is an activity focus, make sure it fits with your family’s values.
Don’t Overlook A Summer Reading Challenge. If your child has a busy summer schedule, you might be concerned about enough down time. Signing your child up for a summer reading challenge at the beginning of summer is a great way to build downtime into any schedule. On busy days, reading will provide a welcome reprieve from social activity. And on lazy days, having a daily book-reading commitment can get an unscheduled day off to a good start.
Christina Katz is an author, journalist, and writing coach who loves local adventures. She never runs out of interesting things to see and do in her area, and hopes to pass this attitude down to her daughter.