Enrich Your Child’s Summer Schedule With Local Activities & Save A Bundle
Sleep-away camp can be an exciting, empowering adventure for kids who are mature enough to handle the expectations. However, there are plenty of good reasons why overnight camp may not be a perfect fit for your family this year. Don’t feel like you have to apologize if you want to take a more customized approach to summer fun to meet the needs of your kids locally. Chances are good you can find day camps, classes and activities in your area that will keep smiles on your kids’ faces all summer long.
The primary reason we don’t send our teenage daughter away to camp is because it would be challenging to find a camp that would meet all of her needs in one experience. We can better satisfy her desires, and spend a lot less money, by making the most of opportunities in our area. True, we end up driving miles in multiple directions and juggling a variety of schedules, but somehow the activities we’ve chosen end up complimenting each other nicely. And we always make sure to take a few weeks off, usually at the end of summer, to rest, relax, and regroup before school starts back up again.
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 conduct searches, and ask friends what they have planned for their kids. You are going on a summer activity hunt.
Who says summer can’t be educational and fun? Customizing a summer schedule for each child in the family is an eye-opening adventure in and of itself. If you want a peaceful summer, help your kids stretch their wings beyond the usual, school-year routine. Turn your child’s summer into weeks of entertaining growth by thoughtfully scheduling activities each year.
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 are often required during summer. When I was a kid, I often envied teammates who rejoined the team playing on a higher level than the season before thanks to attending summer training camp.
Ask For Referrals. Chances are good that parents who have lived in your area for several years have the 411 on the best day camps and summer classes. Poll your friends individually or post a poll on social media to gather information. Be sure to specify all your kids’ interests to attract the most relevant recommendations. The whole point of customizing schedules is to come up with 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 child who adores long games of chess. They can share the car-ride, but make their activities reflect their individual passions.
Don’t Overlook Summer School. Since the summer before high school, we sign our daughter up to take a wellness course in the summer. Getting a jump on these pre-requisites allows her to take an extra art elective during the school year, which provides a welcome break during her school day. Ask your child’s school counselor if taking summer school courses might benefit your child’s schedule next year. Some districts even allow online learning or swapping summer athletic training for physical education requirements.
Check Local Resources. Schools, libraries, and community centers are great resources for finding summer activities. Be sure to ask for any printed or online guides they may offer. Also check towns near where you live to see if they offer additional programs that may interest your child. By driving one town over, at the beginning of each summer, we found a community theater production our daughter can participate in inexpensively. Now that’s worth a ten-minute drive.
Consider Your Child’s Needs. Be mindful of how much structure and supervision each offering includes. Some kids are more self-motivated than others. 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. Consider scaffolding more leadership into your child’s summer experiences over time. If your child is reticent about trying new activities or making new friends, see if any school friends wish to try a new activity together. This can also allow for carpooling.
Go Your Own Way. You may want your child to benefit from the experience of trying a new experience without school friends. If so, enroll in activities where enthusiasm for the topic will trump any first-day butterflies. Do not bend to social 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 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 a focus, make sure it suits your family’s values.
Don’t Overlook A Summer Reading Challenge. If your child has a busy summer schedule, you might be concerned about not 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 type of 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.
Budget For Sleep-away Camp. As you are putting your children through the paces of overcoming fears about new experiences with fresh faces, you may be thinking that this is all great preparation for sleep-away camp in the future. And that’s true. Why not start a conversation now about the possibility of sleep-away camp down the road? Consider opening a savings account to make overnight camp as positive of an experience as possible when the time comes. Encourage your child to pitch in and help save money with you. Then, when the time to register arrives, you’ll both have buy-in and the flexibility of choice you crave.
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 proclivity down to her daughter.