The Elementary Years
Planning your summer with young children can include a wide variety of activities. During the elementary school years, children are eager to explore and soak up new experiences and information. Summer can be a time to take advantage of more free time, warmer weather, and family time. Here are some ideas to help you brainstorm fun summer plans:
- Help your children experience new things. Summer may be an ideal time to schedule lessons or camps for music, sports, art, theatre, and other passions.
- Don’t stop reading. Make regular visits to the library to find fun books to borrow for relaxed summer reading. Most libraries have summer reading programs that help add an extra element of community and enjoyment for a child. Read more here about how to create a summer reading list with your child.
- Create your own holiday. Let your children plan the decorations and festivities. Some fun ideas could include a birthday party for your pet, or a day with a special theme that your kids choose themselves.
- Use your outside space in unexpected ways. Your backyard could become the setting for a kid’s version of the summer Olympic Games, a scavenger hunt, an obstacle course, or a nighttime neighborhood movie party.
- Embrace your local community. Rainy days are ideal for visiting local museums and historic societies, and sunny days are perfect for picking your own produce at local farms. Many towns begin the summer with bicycle safety clinics, which can help your kids feel more comfortable exploring their immediate neighborhood on wheels.
- Enrich family trips. Whether you are traveling near or far, family vacations can be a time to research personal genealogy, “interview” older relatives about their childhood years, and learn more about your family’s unique history.
- Keep a record. Start with a blank scrapbook or notebook at the beginning of the summer, and enlist the entire family to tape or paste in tickets, photographs, and other mementos of their summer experiences, along with quick reflections about their favorite parts of each experience. At the end of the season, your family will have a wonderful record of summer adventures.
Once summer draws to a close, encourage your young children to carry over their summer experiences into the school year. Whether they become involved in the Pen Pal Program or other clubs, Laurel Springs provides many ways for elementary-aged children to connect their personal interests to enhanced learning opportunities.
The middle school years are a time for children to balance increased independence with family structure. Tweens and teens are in a developmental stage wherein they are finding their way, but still need the support of rules and guidance from older family members. Children in this age group can feel empowered by making more of their own choices, especially when those choices build skills or help others. Parents can help by providing a framework that has the desired amount of structure, but still allows kids to develop independence incrementally. Ideally, summer can be a mix of family time and activities with peers. Here are some suggestions to explore with your child:
- Incorporate friends into summer activities. If your family takes a summer vacation, consider allowing your child to invite a close friend to come along for company; or, coordinate with the families of your child’s friends to select summer camps where your child will have friends with whom to share the experience.
- Explore hobbies and interests. Summer is a fantastic time for students to delve deeper into activities such as sports, hobbies, or other passions.
- Give back. Children who volunteer in an area of interest learn responsibility and independence while developing an increased awareness of the needs of others. Research options for community service with local libraries, religious institutions, and other nonprofit organizations.
- Maintain academic focus. Taking a summer course can help children stay focused on academics during the summer months. Consider a Laurel Springs elective or World Language summer course, which can be completed according to the student’s schedule, even accommodating travel and vacation plans.
As children progress through the middle school years, the summer months are a time for families to plan a varied schedule of relaxation, family time, activities with peers, and some coursework to maintain intellectual involvement. The key is to find a balance that allows children to have time with friends as well as memorable family experiences.
High school students are on their way to becoming independent, self-sufficient young adults. When considering how to make summer plans, high school students and their families should consider what is necessary (such as a summer job or family plans), and what the student enjoys doing. This list can serve as a great starting point for a family conversation about summer plans.
Consider a summer job. High school students who work during the summer report an increase in their understanding of personal responsibility, independence, and accountability.
- Identify volunteer or internship opportunities. Students who engage in volunteer activities or an internship in an area of interest have a chance to experience a potential career. Knowing what you don’t want to do can be just as important as knowing what you do what to do. Volunteer and internship positions are risk-free ways for students to learn what potential careers would (or would not) interest them.
- Get ahead academically. Summer courses are a smart way for students to make their upcoming school year more manageable. When considering a summer course, be purposeful in choosing which course would be the best option. Laurel Springs summer courses are student-centric, so assignments can be completed regardless of travel, work, or other summer activities.
- Visit colleges. High school students can begin by visiting the campuses of colleges that are local to them. These casual, unofficial visits can consist of walking through campus and observing student life. For rising juniors or seniors, plan official college visits based on a list of colleges where the student plans to apply. Call ahead to find out about campus tours, and make an appointment to visit with an admissions counselor. College visits allow students to get a feel for the type of school environment that is a good fit.
Because high school students may have very busy schedules during the traditional academic school year, it is important to incorporate time with friends and family when planning what to do during the summer. As students become experts at balancing coursework, social activities, work responsibilities, and college plans, summer can be the ideal time to strengthen those skills in a relaxed, yet productive, setting.