Helping Your Kids Make Summer Meaningful:
How will your kids spend their summer break from school? Will they laze around the house all day, glued to video games? Or will they make memories, learn new things, and become even closer to the rest of the family? The choice is up to you, and now is the time to give your kids the gift of a summer to remember. These tips will give you ideas of where to start:
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Giving Your Kids A Summer To Remember:
1. Spend time with them
If your work schedule permits, make sure you spend time bonding with them, while squeezing in some of the fun you don’t have time for during the school year. For example,
- Help them run their first lemonade stand
- Take family hikes or bike rides together
- Go on a road trip, take a family trip to the beach, or go camping for a weekend
- Try out some new summertime recipes with them
- Garden with them, or take them to pick berries or fruit at an orchard
- Spend time at your local pool, wading pond, or splash pad
- Check out as many new playgrounds as you can
- Visit a zoo, farm, or a children’s/science museum in a new city
- Plan a spa day with your daughter, and/or help her host a spa-themed sleepover
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Consider setting aside one day a week for “special summer fun day,” so you can have time set aside for these special activities. And remember, bonding time doesn’t have to be big or expensive. The important part is creating new memories while spending time together.
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2. Find their “perfect place”
Think back to your own childhood summers. What memories were most magical for you? For many adults in the U.S., summer camp ranks somewhere on that list. I sure feel that way about the summers I spent (first as a camper, later as a counselor) at Girl Scout resident camp. I know many others feel that way about Boy Scout camp, or church camp, or some other special place.
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While summer camp is a key childhood memory for many of us as we grow up, its importance looms especially large for kids who, for whatever reason, are “different.” Maybe they’re academically gifted. Maybe they have a learning difference, or are differently-abled on a physical level. For these kids, finding the “perfect” summer camp for them, a place to get away from it all, can be a real lifeline.
For a truly meaningful summer camp experience that’s all about finding the best of the best, programs like America’s Finest Summer Camps can help you do that. There are camps that focus on educational opportunities, conservation, or specialty activities like fencing, archery, or rock climbing that can help them find a new passion in life, or try out a hobby they don’t normally have the opportunity for. My girls never tried archery before their first time at sleepaway Girl Scout camp; now it’s one of their favorite summer camp activities.
3. Teach them essential skills
Summer is also a great time to learn some life skills, like how to make (and manage) money. or take on new responsibilities at home. They may not like this at first, but getting a head start on adult responsibilities while still at home with your parents will serve them well down the road.
- For younger teenagers, it might simply involve paying them some extra pocket money for doing new chores around the home. However, Kids Health also shows ways to help your older children find summer jobs. They need to learn some independence and, more importantly, some financial sense.
- If your tweens (or even younger!) want to earn extra spending money, you can help them brainstorm ideas and even start their own business. It could be as simple as a lemonade stand, or cleaning and selling their old toys/clothes at a yard sale. Or it could be setting up a pet-sitting, babysitting, or plant-watering business for neighbors on vacation.
- And starting your own business doesn’t have to be hard. My 7-year-old has always had an entrepreneurial bent; even when her older sister was 5, three-year-old Essie was the one doing most of the “selling” when she tagged along door-to-door as Kimmie and I sold Girl Scout cookies. Well, this past weekend, Essie decided she was going to sell bookmarks door-to-door; within an hour, she’d put her older sister and our twin 6-year-old neighbors to work, helping with the manufacturing and marketing. Much to everyone’s amazement, they made $17.60 for their afternoon’s efforts, which they divided evenly amongst themselves.
But making money and showing up aren’t the only important skills you can teach them over the summer. If you’re going to take a family trip by car, get out an old-fashioned road atlas and get your kids involved in the planning and navigating. They love being able to track your progress with a map, and get great satisfaction out of being able to do so. You can also have them help budget expenses for the trip, and/or track spending as you go.
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4. Give back
It’s also important to teach our kids that money isn’t the only thing worth working for. If you’re planning a family vacation, have you considered taking your kids on a volunteering trip or church mission trip? Having the chance to give back and help others can do so much more than build a child’s own self-esteem, compassion, and awareness. Such trips or events can also help your child gain some much-needed perspective and learn to think of others’ needs, instead of just their own.
The ability to help communities in need, help protect wildlife, or to otherwise give back to those in need is critical for building adults who seek to make the world a better place. If you want your kids to grow up into compassionate, charitable people with interests beyond themselves, there’s no better way, than to volunteer together. Even if you’re not up for a big volunteer vacation overseas, look for local volunteering efforts you can spend some time contributing to together.
As parents, it’s up to you to help your kids make the most of summer. So if you don’t want them spending their time indoors stuck in front of their devices, now’s the time to make those memory-building plans for a summer to remember.
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