Finding Effective Summer Programs

Effective summer programs can help kids develop their talents, stimulate their thinking, enhance their social skills, and get them interested in more of the world around them.

Summer Programs for Kids and Families

  • Look for summer programs that balance educational activities with fun and games. For example, many art, music, sports, and recreational camps (such as learning how to kayak or ride a horse) also include fun and silly activities.
  • Summer programs that get kids to experience learning (rather than just sit and learn) are much more interesting to kids. In one community, summer programs included “Lego Architecture,” “Kitchen Caboodle,” “Mad Science Rocket Blast Off,” “Inventor’s Box,” and “Star Wars Creations.” Each of these programs had an educational component and was done in a hands-on, creative way.
  • Ask other parents, especially parents with older kids, about local summer programs. Some parents have done a lot of research into effective summer programs, and they’re happy to share what they’ve learned.
  • Try to find a sport or physical activity that your child may be interested in. Summer activities are great in that your child doesn’t need to have any experience in a particular sport, and you can often find a more diverse offering of sports, such as fencing, kung fu, archery, indoor rock climbing, canoeing, and many others.
  • Look for creative activities. See if your child might be interested in taking music lessons for a new instrument. Many music stores will let you rent an instrument for a few months for a low fee—without any expectations to buy. Some music stores even provide a few free lessons if you rent an instrument for the first time.
  • Ask questions about the summer programs you’re looking into: what will your child be doing on a daily basis? Are there field trips taken throughout the summer? Will kids be interacting with other kids and adults? Are there hands-on activities?
  • Explore your child’s interests and learn more about it. One family had a young child who loved trains. The family visited a train museum (about three hours away) and then identified the different train pathways in their local region and visited them all. Another family took their kids digging for trilobites because the kids were interested in dinosaurs and archeology. Another family took weekly family bike rides—to explore different parts of their community. Your family adventures can sometimes lead to discovering other activities, and even summer programs you had never known about before.

Encouraging your children to learn throughout the summer and planning your own learning activities is effective, but getting your kids involved in summer programs can take summer learning to the next level. Find high-quality programs in your community and get your kids involved to keep them learning while they’re not in school.



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