Here’s To A Stress-Free, Enriching Summer For Kids, Parents

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By Ali Kaufman, founder & schoolhouse director, Space of Mind Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers

It’s time to think about summer plans! In just a couple of months, school’s out and parents will have a lot of time to fill for their children. That’s almost three months that will quickly fly by – unless, of course, your kids are bored. In that case, be ready for those storied summertime blues. There are a few key objectives that you should be sure to address sooner, rather than later, in order to have a stress-free summer.

First, have a plan. You won’t get far winging it with your kids when all of the other kids’ parents have plans. There are a few great options to begin with, and you can select one or more options to build upon: Sleepaway Camp, Day Camp, Summer School or Parent Camp? Each is a structured option that is designed for learning and goal achievement and a maximum fun factor. Note: doing nothing is not an option.

Summer is the time when kids’ minds are clear. There’s no school stress, and learning is purely for the love of it. If parents play their cards right, it’s a perfect opportunity for enrichment activities; a chance to actually make your kids smarter.

Of course, enriching your kids over the summer isn’t just a call for summer school. However, if academics need to be the focus, be careful about trying an online option. The lack of structure, personalization and accountability will make overseeing your child’s progress a true summer bummer for you – and your child. Instead, look for a summer school option that provides a calm, creative and chill atmosphere, so summer school doesn’t feel a whole lot like school. More will get accomplished – and with a whole lot less yelling.

I was 6 years old when my parents first sent me to sleepaway camp. It kicked off a 12-summer tradition, where I made lifelong friends, learned the life skills I use today as a professional adult, figured out how to maneuver tricky social situations that would arise with bunkmates, and learned how to step out of my box to discover my own personality and possibilities. Sure, not every 6 year old is ready for sleep-away camp. Moreover, not every family can afford it. Of course, if you can swing it, sleep-away camp is life changing and full of valuable life lessons.

Staying local and attending Day Camp is cool, too. There are so many options with opportunities to keep each week fresh and fun to combat those summertime blues. Day camps still offer camp spirit, which, if you were a camper who grew up on this elixir, you know – it never dies. Moreover, with plenty of week-long specialty camps, a child can be a camp-hopper and experience creativity and enrichment through exciting learning activities that stoke life’s passion.

If you’d rather steer the ship as parent and program director, consider structuring your own Parent Camp. Basically, you provide the camp – spirit and all. Some planning is in order, and it’s by far the hardest route, as you’ll need to fill the days and weeks with actual activities, not just errands the kids are dragged on. Think about what you would like to see your kids achieve this summer, and plan to meet those goals. Bravery? Time Management Skills? More friendships? Athletic Skills? Imaginative Skills? What adventures (local or not) can you dream up to make their learning fun? Then structure the days so everyone has a routine and knows where to be and when. You may choose to lead these activities yourself or engage others to facilitate, and you may supplement Parent Camp in between the Sleep-away Camp, Day Camp and Summer School. For any length of time, Parent Camp is all about creating a fun, fulfilling summer experience for your kids that will keep their brains busy, their hearts open and their learning potential on.

Or, you can wing it. It’ll be a long hot summer.

For more information, visit www.findspaceofmind.com/summer-programs