Plan For A Summer of Learning!

Summer time is fast approaching and for most families, that means no school. Does it also mean it’s time for the lazy days of summer? Not necessarily, says Sandra McKinnon a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Instead, plan for a summer of learning.

“Some lazy days are great,” McKinnonsaid, “but what would you like your child to learn this summer while school is out?”

Being involved in activities beyond school can help children learn more about their world. New experiences increase children’s sense of well-being and self-confidence. These activities stimulate children’s brains and strengthen their belief that they can accomplish a goal, McKinnon said.

Outside-of-school opportunities also promote children’s social skills and improve their ability to handle emotions and have good relationships with others. They can reduce children’s risk for developing problem behaviors and drug use. These opportunities provide new learning that can improve overall attitude and personal conduct, McKinnon said.

“For parents, these summer experiences can offer the security of knowing your child will be in a structured, supervised environment. They can provide a safe place for children while you work,” McKinnon said.

Many organizations and businesses offer summer exploratory programs for children. McKinnonsuggests looking into the following:

  • Youth programs, such as 4-H or scouting
  • YMCA/YWCA
  • Churches
  • Community theaters
  • Dance or gymnastics studios
  • Music or art studios
  • High school arts or sports booster clubs
  • Parks and Recreation departments
  • Local swimming pools
  • Local or state parks
  • Local gyms/fitness centers
  • Libraries
  • Science centers
  • Museums
  • Zoo or animal refuge

 “Think about your child’s interests as you explore. Match your child’s energy level to the activity. Some children might prefer a soccer clinic or swimming lessons, while others would choose an art class or theater camp,” McKinnonsaid.

When planning children’s summer adventures, keep in mind that while children greatly benefit from these activities, all families need some unstructured time. Children and parents can become overwhelmed if they have too many responsibilities, McKinnon said.

“As parents, you are the single most important influence on your child’s life. When you encourage children to try new things, they see that you believe in their abilities, thus teaching them to believe in themselves. Take the opportunity this summer to help your child explore the world beyond school. Plan for a summer of learning,” McKinnon said.

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