Great Summer Activities For Gifted Kids
School has ended and summer is here. My son is now at an age where he is almost too old for most camps, and too young to work or be on his own. Fortunately, I am able to adjust my work schedule to accommodate his needs as an older tween. This hasn’t always been the case, and has been quite a challenge year after year. There were years where finding daycare was paramount and no matter what camp we found he was miserable because he didn’t know people, hated being forced to do “meaningless crafts”, play “sports”, or otherwise be instructed to participate in some structured activity he deemed to be “a waste of time” when all he really wanted to do was pursue his own interests, hang out with me, or do anything that was his choice and no one else’s. Additionally, he was too young to participate in camps or classes for older kids who shared his skills and interests.
Maybe you can relate.
Even if you don’t need daycare, you may worry your kids will be bored, forget what they learned in school, lose touch with friends or lose opportunities to strengthen skills. For parents of gifted and twice exceptional children, these issues can be even greater, as our kids often hate traditional camps for one reason or another, may be bored in programs created for the average population, and may be too young to be allowed into classes or camps filled with their older, intellectual peers. How can a parent help their kids make the most of the summer months, while maintaining their own sanity?
First, I encourage you to take a moment to pause, breath deeply and be in the moment. Remember this time with your children is relatively brief, and provides a good opportunity for connection with them, relationship building and much needed rest for everyone. Plan a few activities that will allow the entire family to have fun and to enjoy each other. Allow for down time as well. It is important to avoid over scheduling, even if your child has a voracious appetite for learning and/or creating. It is actually good for kids to have time to be bored. This gives them the opportunity to be more creative, to learn through play, to process their own thoughts and emotions and to slow down before they go back to school. This is not to say they should be bored for the entire summer.
Summer is a great time to travel and to learn about different cultures, if your budget allows. It is also a good time to explore new interests and hobbies, or expand on current passions.
For my family, boredom is rarely an issue. I have a child who only struggles with boredom when he is with other children who are bored. When alone or with like minded peers, he easily entertains himself, and would be happy to hang out with me or my husband all of the time. Our challenge has been to find appropriate daycare when needed, and camps or classes that provide both intellectual or creative stimulation and the opportunity to socialize with like minded peers. My overall goal is to have a balanced summer which allows my child to spend time with friends, pursue his interests (usually computer programming, building things, and doing experiments), participate in outdoor activities like going to the beach, pool, hiking and biking, maybe some travel, and to take a class or two where he can meet new people and build on his existing skills. In my search for summer care and entertainment for my own child as well as the kids I work with, I have created a list of activities specifically for gifted kids, and I will share it with you:
Activities for Gifted Kids
Here are some ideas and resources I have discovered:
Many community colleges will allow kids as young as 9 to audit classes if you are willing and able to accompany them, and offer other programs for kids of different ages. Classes are wide ranging from art to science.
ID Tech provides many different computer coding classes in a fun format in many different states. And if you child is under the age of 13 you can use your flexible spending account to pay for it if they attend while you are working.
Johns Hopkins has summer camps and online learning opportunities.
Davidson Young Scholars has a camp for highly and profoundly gifted kid
Your child might enjoy taking an acting class, doing improve or participating in community theater.
Help your kid to find a volunteer activity or community project to help with. This can be wide ranging, and accommodate many interests. Kids can help with animals, teaching other kids, helping the elderly, participating in a community garden, and much more. Engaging in volunteer work that allows your child or teen to contribute to the betterment of the community can ease existential depression, increase self esteem and help your child to find a deeper meaning in life. Summer is a great time for this, since there are no demands from school.
Gardening. Encourage your child or teen to grow plants. This can be educational, provide connection to other living things and provide an opportunity to exercise personal responsibility and reap the rewards of their work.
Enable them to learn another language, through classes, online tutorials, immersion opportunities or apps like duolingo.
Help your child to stay active. Swimming lessons and water sports are great this time of year.
Encourage your child or teen to play and have some healthy fun, and do it with them when you can.
What to Do With Too Much Time on Your Hands
Something else to keep in mind, when kids are home from school for extended amounts of time they are out of their routines, have large amounts of unstructured time and may have a huge reduction in their level of social interaction. This can lead to mischief making; contribute to a lapse of good habits and chores; cause changes in sleep patterns; and lead to the development of negative emotions especially when it is time to return to school in the fall. Here are some helpful ideas for making the most of the summer, while maintaining a good overall sense of health and well being over the summer months:
Keep kids’ routines of going to bed and waking at a certain time.
Require kids to be dressed and finish morning chores by a certain time and before any screen time takes place
Limit screen time. Excessive amounts of time in front of the t.v., video games and computer can be unhealthy in different ways, limits healthy interactions with others and keeps them from engaging in other creative and fun activities.
Avoid an overly relaxed schedule. Throwing structure by the way side during breaks seems like fun and a good idea, but it can lead to fatigue, mood and behavior changes, and difficulty re-establishing routines when school starts again. Kids usually benefit from having a schedule, and clear guidelines. This creates a sense of safety because they know what is expected of them, and what to expect from their day.
Help kids develop a plan for each day the night before to give them a sense of empowerment over their experiences, increase their ability to plan ahead and to help them to create their own sense of structure
Encourage and support your children in developing interests and hobbies they enjoy and can become good at to alleviate boredom, build self esteem, enable them to meet other kids who share the same interests and to reduce negative emotions
Encourage your kids to spend quality time with positive friends to help them maintain supportive relationships, increase positive emotions, and build self esteem. If they are old enough, you can encourage them to plan and organize their own play dates and hang outs to foster independence.
If your children are bored it’s okay to challenge them to use their creativity to find a safe activity to occupy themselves. You don’t have to be a personal entertainment center.
Don’t forget to put yourself on the list. As important as it is to take care of your children, it is also important to take care of yourself. Make sure you:
Are getting enough sleep, exercise and healthful food
Take a break from your children as needed
Spend time pursuing your own interests
Connect with friends
Have fun with your kids
Try to plan at least one fun activity with the entire family each week. You don’t have to go to an amusement park or spend a lot of money to connect with each other. Playing board games, hiking, building things, and making crafts are a few ideas, which may be appealing. It’s a good idea to take turns deciding what that activity will be to help everyone to feel included, and excited about family time.
Lastly, it is always a great idea to seek additional support for yourself and your loved ones in times of stress. Support can come in the form of family, friends, your community and neighbors, as well as from therapeutic professionals like myself. Enjoy your summer. Live well, and savor the life you are creating.
About the Author: Christy, is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, practicing in San Diego, California. She has nearly 10 years of experience working with children, teens, parents, families, couples and individual adults with complex psychological and relationship problems. She specializes in the needs of gifted, bright and high achieving people, as well as those who have suffered past trauma. Christy uses an eclectic approach, meeting the needs of whomever she is working with. Her work addresses the needs of the whole person, incorporating mind and body.