Summer is close. We are more than a week into our last term of school here. In less than two months, school will be out for the summer. It always happens fast. Now, the two of my boys who are still at home have jobs and summer soccer traveling leagues that keep them busy. Those activities along with raising monarchs, reading, drawing, creating with our 3-D printer, online courses and attendance at a week long mock government camp is planned. And, there’s always training the last driver to be, and studying for college entrance exams. Our summer will be busy. It always is.
Yet, summer is different from what it used to be. Up until this year, summer planning for me started in March. Educational camps fill up fast. Our town’s Park and Rec sessions had early registration deadlines. I was always on it. Enrichment for my boys. Summer has always included some form of educational enrichment. Fortunately, we’ve had the funds to pay for such opportunities. These educational enrichment opportunities have included College for Kids at a local university, Boys in Science at another local university, Camp Invention, an online class for MathCounts competition preparation, traveling to the National Eagle Center, travel to Washington, D.C., travel to Estes Park and YMCA of the Rockies, and lots of reading, motivated by participation in our local library’s summer program.
But, recently I was asked, how do you enrich your gifted child or children if you have a tight budget and cannot afford these extra programs? Firstly, do not discount participation in the programs. Many offer need based scholarships for those who wish to attend but cannot afford to do so. Be sure to check out that option. Secondly, there are many things a parent can do to provide enrichment opportunities on a slim budget. Here are some of those ideas:
- Read books from the library – making a weekly trip to exchange what has been read and get some new stories
- Borrow a copy of a Rosetta Stone from the library and learn a new language or support a language your child is learning in school
- Use Duolingo. This is an online program to learn foreign language. I have used it for Spanish and Dutch. It is free and actually fun to use! It is self paced, and user-friendly. Most kids will like it if they are learning a foreign language in school. And even if they aren’t, it is a great place to start!
- Take Nature Hikes. Your local parks and forests want to be used. Unplug, and soak up the peacefulness of hearing birds, identifying wildlife, and commune with nature. Children and teens are seriously nature deprived. A weekly trek through the woods or on a hiking path will restore their energy, creativity, and inspire awe in things that are right in front of them but they never noticed!
- Go Geo-caching. This is a very fun activity. If your kids are under driving age, you’ll have to go with them. But, following GPS coordinates and looking for a treasure that you just mark that you found and replace can be a real challenge. Try this website to get started: Geocaching. It’s fun and free! Our whole family enjoys this.
- Learn some new card games. No, not board games, but card games with rules, critical thinking, and strategizing. Euchre, Gin Rummy, Rummy 500 are a few that come to mind.
- Do a puzzle together. Choose one that will be a challenge.
- Learn origami or kirigami. Everyone has paper lying around, right?! There are tons of free sites out there (and books, if you look at the library) to get you started. Here is one and another.
- Write letters to family or friends in far off places. Make a list at the beginning of summer of five people you would like to write to. Ask for them to write you back! Use snail mail and a stamp, the old fashioned way. Do not use email.
- Create some wildlife habitat in your yard such as a butterfly or pollinator garden.
- If you live near a National Park, there is a FREE day sponsored during the summer and other dates throughout the year. Find them here.
- Make a fairy garden. This can even be done in a pot!
- Have your kids plan and cook a meal a week. Eat together!
- If your children like spending time with others, have them put on a summer theater production and use their creative talents to make the set & costumes out of recycled materials.
I hope some of these ideas are enough to get you started on an enriching summer! Purposefully, the activities cited are not internet dependent, for the most part. While continuing to learn and grow is an admirable goal, don’t forgot to enjoy this special time of year with your children as well. Speaking from experience, it all goes by far too fast!