Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer Opportunities to Create Kids with Character

This summer is a pretty light one for my family. My older son is working out with the hockey team and the younger son is counting down the days until he leaves for a fine arts camp. Two kids who couldn't be any more different!

Knowing this about them, over the years I've always tried to match their interests with activities throughout the summer. Even though I wished they would read and practice math facts every day, I knew that wasn't going to happen - and plus...they needed a break!

Several years ago, I learned about a wonderful service-learning project through my local YMCA called Summer of Service. Middle school and high school students spend a week throughout SE Michigan (where we live) helping at various organizations. Each day was different and would span from pulling weeds at an elementary school in downtown Detroit to helping sort food at a local food bank. The kids would spend from 9am until 2pm at the designated location. Highschoolers had more weeks to choose from, while the middleschoolers had only one week that was primarily for them. Find your local YMCA to see if they offer Summer of Service.

Another opportunity that we would take advantage of during the summer was Kids on Campus. This is a program at one of our local community colleges that offers a multitude of camps for kids as young as second grade and as old as ninth grade. Kids can choose from camps about acting, science, computer programming, video game creation, Lego Mindstorms...just to name a few. Some camps also had a more academic spin on them - how to improve reading skills, writing skills, math skills, etc. Check out the colleges in your area to see if such camps are available.

Creating kids with character doesn't just happen in the classroom. Help your child build a foundation of success by giving them opportunities for confidence, respect, empathy, honesty, and gratefulness around the house with some of these ideas:

  • Try a new sport or music instrument - in a non-threatening situation, even the shyest child can gain a great amount of self-confidence.
  • Give your child a chore such as folding the towels, doing the dishes, walking the dog, feeding the cat, making the salad for dinner, etc. - something to help them feel like they are an important aspect of running the day-to-day home.
  • Visit an elderly relative, have your child make an "I Love You" card, and be ready to listen to stories from the "old days" when you visit.
  • Encourage family members to a "summer cleaning" of their bedroom and toy chest. Determine which clothes can be handed down to younger siblings/cousin or donated. Those clothes that are too small and in good condition can be passed along to a "new" owner. Consider doing the same with toys.
What are some of the character-building activities that you do with your children during the summer?

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