School’s Out! Now What?

By Arlene DeVries 

Summer can be an exciting but frustrating time for children and parents of gifted students. The high energy level and intensity of these children demand a thoughtful response to how they will be engaged outside the school routine.  Parents may want to keep in mind the needs and personalities of individual students. Summer provides an opportunity to instill the value systems parents wish to pass on to their children. Activities may encompass time for physical activity, time for in-depth exploration, time to develop creativity, time to experience the arts, time to strengthen family ties, time to give back to their community, and at other times an opportunity to simply relax and “do nothing.”

The benefits of being out-of-doors and experiencing nature have become increasingly important in fostering positive mental health. Individual sports that will carry into adulthood can be introduced:  tennis, golf, swimming, bowling, skating, or walking. Some students may need the camaraderie of a team sport that allows them to feel part of a group and an opportunity to make new friends. Arts activities can be experienced as either a spectator or a participant. Visits to museums, dance, drama, and musical productions encourage in-depth exploration of the history and culture of the presentation. These cultural events are instrumental in developing future appreciative audiences in our society. Participating in music lessons develops task commitment and stimulates cognitive processes.

Gifted children are often concerned about the needs of others and the inequities in our society. Summer is a time when families, as a group or individually, can reach out to others through volunteering. Local newspapers and Internet sites provide an abundance of locations for volunteering. Many youth organizations or religious groups plan family work camps to aid in disadvantaged areas. Local conservation commissions and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offer educational activities in most areas at no cost. The Internet identifies museums, historical sites, parks, and other opportunities in your community.

Based on your child’s intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs, your family might select summer activities from the following list.

Fifty Things to do When There’s Nothing to do

  1. Start a rock or fossil collection; classify what you have found.
  2. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  3. Offer to care for neighbors’ pets while they are on vacation.
  4. Draw cartoons.
  5. Read some poetry, write some poetry, submit it for publication, or enter it in a contest.
  6. One child-one parent:  go to a fast food restaurant for breakfast.
  7. Entire family: go out to eat at an elegant restaurant and engage in stimulating conversation.
  8. Paint pictures with water or chalk on the sidewalk or driveway, create a hopscotch pattern, and play it.
  9. Attend a city council meeting or a court room case.
  10. Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.
  11. Explore ways to make your home more environmentally friendly.
  12. Enroll in a school or pre-collegiate gifted summer school class.
  13. Visit a zoo or aquarium.
  14. Tour an art center or historical museum.
  15. Acquire some DVDs and learn a foreign language.
  16. Create a new board game and teach it to family or friends.
  17. Write and produce a play.
  18. Using things found at home, make instruments and start a rhythm band.
  19. Make paper airplanes in as many designs as you can and have a contest to see which flies farthest.
  20. Buy a telescope and view the star, or visit a local observatory.
  21. Research your family tree; interview parents and grandparents.
  22. Start a neighborhood newsletter; interview interesting persons.
  23. Create a recipe for a new food dish and prepare it for your family.
  24. Write a thank-you letter to someone who did something nice for you.
  25. Go fishing.
  26. See how many different kinds of birds you can spot; identify them by sight and by their songs.
  27. With the help of an adult who enjoys woodworking, build a bird house or bird feeder.
  28. Spend a week at a camp of your choice (or a family camp).
  29. Plant a garden, either vegetable or floral; research what to plant.
  30. Volunteer at a hospital, senior citizen center, day care, local mission, or homeless shelter.
  31. Play chess with a senior citizen.
  32. Gather cardboard appliance or moving boxes; create a playhouse or city.
  33. Pitch a tent and sleep overnight in the backyard.
  34. Keep a journal.
  35. Create a medieval sand castle.
  36. Learn to play tennis
  37. Visit a grandparent to learn how to knit, bake a pie, quilt, carve wood, or play croquet.
  38. Budget a given amount of money, attend a garage sale or farmers’ market, and decide how to spend it.
  39. Read some mythology or folk tales.
  40. Create some puns or jokes and create your own joke book.
  41. Do crossword or sudoku puzzles or create your own.
  42. Read biographies of persons in careers of interest to you.
  43. Join the library teen club or access a college-bound reading list. As a family, read books aloud; start with the Newbury Award winners.
  44. Make a new friend.
  45. Learn a computer program new to you.
  46. Hold a family meeting; discuss household chores and upcoming family activities.
  47. Study the map of a favorite vacation spot; create your own maps of real or imaginary places.
  48. Plan a family vacation that includes a visit to a college campus.
  49. Create a work of art in a medium you have not previously explored
  50. Do something nice for a family member but don’t get caught doing it.

 Arlene DeVries, retired Community Resource Consultant for the Des Moines Public Schools, is a SENG parent group facilitator and trainer, past president of SENG and Iowa Talented and Gifted Association. She is co-author of Gifted Parent Groups: The SENG Model, and A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children.

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