Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer FUN for the even the Youngest

It’s not to early for your child to learn that SUMMER = FUN and SUMMER = New things, new sport skills, and new friends.

So, your preschooler is in a great routine. Either:

1) He goes to daycare/preschool for most of the day while you work…this provides great structure, social time with all his friends, education time, exercise, outdoor time, naptime, exposure to other adults who love him and take care of him, OR

2) He stays home with you all day, and, being the awesome parent you are: you provide him with structure, social time with his friends, exercise, outdoor time, education time, naptime, etc and of course, the bonding time with mom (or dad) on an all day, everyday basis, OR

3) He goes to preschool part-time (9-12) and gets all of the above (except the nap).

Either way, it’s a great life…no pressure, no tests, no teachers dirty looks. However, the one thing it is…it’s the SAME (duh, structure is good, we know that) every day…every week….every month. Since it is working so well, we hesitate to change it in the summer and most pre-schoolers just continue with the same routine all summer long. But, summer, even before they start elementary school, can be an awesome time of change and learning for kids…time for some NEW EXPERIENCES.

There are many ways to make summer special with structured activities and sports opportunities for the little ones that can be as short as day or last the entire summer.

They can try:

Ø Daycamp specializing in a particular sport, most YMCAs (but also local universities, city parks and rec departments, and private sports clubs have these and usually a 5 year old (heading to Kindergarten in the fall) can participate. At a young age, spending just one week playing a new sport with a good coach can make an non-athlete become a superstar in the fall league. They are sponges at this age (not just of educational material, but sports skills too).

Ø Swim teams: many neighborhood pools have swim teams and kids can start as young as 3. Some have requirements that your kid can make it one lap, but some will even let a non-swimmer join (like my local pool) and treat the daily practices like swim lessons. Swim team is usually a HUGE benefit to families, they provide daily practices (exercise), daily socialization with new friends, and the swim meets tend to be major social events for the kids and parents. Most kids are not stressed about the 6 or less times they get to race, they spend 90% of the meet hanging out with their buddies stuffing their face with candy (for energy, you know) and smacking each other with towels. I can’t recommend joining the neighborhood swim team any more highly.

Ø Weeklong ‘classic’ camp: I mean the type of camp we all think of when we think of camp: it’s in the country (or at least feels like it), you go swimming, do crafts, ride horses, do archery, canoe, have cabins. This is a great summer tradition and if your child is confident and comfortable with being away from home (it’s great to do this kind of camp with a friend), now (the year before kindergarten starts) is a perfect time to start exploring. The kids learn new skills and make new friends. Often they get bonded with the group and want to go back year after year. They make new friends from out of town and write letters throughout the next year. Obviously age 5 is pretty young and many kids are not quite ready for an entire week away from home yet (I would never insist a child go at this age), many camps have option of ‘commuter’ camper where they go ALL day (usually till at least 9:00pm). I’ve found my commuter campers usually love camp so much that next year they always chose to be sleepers.

Ø Vacation Bible school—many, many churches have these, usually week-long bible classes, that young kids can attend. They are always quite fun and focused on the child enjoying himself. You can always find one to fit your schedule as the churches seem to stagger the weeks, the programs and the hours (some are in the daytime and some in the evenings). It’s beneficial sometimes to attend one that is not given by your own church as a way of making new friends, meeting new teachers, etc. That can also make it a ‘special’ summer activity, otherwise he will probably end up with the same teachers he has year round for Sunday School.

Ø Mini-camps (usually 9-12 each day for a week) given by local parks and rec departments, private schools, science or art museums, good daycares and many other organizations. These often have a theme such as: Bugs, Space, Pottery, or Sports week. This is a phenomenal way to get you kid into new things and see what types of stuff he prefers (science vs. sports, etc)

Whatever you do with your child this summer, emphasize FUN, EXERCISE and LEARNING something NEW. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Emily Wyffels said...

You might also look into whether or not the youth sports organization you pick is partnered with Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). PCA offers a Seal of Commitment, meaning all coaches within a youth sports organization commit to certified Double-Goal Coach training. A Double-Goal Coach strives to win and, even more importantly, uses sports to teach life lessons through Positive Coaching.

This is just another way to ensure that your child will have a positive experience through sports.