As a teacher of gifted and talented students, I am often amazed by the diversity of their interests, especially when coupled with their intense desire to pursue answers to questions. As a parent, I’ve been astonished by the costs associated with fueling my children’s passions.
Here in New Zealand we’re back into the routine of the school year, having already survived our summer break. But in the United States, get ready, Mom and Dad, for days of sunshine with kids at home and the inevitable “I’m bored” that accompanies the time off from school. Here are some ideas for alleviating that boredom and enjoying summer on a shoestring—low- or no-cost activities to make the summertime blues disappear.
Visit your local library or bookstore for the annual publication Free Stuff for Kids and the newly released Free Stuff and Good Deals for Your Kids. These books are full of ideas for free arts and crafts, educational activities, sports and games, and printed materials. Both include neat bits and pieces children can mail-order, often for the low cost of a self-addressed stamped envelope. Your kids will love getting mail and probably not even realize that they’re also developing their letter-writing skills. While you’re at the library, be sure to check its summer programs and pick up a library card for your child, too.
Keep a list of activities on hand for rainy days or when boredom arises.
The next hot spot you should visit is the World Wide Web. With some smart searching you’ll find sites appropriate for gifted children (and parents, too). The Internet is a useful tool for finding information, activities, and people. For example, pen pals were great fun in my day; now, kids can have “e-pals.” Some sites allow students to “ask an expert” (which saves Mom or Dad the pain of having to admit, “I don’t know”!). Additionally, there are Web pages of puzzles, games, and activities for children of all ages.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes. Explore your secondhand shops and bookstores. Read the want ads. In fact, you might even take one out! Visit garage sales. The low-cost riches you’ll discover will amaze you. Also, alert family and friends to your child’s strengths and interests. Grandparents, especially, seem to have attics full of treasures.
Visit museums, art galleries, and chambers of commerce, gathering information about summertime events and programs. The yellow pages often feature local tourist attractions that residents sometimes forget exist. Investigate the activities of and memberships in local clubs, societies, and organizations. A pony club, stamp collecting organization, or historical society may be the perfect outlet for your child. Your state association for gifted and talented students may be another useful resource, and a quick chat with your child’s gifted and talented teacher may unveil more ideas. You might also ask the school if materials are available for “checking out” over the summer—too often, books, games, and puzzles are packed away in boxes, only to collect dust over the break.
Arrange for a summer mentorship or internship for your child. For example, your daughter might volunteer to work with a local veterinarian, or your son might shadow a news crew. Children can explore career options early on by gathering information from local businesses. Pamphlets, brochures, and even videotapes (used for recruitment and/or educational purposes) are often readily available and yours for the asking. Exploring career options might also mean visiting local colleges and universities, and don’t forget to investigate their summer-school offerings for young students.
Summertime can also be used to prepare for competitions. Why not carry out science fair experiments or work on inventions in June? For a listing of competitions across all curriculum areas, check out Competitions: Maximizing Your Abilities, by Frances A. Karnes and Tracy L. Riley, Prufrock, 1996. Your child’s school may also be able to alert you to upcoming events.
So, make plans beyond a family holiday. Start thinking about how you can enhance your child’s special abilities with some of these low-cost or free ideas. Most important, have fun in the sun!
—Tracy L. Riley, Ph.D.
Tracy L. Riley is senior lecturer in the College of Education’s Department of Learning and Teaching at Massey University, Palmerston North, in New Zealand.
- Cool Sites: Free Stuff for Kids on the Net, by Lisa Trumbauer, Millbrook, 1999
- Free Stuff and Good Deals for Your Kids, by Linda Bowman, Santa Monica, 2002
- Free Stuff for Everyone Made E-Z, by Matthew Lesko, Made E-Z Products, 2000
- Free Stuff for Kids, by the Free Stuff Editors, Meadowbrook, 2002