Summer vacations can provide meaningful learning experiences for your children instead of "more of the same" if you first consider your children's individual needs and then match summer plans to those needs.


Begin by thinking about what your children’s major concerns have been during the school year. If they were socially lonely or too dependent, they may need an opportunity away from home for a week or two. If they were too social, an interest-oriented summer program like a creative writing, arts, music, or science may be more effective. Some children should be exposed to outdoor experiences either because they love the outdoors, or for the opposite reason, because they have no experiences camping or hiking. Other needs to consider include developing interests, improving social skills, expanding a talent area, developing responsibilities, relaxing after too much pressure, expanding academic skills, sharing attention, or simply a need for good child care.

Of course, many summer plans can address more than one of your children's needs. Matching children's activities to their needs can make summers especially meaningful, but for the best opportunities for your children you will have to plan ahead.


After you have done some brainstorming about possibilities, invite your children into the planning stage. They may already have some ideas of their own. On the other hand, if they are fearful children, and if you give them a choice as to whether they should leave home for a new experience, you may receive an automatic negative response. It’s probably better just to tell them positively that they’ll be involved in an activity, and they can help you choose the place.


The next step is to write away for brochures and further information. Depending on your children’s age, you may either have to do the writing or at least help them to find the resources. Parenting for High Potential Magazine1usually provides a list of summer programs in their spring issue. Your state department of education may also be able to provide you with a list of local educational summer resources. Some good books of summer programs are Summer Camps2 and Educational Opportunity Guide: A Directory of Programs for the Gifted.3 You’ll undoubtedly be able to find them in your local library or bookstore along with other interesting resource material. Some programs provide scholarship help, so it makes sense to apply early. Hopefully, your children will follow through by receiving some resources and even sending for information if they are preteens or teens. The more involved they become, the more they’re likely to learn from the experience.


You may want to use a systematic way to evaluate your final choices to include such issues as other family members’ vacations, costs of programs, likeliness of acceptance in that program, etc. Below is a summary of how to proceed:


  • Identify children's needs.

  • Involve older children in thinking about their needs.

  • Brainstorm sources for exploration

  • Consider economic circumstances and family plans.

  • Evaluate potential activities.

  • Apply early.

1National Assn. For Gifted Children, 1707 L St, Ste. 550, Washington, DC 20036
2 Princeton Review, Random House, 2315 Broadway, 3rd Floor., New York NY 10024
3Duke University, Talent ID Program, 1121 W Main St., Ste. 100, Durham, NC 27701

©2002 by Sylvia B. Rimm. All rights reserved. This publication, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.