I attended a summer camp open house last week that nearly launched my heart into July. It was a simple set up of booths in an elementary school gym. College students in matching shirts distributed brochures and post cards with vigor. Full size images of kids in sail boats on climbing walls and dabbling in music rounded out the room.

I’m clearly not a child but every positive childhood summer memory came crashing down upon me. I rapidly snatched pamphlets and vowed that this would be the year my children tried a zip line, perfected their soccer game and became proficient at piano. Mind you they are only ages seven, four and three – the youngest not old enough for much other than biddy gymnastics. But after a winter of cabin fever and a world of ideas I was ready to go!

But in all the frenzy and chaos of choosing activities, can we wisely choose summer opportunities for our children? The very fact that most require registration well in advance of summer is pressure enough. Let alone our nagging parental fears that our kids will miss out on an opportunity. Here are a few thoughts:

  1. The best experience they can have all summer is a positive time with family and friends. This is the self-confidence booster that matters most, knowing they are loved. So choose opportunities that help you connect with your kids. Ask yourself “does this camp provide the opportunity for us to grow as a family?”
  2. Don’t stress! It is easy to get caught up in the hype of opportunity. Your child’s tennis or soccer scholarships do not rest on one summer camp. It can often feel that way but if your child is truly gifted and passionate, their talent will rise up through your coaching and encouragement.
  3. Create your own camp. Design one with neighbors and friends. Take a week, devote your time and energy to field trips and excursions, or simply spend a few lazy days at the park. Create your own camp name, t-shirts, and invite friends. It is cheap, easy, and you drive the schedule.
  4. Use your resources – your own backyard or the local park are both great places for children to find awe and wonder, learning and growing by chasing fireflies and collecting rocks. Let your kids sleep in for a week, let them explore the alley or sidewalk, the trees in your yard, or the beach. Let their imaginations roam and know that this is just as valuable as highly structured activities.

Have fun. There is a world of adventure that awaits but the greatest adventure is loving and encouraging our kids. Whether on the lacrosse field or the back deck. Just soak up the simple joy of summer togetherness and it will be a success!

By Tracey Bianchi.  www.traceybianchi.com