For any parent with gifted kids, summer may bring a host of emotions...excitement, happiness, joy, dread, fear! It is great for the kids to have a break in the summer and let their minds wander where they will. I personally love watching where my kids opt to go...but I also sometimes struggle to keep up with all of them! AND I always worry about making sure they are also stimulated. (Most parents of gifted kids will understand that a bored gifted kid is a handful!)
To be clear, I am not usually worried about academics. Most of the time, the gifted kids are ahead academically anyway. I am worried about finding things that will continue to challenge, engage and amaze them! When they are in that state of engagement and amazement, their eyes shine with wonder, and I am always filled with an overwhelming happiness at seeing their reactions. So, the question is how to get them to those moments while avoiding nonstop screen time, forced camps, etc. that inevitably make one or all of us miserable.
There is no one size fits all, but here are some the things that I have found to work in our house:
Round Robin Topic Day. Each day of the week, we take turns picking a topic we'd like to learn more about, and then we all set off on a quest to learn different aspects.
For example, my youngest son wanted to learn about the Titantic.
We went to the library and checked out a few books of various reading levels. Then the kids read about the Titantic.
That led to all sorts of questions like: could we see an iceberg if we were at sea? what is under the water that we can't see? how long could you survive if you were in freezing water? what would have resulted in a different outcome other than sinking? how big was the ship?
That then led to a variety of activities including:
Walking four city blocks (the length of the ship) and seeing if we could see from one end to the other. That also led to timing how long it would have taken to get all the way around the deck.
Building a lego version of the ship (scaled down!).
Looking up information on how to survive in freezing water (which led to a discussion on why penguins and polar bears can survive, which then led to an experiment on polar bear blubber).
Watching a documentary on the finding of the Titantic.
I will stop there, but you get the idea! One topic that is of interest to one child is enough to spur tons of discussion, questions and ideas for the entire family!
Museum visits. I know this may sound like a cop out, but honestly, my kids love going to museums. They don't all like the same ones, but they all like going. It is definitely worth the membership fee to a few good ones in your area for the summer months! They often have kid events for members too.
Musical expression. If your kids love music, they may already be in music lessons, etc., but summer is a great time for additional exploration. Mine like to create their own tunes using a variety of programs. Here are some of their favorites:
Incredibox: a free site or download that lets kids create their own beat box music. We organize concerts for the kids, so once they've created their music, the family comes together to provide the audience.
Specdrums. These are seriously cool. They aren't free, but they are available sometimes on a deal from Amazon. We got ours on a Black Friday sale for about 50% off. My kids love to put these rings on their fingers and make music come to life. They can also record themselves, which they think is really cool!
Songsmith. This site is really cool for kids who like to sing. They sing into the microphone, and the site generates the background music!
Audiotool. This is another free site where kids can make their own music. They can also collaborate together on the work.
Arts and Crafts. OK, this might sound simplistic, but many gifted kids need to express themselves in a variety of ways. We have a variety of activities at our house but we always have arts and crafts time. They can choose an activity they'd like, but these are some of the favorites:
Watercolor pastel chalk (because every kid loves to get messy!)
Water balls (like these) that we put in an aluminum pan and let them then put small sea animals in to create their own habitats. If you're really brave, you can fill up an inflatable pool. (My oldest son once convinced me to fill up our soaking tub with these as part of a science experiment. It was super fun, but not so much when it came time to clean up...hint to drain the water, sprinkle with salt!)
Drawing contests (like the 3-marker challenge where there are three markers available and they have to draw the same thing and then someone judges who did the best job or a contest related to the topic of the day!)
Other fun outings! We love to do things like go to the petting zoo, take a hike and see who can spot new birds or leaves, go to the local science centers, tour the recycling facility in town (usually free!), visiting the local aviation museum or small airport (usually free!) and other fun free local activities that are often hidden gems.
Other things at home that are usually big hits: building forts, putting on a play, creating a restaurant at home for dinner (kids can dress up like waiters!), bubbles and making your own bubbles, scavenger hunts, etc.!
I'm sure I could go on and on, but I'll stop here for now! If there's interest, I'm happy to share some more! Please let me know if you have other ideas! And remember, summer is supposed to be fun. Learning is best when it's multi-modal and multi-sensory, and kids should be kids whenever possible.