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Summer Fun: Keeping it Local

Updated: Jul 30

With summer on the horizon (or actually in full swing here at our house) it’s easy to get a bit carried away daydreaming about how to make this summer one to remember. Personally, it’s how our family gets through the end of the school year - making our summer bucket list and counting down to those days of outdoor fun and family vacations.


Although if you’re keeping a pulse on the economy (and who isn’t?), inflation and the rising cost of gas and groceries is making some of our vacation dreams a bit out of reach this year. But summer activities don’t have to be extravagant to be memorable.


This week we’re taking a look at some fun family activities that are right in our own communities. It’s the final blog in our Summer Fun series and we’re looking at all the great ways we can keep it local.


How to Keep Kids Learning Outside the Classroom

Over the last six weeks we’ve highlighted various activities you can do with your children which take learning outside the classroom. We’re specifically focused on the ‘soft skills’ that researchers say are important for kids to learn regardless of what path they choose after high school. Regardless of what job they want or industry they might work in.


Learning doesn’t have to stop when school is out. Here’s a look at those six skills and ways to embrace them in your summer plans.


Collaboration

Kids with strong collaboration skills (aka teamwork) understand how to listen to others and how to respectfully share their ideas. They have great problem solving skills, understand how to manage conflict resolution and their emotions. Backyard games, family dinners and simple house projects (like painting their room a new color) are all great ways for kids to work with others and further develop these skills.


Communication

Good speaking skills is one of the top qualities organizations are looking for in their employees. And yet, most schools don’t teach oral (or verbal) communication. This summer seek opportunities for your kids to share stories and practice their listening skills. Play games at the dinner table, discuss current events or simply get outside and spend time conversing with and learning a bit more about your neighbors.


Content

A broader definition of content requires us to look at the foundational skills kids need in addition to learning facts and focuses primarily on executive function. Look for activities that require planning and organization like hosting a lemonade stand, running errands for neighbors or letting your kids help with the grocery shopping.


Critical thinking

Critical thinking is about having the skills to understand, evaluate and question the material being presented. Encourage your kids to ask questions about the world around them. Intentionally plan “down time” each day for them to reflect. Seek activities that give them time to be still like bird (or bug) watching, star gazing or a slow stroll around the block.


Creative innovation

Research shows the best way for kids to explore and further develop their creative thinking skills is through unstructured playtime or by trying something new. Be cognisant you aren’t over scheduling your kids during the summer, and make time for unscheduled playtime each week.


Ask your kids if there’s a new skill they’d like to learn this summer. There’s an abundance of resources online for learning skills like graphic design, coding, website building, art and media. Try a new recipe, take a virtual tour of some exotic destination or seek out a new museum, park or trail.


Confidence

Confident kids have a growth mindset which means they are highly motivated to learn, know how to think critically, and understand the importance of seeking feedback from others. These are kids that don’t give up easily, they try, and try again. Playing games (you can’t always win), learning a new instrument or having fun with a science experiment will help foster a growth mindset in your kids.


Local Resources - Where to Begin

Wondering where to begin? There’s a range of activities happening in our local communities. Here’s some tips on where to look for ideas.


Websites

Check out the event listings on your local community websites. Festivals, concerts and movies in the park are popular this time of year. You can also look up local hiking trails, favorite camping spots, museums and other entertainment venues.


Social Media

Follow your favorite organizations on Facebook. We’ve found many local businesses will post special events and promotions on their social media pages. Some communities have online groups you can join, and this can be a great place to get recommendations from our families.


Newspapers & Magazines

Printed flyers, advertisements and local magazines tend to be on display at many family friendly stores. Look around your grocery store, library or recreation center. Checkout the bulletin boards at local coffee shops. Keep an eye out for flyers promoting restaurants with “kids eat free” nights or “free” days at your local museum.


Word of Mouth

Of course there’s nothing better than a referral from a close friend or family member if you’re looking for new activities to do with your kids. Even some school leaders will share activities happening in the local community, so be sure to skim your summer newsletters if your school is sending them.


Join the Discussion

Our kids already have a month of summer camps behind them. It’s hard to believe how quickly time passes this time of year! Next month we’re making “unstructured playtime” our primary focus with several trips to our cabin in the Rocky Mountains. It’s a time for all of us to recharge before we have to ramp back up for the next school year.


Are you trying something new this summer? We’d love to hear from you!



About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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