Creativity can happen every day of the year, but there’s no better time than summer break to really focus our attention on nurturing creativity in the young people in our lives.
Don’t fall into the trap of hyper-managing your child’s summer time. Relax! They will have many years ahead of them when every hour of every day seems chock full of work demands, competitive stress and performance anxieties. (Actually that already describes September-June in their world!) Let them have the summer off while they’re young, and they’ll thank you for it later.
Having the summer off doesn’t mean letting them live their days in a haze of snack food and video games. It just means you make a commitment to give them the freedom to explore and create a menu of new experiences. While you’re at it, why not take the time to apply similar guidelines for your summer – even though you don’t actually have it ‘off’.
Here are some tips to get you on your way to making Summer 2014 the template for a new family tradition that will inspire confidence and creativity in your kids and set them up for success for years to come.
Make them the boss of their time.
Okay, every boss, has a boss, and you’ll still be theirs, but for the next few weeks, you won’t micromanage their project called “My Awesome Summer.” Just give them the project, guidelines and expectations and let them run with it! Here’s how:
1. Call a Meeting
Let them know you’re putting them in charge of their summer this year and there are no rules, but there are guidelines.
2. Set the Guidelines
“You have [x] weeks in the summer and I expect you to have fun and learn something new every week.” Remind them that you don’t expect them to master anything in a few weeks, but to try a few new things. You know that saying, “failure is not an option”? Reserve that for school grades and life and death situations please. In the daily lives of truly successful people and legendary pioneers, failure IS an option. It’s how people learn and grow. People who are afraid to fail, are afraid to try. Sometimes this is all the encouragement we need to go out and try something new.
3. Set the Budget
If you have a budget for summer camp, let them know what it is, and give them the task of choosing a camp that fits the budget. Make them responsible for calling the camp to find out if space is available and when registration is required. If they need help on how to ask, do so, offer to be there when they call if they want you to.
Give them a timeframe for when they have to return to you with their summer fun strategy.
4. Assign a Daily “Kindness BOLO”
Be on the lookout for someone to be kind to every day. The goal is to say or do something kind for someone else every day. The goal isn’t to look for lofty acts of heroism – it’s a way to begin practicing deliberate kindness.
5. Document it
Give them a simple notebook (ideally, let them pick one) and tell them they have to write a note to themselves every night to say what they learned today, what they noticed today or what they are grateful for today.
Calling it a ‘note’ is important – it relieves the pressure of thinking they have to write an essay – or even full sentences. They will be free to express themselves however they see fit. The notebook is THEIRS. Let them know it’s not something you will be reading – it’s something they’re doing for themselves. If you want to keep them on track, they can show you their entry each night…from across the room.
6. Make it a Team Project
Ask them if there’s something they’ve always wanted to try as a family and then help them make a plan to make it happen. Please don’t be hurt if they don’t have an idea. If the idea is something that requires funds you don’t have, then just be honest and say so. Let them know that’s not in the family budget right now, and then try to come up with another family project that’s fun and free. They’ll appreciate your honesty (without burdening them with financial woes), you’ll be showing them what it looks like to responsibly manage your money, and they’ll soon realize that there are many fun things that can be done together without going broke or into debt. Even the act of planning the project will become a bonding experience.
7. Make ‘Summer Camp’ ‘Service Camp’
Help them discover their personal vision for helping others – are there local groups that they can offer their services for a few weeks at a time this summer? If it’s for a younger child, you can still go into stealth mode and call ahead to the group/organization before you go with your child to offer their help. Giving the group a heads up allows them to think of how they can use a little help, maybe they can commit to a few hours a day instead of all day, or there’s just one project they need help on, or even if the answer is a ‘no’ the person receiving the call will be ready with a ‘thoughtful no.’
8. Camp Online
There are actually a few camps online that can be quite fun and educational for your child. One option is Maker Camp (http://makezine.com/maker-camp/). This is a Google initiative that’s actually NOT about sitting in front of a computer screen all day. If you are receptive to online camps then they are as close as your keyboard.
So make 2014 the Summer of (Guided) Freedom for your child. The little critters (or larger pesky teenagers) will thank you for it (much) later.