The Family Project: Summer programs
Q. Summer begins June 21. I am wondering what to do with my children, ages 8-15, to keep them active, safe and moving forward educationally. I don’t have money to send them to camp and I don’t want them spending their time in front of the computer or TV or on their phones. Any suggestions?
The panel had lots of suggestions. It would have been helpful to know how many children are being discussed and what their genders are.
“Interests will vary depending on how old each of the children is, and whether they are male or female,” said panelist Pam Wallace.
Panelist Chad Stefanyak took the children’s side. “It’s OK for them to be on the computer or watching TV some of the time because it is their break,” Stefanyak said. “The parents should focus on setting limits for those activities, rather than trying to structure other activities every day of the summer.”
“If there isn’t some kind of planning, however,” panelist Michael Ramsey warned, “the summer will just blink by.” Ramsey suggested including the children in the planning process. “Let them be creative. Find ways for them to use their computers or phones to find out what they would like to do. Create options, but also allow for down-time.”
“You can find educational elements in everything from using a map to reading a sports magazine,” Stefanyak said. “Reading is reading is reading.”
Addressing the financial element, Ramsey noted that there are camps that operate for shorter lengths of time than the entire summer. There are also summer programs, such as for sports and swimming, in area parks run by township recreation commissions that are free, low-cost or offer scholarships. “Some schools have summer programs,” Ramsey said.
For example, summer STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) educational enrichment programs are offered in Parkland School District, Northampton Area School District and at Lehigh Carbon Community College. In Allentown, City Arts Camp is provided by a consortium of The Baum School of Art. Allentown Art Museum, Miller Symphony Hall, Community Music School, Civic Theatre of Allentown and Repertory Dance Theatre.
Other suggestions discussed by panelists included attending free concerts and movies throughout the area, the parents and children making their own event by taking a hike on one of the area Rails-to-Trails area, and holding a picnic or cookout. A family camp-out might be a much cheaper alternative to a summer recreational camp.
Panelist Jackie Gisonti said that the summer is an opportunity for youths to learn about responsibility. “Teach the 15-year-old to mow the lawn or do chores around the house,” Gisonti said. “You can also give the older children more freedom, along with ground rules, to test their ability to deal with challenges and temptations, without the added pressure of classes and homework.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Michael Ramsey, MS, LPC, Program Supervisor, Valley Youth House; Jackie Gisonti, Housing Supervisor, Valley Youth House; and Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor.
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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.
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