Ensuring a happy and productive summer for high-ability learners

Summer should be a time of happy self-discovery for children. For those who have gifted or high-level abilities, summer also can be a time to unwind and pursue interests or activities that are not quite so academic. Scholastic pursuits can be put aside, and kids can engage wholeheartedly in imaginative play, collaboration, exploration and invention.

It’s true that intellectual focus is important for achievement and fulfillment in the long run. However, kids who participate in recreational, physical and creative activities—such as building hideouts and forts, or inventing games and stories about rockets, heroes and robots, or swimming and biking—and then pondering what to do next—are much more likely to take ownership of their own learning, during the summer and into the fall. Here are some practical suggestions for parents.


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  • help children pursue their passions
  • support autonomy and resilience
  • encourage children’s creativity
  • pay attention
  • let kids get bored

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  • overlook the need to reduce scholastic pressures
  • forget the importance of unstructured playtime
  • over-program kids
  • allow kids to spend too much time with technology
  • underestimate the power of physical activity

Dr. Joanne Foster‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do help children pursue their passions

Respect your children’s views and honor their interests. Encourage active involvement in pursuits, which they may not be able to devote time to during the school year, or that they may feel unsure about initiating. Reinforce their desire to follow their enthusiasms or to try something new. Work out a plan together to acquire the necessary provisions, such as art supplies, sports equipment or how-to guides.

Do support autonomy and resilience

Encourage your children to be as active in decision-making as their age and maturity allow. Summer often provides opportunities for kids to check out new places, go on nature walks, spend more time visiting with friends and family, and experience some independence. Help your children develop a sense of autonomy. Convey your confidence in them, and show your support so they believe in themselves and their ability to tackle something new, unusual or challenging. At the same time, be sure to spend time together.

Do encourage children’s creativity

Creativity fuels learning and vice versa. During the summer months, schooling, including homework and assignments, can take a back seat. And children can decide to amp up their creative juices—or not. There are many ways to “decide for creativity,” with the onus to cultivate it lying squarely on an individual’s shoulders as he/she learns to take sensible risks, stretch curiosity, tolerate ambiguity and enjoy using his/her imagination. Developing creativity is an active choice that individuals can make. Help your child make it.

Do pay attention

Be available to observe, listen and respond. Pay attention to what matters to your child by being aware of what is happening in his/her world–over the summer months and also as he/she gets ready to transition into a new grade level and school year. Take into account factors such as, family dynamics, temperament, and social and emotional considerations.

Do let kids get bored

It may sound counterproductive, but in truth, boredom provides children and teens with a chance to think carefully about what they might want to do—to get past feelings of listlessness—and then to harness momentum.

If your child complains about boredom and asks for suggestions, talk about options for happy productivity. For example, reading, gardening, community service, household projects or planning a family outing. Try brainstorming some ideas. You also may want to plan fun activities together. You could explore a different neighborhood or embark on a shared, new hobby.

Dr. Joanne Foster‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not overlook the need to reduce scholastic pressures

Especially during the summer months, try to minimize scholastic pressures. Everyone needs some downtime. If kids want to splash in puddles, chase bubbles, gaze at stars or embark on a treasure hunt, so be it. Academia will wait.

Do not forget the importance of unstructured playtime

There are physical, cognitive, emotional and social benefits to playfulness. It enhances well-being. And it is fun to spend time with friends. Why not encourage kids to enjoy the fresh air and the wonders of nature? Summer is a perfect time for multisensory exposure in the great outdoors–morning, noon and evening. Explore and appreciate natural settings, such as parks, lakes, beaches and flower gardens.

Do not over-program kids

Summer is not meant to be a catch-basin for everything that got set aside during the school year. Kids who end up juggling too many activities and responsibilities during the summer break can quickly become overburdened. Whether your child is involved in sports, arts, practice sessions or something else, keep the pace manageable. Make sure he or she has sufficient time to relax, to do nothing, to think and to daydream.

Do not allow kids to spend too much time with technology

The online world continues to expand. It is tempting—full of information, music and interesting contributions from far and wide. Moderation is key. Children need a balance of activities in their lives. If your child spends too much time in front of a screen or a device, you may have to help him or her set tech-related limits and adhere to them.

Do not underestimate the power of physical activity

It’s summer! Exercise the body, and the mind will follow. Physical activity, on one’s own or with others, leads to better health and productivity. Model an energetic lifestyle. Help your children find active pursuits they can participate in all summer and continue to enjoy throughout the new school year.


Summer is a time when school-related demands are on the back-burner, and children can play, enjoy recreational activities, pursue their interests and even be bored—all of which is beneficial.

Parents can support their children in making the most of the summer holiday by not pressuring them, and by allowing them ample opportunities to engage in new and appropriately challenging experiences. Happy productivity comes about when kids are encouraged to be active, involved and creative. And when they have a healthy balance of down-time as well.

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