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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sum, sum, sum, summer time fun!

Every year in the US, millions of school kids end a school year of reading books, writing papers and doing math problems. As important, or maybe more important to the development of a child, is the growth in logic systems and imagination. No less than the eminent physicist Albert Einstein commented, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions.”

While formal schooling provides it’s own set of growth opportunities, as a parent you can provide other opportunities for imagination building, physical fitness and cultural growth. Here are a few ideas:

Make a lemonade stand. There are several organizations to help with plans and advice as well as charities who benefit from the proceeds of lemonade stands each year. Great opportunity to learn about most of the aspects of running a small business. Don’t forget to check your municipality to see if you need a permit.

Build a fort or tree house. This provides a chance to learn building techniques and historical fort construction. An internet search will provide a plethora of plans, from historical scale projects to playhouse style forts made from old fence pickets. You can use “the fort” as a reason to study history, “a castle” to study literature, and both to fire an imagination.

Take a hike. Almost everywhere in the US families will find interesting hikes local to them where families can see art and architecture, flora and fauna, and even opportunities for a small community service project.

Take swimming lessons. Everyone should know how to swim, and organizations like the Red Cross and YMCA provide lessons for thousands of children every year.

Go to outdoor art exhibits or plays. Most communities have art exhibits or sales in local parks, and some community theatre groups perform plays in the parks during the summer. These can be a great way to introduce your family to the great playwrights and their works. I never liked Shakespeare in particular, or theatre in general, until I saw a play in London at Shakespeare’s New Globe Theatre; but my son, Mark who was with me, has always loved both.

Enroll in a personal growth class at a local community college such as photography or sculpture. Being on campus and the interaction with college students is worth the price of the class if your child comes to think of higher education as something everyone does and is expected of them. Beyond that is the growth due to obtaining a new skill that maybe far removed from anything they have done before.

These are just a few of the activities you can enjoy with your kids during the summer, which will provide a fun, family friendly backdrop to spending time together. Academic information can be taught, family history passed on, and life lessons imparted. I know that most parents have to continue working during the summer, but with school out of session and no homework to worry about, it makes the planning a bit easier. Older kids can actually take the lead in planning events, providing another growth opportunity.

As a parent you only get a limited number of summers, don’t let a one slip by.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

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