Slide into Achievement:  Summer Programs for Joyful Enrichment

Slide into Achievement: Summer Programs for Joyful Enrichment

With winter over and summer fast approaching, it's time to secure a slot in that sports, arts or academic camp, community service adventure or career-focused internship that matches your child's interest plus your schedule and budget. From searching for seahorses in Biscayne Bay to learning quantum chemistry to experiencing sleep away camp with horseback riding, Miami offers a kaleidoscope of programs to help children sharpen skills, explore new fields and stretch comfort zones beyond their school universe. So seek and ye shall find the best option for fun and refreshment plus growth and development.

Summer Play-Cation: Parents and children can decide between camps from cooking to coding. Look for ones that sound fun, advises Meghan Lehy in The Washington Post. If a child wants to learn hip hop, she suggests a camp where they write, produce, perform and learn the technology. "Camps should be a time of experimentation, rest, excitement, challenges and, of course, lots of play. Trust that the learning that many of us want for our children is happening when they play," Lehy writes.

The Carroll Community College article "7 Tips for Choosing the Best Summer Camp for Your Child"  advises looking for qualified personnel and challenging opportunities in an unfamiliar setting. "Kids become better able to adapt to change when their minds and spirits are regularly challenged with new activities and fresh perspectives. Encourage them to step outside their comfort zone," it says. "Summer camp is an excellent venue for your kids to improve their communication skills and expand their social circle."

Brainy and Brilliant: Also consider STEM programs--not just future engineers--like the CATCH quantum chemistry workshop or the paid American Chemical Society summer SEED  internship at University of Miami chemistry department.  "Living in a rapidly changing world, parents should consider looking for summer camps where kids get hands-on experience in such stimulating and relevant STEM subjects as computer programming, digital media and robotics," the article recommends.

Families seeking to boost academic skills can check out the Summer 305 website for camps with Miami-Dade teachers on reading and math. For example, Smart Start improves English and math skills plus civics and critical thinking. The Children's Trust lists free and low-cost Trust-funded programs countywide.  highlights budget-friendly camps such as the YMCA, Scouts and Girl Scouts, and Miami-Dade County parks and recreation. There's also The Salvation Army of Miami, which offers a free month of Miami Music Camp in multiple instruments and sleepaway Camp Keystone.

Go Green: "15 Benefits of Summer Camp for Your Kid" stresses the value of screen-free outdoors activity that “encourages movement, which is vital for physical, mental and emotional health. Outside, children are free to run, skip, jump, climb, laugh and breathe the fresh air...Nature helps children experience the magic and wonder of childhood.” Camp also fosters leadership, independence, teamwork and decision-making skills as kids lead a hike and overcome obstacles. "Kids learn to become more self-reliant as they explore their interests and discover their strengths and weaknesses. They learn to trust their inner voice."

Serve and Shine: From leading sizzling volcano science experiments at Vacation Bible School to assisting at Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, teens can also impact their communities through summer volunteer projects. Along the way, they can strengthen leadership skills, log service hours and explore interests. The AARP article "Help Kids Volunteer This Summer" suggests eco projects like organizing a neighborhood trash pick-up, planting trees with a conservation organization, sorting produce at food banks or volunteering in local hospitals. "Not only can you find fun activities and teach your child the value of giving back, but volunteering has well documented benefits for health and well-being."

Ready, Set Internship: Enterprising rising 10th -12th graders can also apply for the Summer Youth Internship Program, funded in part by The Children's Trust. The five-week paid program gives students interviewing experience, real life projects, professional insights-- and connections with employers. "For the students, this is an opportunity to get a head start and a feel for the business sector and to develop and fine tune your skills needed to be successful in life," says Trust CEO James Haj.