Written by Logan Jones
Melting snow and longer days signals that time of year to pick kids activities for the spring and summer. For some parents it is an exciting time, but for others, I can see panic in their eyes. What activities should we pick? How do I know if it is a good fit for my child? What if the camp or sport we want to do is full? These are often the questions parents ask me at this time of year when making decisions about activities for their kids.
Here are four guidelines to help parents with their decisions this year:
- Look for hands-on programs where kids learn by doing. The caliber of kid’s programming in Calgary is high and continues to grow each year, including here at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Kinesiology. Many organizations operate throughout the city and, between them, they offer just about every activity imaginable. Programs are meant to be fun and not feel like school, so look for hands-on programs where kids learn by doing. The best learning often comes when kids don’t even realize they are learning because they are having too much fun.
- Involve the child in the activity selection process. I recommend parents involve their child in the activity selection process. Picking an activity that interests your child is going to mean they are more engaged, learn more, and have more fun. Parents may ask broadly, “what do you want to do?” or narrow it down to a few options for the child to choose from. As you know, kids’ interests can change quickly so doing the same thing they did last year might not be what they want to do this year.
- Easy = Boring, Too Hard = Scary – Choose a program with the right level of challenge. Youth programmers strive to make every activity positive and meaningful so the child can build a lifelong love of the activity. Every detail including program descriptions, prerequisites, and information about the level is thoughtfully crafted, so parents can match the programs to the child’s skill set. The right level of challenge will make a big difference in the child’s experience. If the activity or level is too easy, then the child will be bored. If the programming is too challenging, the child will hate it, may feel anxious about attending, or break down during the activity. The ideal zone for programs is where kids are challenged, learn through progressions, are able overcome obstacles, and reach their goals. Programs that are the right fit for kids will help them grow confidence and a desire for learning.
- If your top choice isn’t available, embrace it. From time to time, a child’s favorite activity, sport or camp is not available. Many parents tell me how sad their child was when their favorite rafting camp was full, but when they tried a robotics program, it unlocked a hidden passion for building robots they didn’t even know existed. I have had the privilege of watching many kids break out of their preconceived molds. Sporty kids have become engineers, introverted science kids have become performing artists, kids with no particular passion fall in love with animals and veterinary medicine, city kids learn to connect with nature in Kananaskis Country and so much more. These changes can be big or small, but they carry the experience with them throughout their lives.
Parents and kids will have a great spring and summer if they follow the four guidelines. Look for hands on programs where kids learn by doing; create a process for selecting activities and include your child in the process; find a program, activity, or camp that has the appropriate level of challenge for your child; if your child’s top choice isn’t available embrace it, they may discover something new and different!
Logan is the Youth Programs Manager at the University of Calgary. Learn more about University of Calgary Summer Camps by visiting ucalgary.ca/camps.