How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer

by Stacey Ebert /
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Jul 05, 2017 / 0 comments
At the age of seven, I started going to summer camp. From the moment school ended, I counted the hours until camp began. When my years of being a camper ended, I became a counselor, then a lifeguard, and then an aquatics director. Camp has been a part of my summer story since as long as I can remember. My family didn’t travel much in the summer. My sister and I both had varied camping experiences, while my brother chose to stay home for the summer. There are far more children who don’t go to camp than do. There are far more families who choose to travel during the summer holidays, road trip to everywhere, or stay in one spot and adventure throughout in ways that kids can find their own way amidst their usual home routine. What does your family’s summer look like?
How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer
At summer camp, kids learn all day long. At the end of the day (whether at a sleep away or day camp), they are tired, sweaty, and dirty - all makings of a fantastic day. There’s learning that happens amidst the sports fields, nature trails, and balance beam. There’s exploration that happens when they get to try a new food, talk to a new friend, or meet someone with a background different from their own. There’s development that’s encouraged along the way through techniques that no one realizes are strategies and when children are having fun. There’s education in the fun, and some of the best kind isn’t realized until much later in life.

How do you do ‘summer’?

Whether your kids go to camp of any kind or hang with you for the entire season, they often seem to grow a few inches taller in physical, emotional, and mental being. They’ve tried new things, met new people, seen new sights, played new games, and maybe even brought home a new pet frog. Regardless of what their schooling looks like, they’ve had experiences different to what they do in the normal school year. Warmer weather invites outdoor education, outdoor exploration, and outdoor entertainment. Perhaps they helped set up their own neighborhood friendly movie night on the lawn. Perhaps they stayed out late catching and releasing fireflies. Perhaps they managed to walk with their friends to the ice cream shop for the very first time. Or maybe they were in charge of the map, set up their own small business, handled the food preparation, or managed the gardening. Maybe they chose the adventure of the day or had their first experience babysitting their younger sibling or walking their dog. 
An outdoor concert. From How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer
Outdoor summer concert
It doesn’t have to be big to be a learning experience. It doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars or involve endless airplanes or classes. Unearthing discovery is at the core of summer development. Picking up a paint brush or a book, performing live, finding a new route to the local baseball field, geocaching for the first time, taking that leap off the high dive, or learning to ride a bike - all of these actions and activities are part of child development. My friend Donna fills her family’s summer with day trips and excursions to all sorts of water-related locales, and has even created her own hash tag for friends to follow along. My cousin Joey instilled a love of water in her kids from a young age, and now spends hours kayaking, paddling, and exploring with her two munchkins. My friend Kristine has, for years, emboldened the minds of her three children with wild, wacky, and educational adventures all across the state of New York and anywhere that she can get to by car. She complements the traditional education all year long with outdoor adventures, interactive outings, neighborhood tie-dying day, and encourages her kids to be a part of the process. 
Take a road trip! From How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer
Take a road trip
Today’s world is different than that of yesteryear. Today’s parents remember when they’d go outside to play and come back after dark or when someone called them in for dinner. For many children today, this experience is non-existent. More and more kids stay inside, more and more parents fear for their children’s safety and the phrase ‘go outside and play’ is echoed far less than it was in the past. 
Go to the beach. From How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer
Go to the beach

Summer is for going outside to play.

Places in other parts of the world encourage outdoor exploration all year ‘round. Scandinavia, Germany, and even a few part of the US have ‘forest kindergartens,’ which employ a philosophy where kids go outside daily (regardless of weather). Building a positive relationship with nature not only boosts curiosity and social development, but also improves the ability to discover away from a traditional school setting, and by developing a bit of a distance from the prying eyes of constant adults hovering, kids are allowed to be kids. A pediatrician in northern California, Nooshin Ranzani, is changing the game in her clinic by bringing the outdoors within and literally writing prescriptions to send people to the outdoors. She encourages entire families to get close to nature and not necessarily for the play perspective, but for the one directly related to their health. By helping to provide access to nature (through a transport service to local parks), she employs her patients to get out there, move, be, breathe, experience, seek, and knows that the connection to nature, once fostered, rarely wanes. Not only are the statistics clear that getting outside is definitively good for one's mental and physical health, but strengthening our desire to promote natural healing, conserve nature, and learn from generations that have come before us is good for the soul.
Go for a hike! From How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer
Go for a hike!
Ditch the mobile phones, the computer, the tablets, and the confines of a digital existence. Let kids be kids and learn as they go. Read books, play games, go explore your neighborhood and surrounding areas. Build the fort, climb the tree, make up a new game, or hunt for shells along the shore. If yours are in the category of those who go to summer camp - fantastic. Enhance their experience when they come home. Create together, build together, let them figure out a new anything, and sort out their own struggles. If they’re not in the throes of summer camp, let summer be a time that they explore in ways that work for you and your family. If at the end of the day they’re tired, sweaty, dirty, and happy, they've not only had a good day and created a great memory, but you’ve encouraged learning by doing, allowed for curiosity, and engaged a learner who is none the wiser. Fun breeds learning and learning breeds fun. Find what works for you and yours.
Take the leap; get outside - summer will thank you.

How do you ‘summer’?

1. Make up your own rainy day activities
2. Have a camp out (or a camp in)
3. Plant and grow a vegetable garden
4. Jump rope
5. Climb a mountain
6. Take a new course
7. Visit a nursing home
8. Learn to take pictures
9. Build something
10. Help someone less fortunate
11. Play board games and outdoor games
12. Have an outdoor movie night with friends/family
13. Learn a new skill
14. Visit an interactive museum
15. Explore local parks
16. Draw
17. Cook/bake
18. Have kids plan and grill a barbecue
19. Make a campfire
20. Geocache
21. Learn trapeze
22. Learn water safety
23. Paddle board, kayak, do yoga, take a hike
24. Play lawn games with new friends
25. Create with sidewalk chalk
26. Go fishing
27. Plan a trip - let the kids be the guide
28. Do interesting science experiments
29. Read books or listen to audio books
30. Spend a day on the water
31. Go shell and sea glass hunting at the shore
32. Learn to swim
33. Do arts and crafts
34. Cook together
35. Start a small business (i.e., lemonade stand, car wash)
36. Take nature walks
37. Visit an animal preserve
38. Volunteer
39. Take in a live performance/sporting event
40. Encourage kindness
Build a campfire! From How to Summer: 40 Tips for a Curious, Engaged Summer
Build a campfire
Stacey Ebert, our Educational Travels Editor, is a traveler at heart who met her Australian-born husband while on a trip in New Zealand. Stacey was an extracurricular advisor and taught history in a Long Island public high school for over fifteen years, enjoying both the formal and informal educational practices. After a one year 'round the world honeymoon, travel and its many gifts changed her perspective. She has since left the educational world to focus on writing and travel. She is energetic and enthusiastic about long term travel, finding what makes you happy and making the leap. In her spare time she is an event planner, yogi, dark chocolate lover, and spends as much time as possible with her toes in the sand.
Check out her website at for more of her travel musings.
All photos courtesy and copyright Stacey Ebert & Wandering Educators