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The Benefits of Summer Programs and Classes for Children, Pre-Teens, and Teens

The Benefits of Summer Programs and Classes for Children, Pre-Teens, and Teens

Summer classes and programs can make kids healthier, happier, and more prepared to succeed in school. Here’s a look at the many benefits of structured summertime activities for children.

There are lots of quality summer programs for children these days. This abundance of kids’ summer classes and activities is a good thing! When children have long hours of undirected time, as they often do when school is out, “they are actually much less likely to engage in activities that enhance their academic development, their social skills, and their cognitive skills,” says Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, M.D., developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. On the other hand, “structured [summer] activities can actually help enhance all those aspects of development,” Dr. Spinks-Franklin shares.

We asked Dr. Spinks-Franklin to explain the ways that summer programs have a positive impact on children. Who knew that kids’ summertime classes and activities could do all this…

…help prevent obesity.

Whether your child is at an art class, a drop-in play space, or a traditional summer camp, it means he’s away from the TV, computer, or other screens. That alone is a huge plus when it comes to weight management. “Watching television is a passive activity, and playing video games is pretty passive too,” Dr. Spinks-Franklin says. “You’re much more sedentary as a result and that also increases your risk of gaining excessive weight.” Of course, if you sign up your child for a summer activity that involves physical activity, such as a karate class or dance class, he’ll also be getting some beneficial exercise. Along with that, “she’ll learn body-awareness, self-control, partnering with others, and how to manage frustration as she learns new routines and moves.”

…boost overall health.

Outdoor summer programs give children a chance to experience fresh air, and something else that Dr. Spinks-Franklin says is very important: sunlight. “Being outdoors and being exposed to the sun is actually very good for your health. Vitamin D is stored in the skin. So when your skin is exposed to sunlight for at least fifteen solid minutes on any given day, you give time for the sun to convert the vitamin D in the skin to a form that the rest of the body can actually use.”

…reinforce academic skills learned during the school year.

Kids can lose up to three months of reading skills and up to two months of math skills over the summer without adequate practice. “Throughout the country, teachers spend much of the first grading period of school simply reviewing what the children learned in the previous academic year because of summer learning loss,” Dr. Spinks-Franklin says. Summer activities and programs are a great way to informally shore up that hard-won knowledge. Think about an arts and crafts class or session at camp, for example, Dr. Spinks-Franklin explains: “You’re going to be reading instructions, and you’ll be counting or measuring in order to create whatever it is that you are creating. You’re going to be using different materials and media. You’ll have to think about pressure, or using heat, or how glue works, or what angles are needed to make things fit together. You’re engaging mathematical and scientific principles and reading into the activity.” Beyond that, “there’s a really solid correlation between using the arts and academic achievement,” Dr. Spinks-Franklin adds. “Through art, children are able to use many areas of their brain, and explore areas of their own skills and abilities that they might not have a chance to explore otherwise.”

…improve socialization.

Summer programs and classes help your child meet new kids, and also learn how to get along with others. “When was the last time your child had to negotiate with another kid over a play activity?” Dr. Spinks-Franklin asks. “Knowing how to negotiate, how to compromise, how to have an argument, and then come to a solution and remain friends—those are really important skills, and they have to take place face to face. You don’t acquire that same skill set over a text message or social media.”

…set the stage for future school success.

Lessons conveyed through summer programs often tie in well to school curricula. “Take your child to a summer class at a museum, for example, and she may learn about the Egyptian kings. Then later, in social studies, she may learn about King Tut,” Dr. Spinks-Franklin explains. “She’ll be able to immediately relate the lesson in school to what she learned over the summer, and will bring to that lesson the ground knowledge which will also enhance her motivation to learn.” It’s proof that summer programs can benefit your children in ways that last all year—and long beyond.

Luckily, it’s easy to find a top-quality summer children’s program or class in Rockland, Westchester,  Manhattan,  Queens,  Brooklyn,  Nassau, and Suffolk. Take a look and you're sure to find the perfect solution for your child!

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Deborah Skolnik

Author: Deborah Skolnik, a graduate of Cornell University, lives in Westchester with her husband and two daughters, and enjoys writing, cooking, and gardening. See More

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