Are your kids ready to rock? Instructions for making fun homemade musical instruments can be found in our article, Strike Up the Band!
It’s never too late or too early to start thinking about what your family is going to do to pass the time during the three-month vacation season. So tap into your child’s creative side and fill your summer calendar with arts-oriented entertainment and learning opportunities.
For children under age 5
At home: Staying local this summer? Stop cries of, “I’m bored!” by getting outside to get creative. Sidewalk chalk is a budget-friendly, mess-free way to keep your child busy while she turns your driveway into a vibrant work of art. One fun way to use it: Have your child lie on the pavement and trace around her body. Then hand the chalk over and let her color in the details of her twin, from fashion to facial features. Or go on a nature hunt in the backyard, collecting feathers, petals, twigs, and other finds. When you get back home, create a collage together using the bits and pieces you gathered.
But don’t stop there; the at-home arts possibilities are truly endless. Try finger painting, sculpting clay, reading books together and acting them out, or creating sock puppets and using them to put on a show. The limit is your—and your child’s—imagination!
In your neighborhood: Explore the arts on the cheap by staying near home. Most museums offer free programs for kids, and are a great place to go to escape the heat during the dog days of summer. Call your local museums to find out what they offer. An even closer option may be your library. Many have arts-and-crafts hours, and some even have weekly workshops, like the El Rito library in New Mexico, which provides free pottery and scrapbooking classes for children.
If your child would rather sing and dance, check out a music festival—most cities host them, and they’re a family-friendly way to introduce your kid to new sounds and genres. Once you’re there, head for the children’s stage for musical entertainment and activities with storytellers and puppeteers. Go to festivalfinder.com to find out which festivals are coming to your city.
For children ages 5 and up
At camp: If you’re planning on sending your child to camp, start looking early in the year as application deadlines quickly approach and available slots fill. At both day camps (the best option for children under age seven) and sleep-away camps, it’s almost a definite that music, painting, acting, or another form of art will be part of your child’s curriculum—95 percent of camps offer art activities, according to the American Camp Association. Go to acacamps.org to find accredited locations that meet health and safety standards.
But if your child is content to skip the boating and archery, consider an arts-focused camp. Whether your child’s passion is drama or drawing, programs that cater to his talents will teach your child new skills while introducing him to other kids with the same interest.
A note to parents of first-time, sleep-away campers: Avoid homesick calls by making sure to include your child in all of the decisions leading up to his camping experience, from where to go to what to pack. “It will help your child feel more invested in his camp experience and, ultimately, will help him adjust quicker to life at camp,” says Pam Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association.
On campus: Your teen may not have college on her mind yet, but that doesn’t mean she can’t spend part of her summer at a university program. Advanced artists will thrive in these programs—which usually last one or two weeks and are most often offered for performing arts students. While social activities are a part of these camps, the focus is on education. Not only will your child have the opportunity to study under the country’s top professionals and perform with other talented students, but she’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be in a university art curriculum, which could come in handy when college applications do eventually come around. Go to usperformingarts.com for more information and a list of universities and colleges that offer these programs.
Another place to look for educational summer art programs is your local school system. Many public schools host summer school programs that teach the arts—from band, to dance, to musical theater—at a fraction of the cost of a summer camp. These options are less competitive than what you’ll find on college campuses, and also cater to elementary and middle school students.
Adding a dose of art-related activities to the vacation period—whether it’s the ideas above or other creative options—will help keep your child engaged and excited about the arts. Aim to fit a few into your child’s summer schedule!