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Don’t Get Stuck In The Gifted Parent Box

I recently told a little boy in my daughter’s second grade art class to think outside the box as he struggled with a project.

He told me with all seriousness his mommy told him he always had to stay inside his box ESPECIALLY during art.

I looked at my intellectually gifted daughter who had turned the assigned Moroccan cityscape into Emilyland complete with a Chinese restaurant, a prison and a public rest room.

As with her gifted older brother, the concept of a “box” has never been an option. As summer approaches, I struggle to figure out a plan for both of them.

Often, parents of intellectually gifted kids (myself included) stick themselves in a box. Thinking every educational opportunity has to be labeled a “gifted” camp or seminar can limit exposure to great opportunities.

To make the summer fun and educational, try these 7 tips to find balance for out-of-the-box thinkers (and parents).

  1. Choose from their interests or loves. That could be fossils or math or it could be fashion design. This summer, my daughter is taking a fashion design class and BioCamp for kids who want to be doctors. My son went to Space Camp but also spends a week in Tae Kwon Do camp.
  2. Involve them and get past the pretenses. Even if it is a top-ranked camp run by MIT–if your kid hates it; the benefits just aren’t there.  My son went to a highly respected (and highly expensive) program with test score entrance requirements and a stellar reputation. He disliked every single, solitary Saturday. We followed up with another challenging but much less hyped (or expensive) program. Both kids loved it and want to go back.
  3. Enroll them in activities that require movement. While we learned early on sports involving hand-eye coordination were not in the cards for my son, he is now a second-degree black belt at eleven. He still falls asleep reading Clive Cussler but three days a week he spars and kicks and punches.
  4. Down time! These are two words that mean the world to over-stimulated and over-tested gifted kids. While down time for gifted kids may still involve Minecraft and Phineas and Ferb chemistry experiments; they need breaks. It may be compelling to fill every moment with learning and tutoring but the summer is still sacred kid time. Take them to the pool, the park and the bowling alley.  Set up play dates. Bring out the sidewalk chalk. Mine will be the kids figuring out the diameter of the bowling ball and the volume of the swimming pool, but they will still be there.
  5. Encourage learning without being at-home summer school. While the kids aren’t in school 8 hours a day, they still work in workbooks and play educational apps. My husband still turns over kid’s menus for math problems in restaurants. Chinese and art lessons don’t stop. They still read a lot.
  6. Explore! Last summer, we attached clothespins with “summer bucket list” items to the outside of actual buckets. While Chuck-e-Cheese, stay-up-until-midnight and wear-our-pj’s all day made the list; we also explored historical landmarks and recently took a pottery factory tour.
  7. Have fun! Think outside of the box.

Amy Barnes is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.