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Summer offers kids fun and enrichment
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Children need the summer break away from school to relax and get re-energized before the next term, but learning doesn't have to stop with the classroom lessons.
Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said a variety of fun enrichment programs encourage learning throughout the summer months.
Davis said going to camp, playing sports, taking swimming lessons or going for nature walks enrich children and teach them unique lessons they may not learn at school.
Parents should take advantage of summer free time to engage their children in activities they will enjoy and benefit from. Many communities have several youth programs to accommodate different interests.
"Most libraries, no matter how small the community, have summer reading programs," Davis said. "These are beneficial to children from very young ages to those who are middle-school age."
Activities enrich children and help them become well-rounded. Adults should stress the importance of staying physically active.
"Don't let children get into a summer rut of staying home and watching television all day," Davis said. "Children don't need to be left unoccupied."
Parents can check with local community centers, parks and recreation departments, and faith-based organizations like the YMCA or churches to see what programs are available. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other youth clubs may help children develop skills that will help them throughout life. Davis said all these activities help socialize children.
Tammy East, Leake County 4-H youth agent, said 4-H programs offer enough variety in every county that children can usually find an activity that interests them.
"There are more than 42 different project areas. Not every one is strong in each county, but kids can find something they will enjoy," East said.
She said 4-H allows children to try something new, develop hobbies and meet new friends without a lot of expense for families. Activities range from outdoor projects, such as horses and livestock or field and stream, to cooking, sewing and even modeling projects.
Davis said the most important consideration for youth's summer activities is always that children are supervised, at home and away from home.
"Communities offer many great programs for children, but kids staying home can be involved in enrichment activities also. Provide a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, and make sure your child is stimulated socially, emotionally, physically and mentally throughout the summer, as well as during the school year," Davis said.