700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Should I Enroll My Child in a Summer Enrichment Program?

Apr 28, 2021
child running wearing a backpack

This may seem like a straightforward question, but once you start to weight pros and cons, enrolling your child in a summer enrichment program is not always an easy decision. Considering factors like cost, transportation, and childcare, the decision becomes even more difficult. Not all enrichment programs are created equal, so early preparation and research is a must.

Summer Enrichment Cons

One of the biggest factors to weigh is cost, as many enrichment programs can be expensive. I always encourage parents in my office to look closely at the structure, content, and schedule for the camp. Some camps may equate to paying for an expensive vacation for your child. That’s fine if that’s what you want, but for people who are on a budget and a timeline, this “vacation” may be less than ideal.

Look for opportunities that have well-trained staff, offer a good balance between unstructured downtime vs. structured learning, have favorable reviews from past parents and are taught by reputable organizations. For example, pre-college programs for high schoolers may be more effective if they are on a college campus and taught by actual college professors, so that youth can have a more realistic experience of what college is like. If cost is a concern, know that many camps offer scholarships and sliding scale fees based on income. The sooner you apply the better, however.

Another important question to ask is if your child is feeling burned out from the prior school year. It’s important to check in with your child and find a program that they are excited about, knowing that breaks are an important part of not feeling burned out. If they are not enthusiastic or if they are stressed from the prior school year, a summer enrichment program could worsen these issues. Talk to your pediatrician about this. Studies show that kids learn more effectively when they are excited and engaged.

During the pandemic, kids have had so much online learning this past year that it’s important to consider programs that have some in-person activities. This may be an important “reset” for kids.

Summer Enrichment Pros

Students enrolled in summer programs often start the next school year more prepared, more ready for schoolwork and educationally ahead of their peers. This can be a big positive for students, especially when you consider the additive effects of these summer learning opportunities over time. Summer programs also give kids a chance to learn new skills, often in a less structured environment, which can be fun for kids. This may be a good time to help boost a child who is bored with the highly structured aspect of traditional schooling. It’s relatively easy to find opportunities that are less structured but still provide quality learning at the same time.

Students of all ages can benefit from the diverse and unique programs that are available. Some programs focus on building leadership skills, exploring new interests, sparking creativity, and building resilience. Remember that learning life skills can be as important as learning academic skills.

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Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Emily Decker, MD
Primary Care Pediatrics

Dr. Emily is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Urgent Care and Primary Care Clinics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She has a strong interest in child advocacy, and serves as the medical director for CAP4Kids Columbus.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.