One of our very favorite books about summertime is Judy Blume’s funny and touching Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. It seems amazing that a book published in 1972 could remain so relevant and appealing, but our kids can attest that it does.
Sheila the Great zeroes in on what makes summer vacation so important for kids: the opportunity to take on challenges besides schoolwork—chief among them physical challenges. After nine months’ worth of book learning and time inside a classroom, kids need not only exercise and fresh air, but also a chance to test their physical limits and courage.
In the book, Sheila’s parents are determined that this is the summer she will learn how to swim. With the help of her very patient swim teacher, Sheila gradually overcomes her fear, and by the end of the book, she is able to swim across the pool and pass the beginner swim test. Even though there are four-year-olds at the pool who swim far better than she can, Sheila feels so proud of herself: “I can swim. I proved it to everyone, including myself!”
This, in a nutshell, is what summer’s physical challenges can do for kids: give them a sense of empowerment and self-confidence unlike anything a classroom provides. Here are a few that our kids are tackling this summer:
– riding a bike
– hiking a mountain
– trying a zip line
– jumping off a high dive
– trying out a new sport
– riding a horse
– being brave enough to pick up a frog or toad or harmless garden snake.
The choice of activity itself doesn’t matter; what matters is that our kids have a chance to put themselves to the test, make some progress, and become more resilient and self-assured in the process.