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Summer Planning Tips for Gifted and 2e Kids

Tips to help you support your child's interests, talents, and relationships this summer.

Late January and early February are a great time to think about summer plans for your gifted or twice-exceptional kid. Many summer programs open their enrollment at this time of year, and these programs can be an excellent opportunity for gifted/2e kids to explore their interests, develop their talents, and connect with like-minded peers.

The first few sections of this article include ideas to help you choose summer programs. But not all intense gifted/2e kids benefit from structured activities in the summer. Many of these kids crave the freedom, autonomy, and relaxation that summer can offer. These kids may still enjoy time exploring their interests and favorite activities, or they may need to prioritize rest. The last two sections of this article share ideas for kids who might benefit more from fewer demands this summer.

What are some things to consider when choosing a good-fit summer program for your gifted/2e kid?


Look for a program focused on your child’s interest(s). Summer programs cater to a wide range of interests. Many programs offer opportunities to explore interests or talents that may be neglected in your child’s classroom during the regular school year. If your child is fascinated by science, coding, engineering, politics, sustainability, fine arts, animals, or other subjects that don’t get much attention during school, you could search for programs or classes that would let your child dive deep into one of these interests. For some kids, these passions can lead to other activities, communities, and even careers.

Look for programs with the right depth. Consider your child’s level of experience and ability in their areas of interest. Try to find a program that will offer them new information or allow them to explore their interest in greater depth than they already have. If your kid is passionate about writing, for example, they may enjoy a writing program where they get to write their own story or play with feedback or lessons from a real author or talented teacher. But a summer program that’s too simplistic (for example, one focused on free writing without guidance or on basic writing strategies they already know) likely won’t be fun.

Look for programs with the right pace. Research shows that very bright kids (the top 1 in 200) can learn a full high school course such as chemistry or English in 3 weeks at a summer residential program for gifted youth. If your child is very advanced in a specific subject, an accelerated program specifically for gifted/2e kids may be a good option. If you’re not sure whether your child can handle a certain pace, look at the entrance criteria for the program and/or chat with program staff about your concerns.

What are some potential benefits of a summer learning program?


Nurture your child’s whole self. This may seem obvious, but summer programs aren’t just about developing skills and abilities, even if the program is focused on academic content. A good-fit program can also be a huge boost to a gifted/2e child’s motivation, confidence, and self-esteem. When they’re engaged in challenging activities they enjoy, kids can have a blast while they practice persisting on difficult tasks, using problem-solving skills, and collaborating with peers.

Make friends and feel like part of a community. For many gifted/2e kids, the best part of their summer program is the social experience. Kids who feel out of place and lonely during the school year may feel more comfortable and find friends like them in the right summer learning community. When I worked at Exploration Junior Program, many families of bright kids expressed gratitude for their child’s social experience - for the fact it was “cool to be smart” and their child felt accepted instead of ostracized. Programs designed specifically for gifted/2e kids are a good bet, but so are programs that attract bright kids who have the same interest as your child, even if they’re not gifted-specific.


Summer programs might have year-long benefits. Some gifted kids look forward to their summer learning experiences all year and feel less bothered by the boring or lonely aspects of their typical school year because they know they have a positive summer experience ahead of them.

How do I find a good-fit summer program?

Below is a sampling of organizations that offer summer programs for gifted/2e kids or that may be a good fit for a gifted/2e kid. They offer a mixture of online, day programs, and residential programs. I’m not officially endorsing these programs, and I’m not affiliated with any of them (though I worked at Exploration Summer Programs for several summers). Instead, this list is a resource to help you explore the different options for gifted/2e kids.


National/regional programs


Minnesota programs - I used to be located in Minneapolis; here are examples of programs I recommended to local families.  You could check whether there are similar programs in your local area.


Programs in your area

You can also find programs in your area by searching online for your child’s particular interest(s) in your local area or nationally.


Some places to look locally include:

  • Science museums, art museums, children’s museums

  • Nonprofits focused on the arts or technology

  • Public schools and public recreation programs (some offer gifted-specific summer programming, and others offer classes on specific subjects that may be of interest to your kid)

  • Local universities or community colleges


What if a summer program isn’t a good fit or isn’t accessible to us?

There are lots of reasons it might not be a good idea to pursue a formal summer learning opportunity for your child.


Some common reasons include:

  • You can’t find a good-fit program in your area

  • The price is prohibitive and there aren’t adequate financial aid options

  • The schedule isn’t compatible with your family’s schedule

  • Your child isn’t interested in or ready for a residential program

  • Your child loves to learn, but on their own terms - formal classes don’t go as well for them

A formal summer program is definitely NOT necessary for your child to have a good summer, explore their interests, or make friends.

You can also support your child’s talents, interests, and relationships at home this summer with a little planning and creativity.

  • If your child loves nature, could you host a nature-documentary party or a visit to the zoo, aquarium, or a local pet store? Could you and your child volunteer with an animal-focused nonprofit? Do they have a friend or two who might like to join, or do you?

  • Would your child enjoy making a video or comic about one of their interests to teach other children? Hosting a Zoom presentation for friends and relatives?

  • Would your child enjoy helping with a project around the house or neighborhood that’s related to their interests or skills? Could they be an IT-tech support person, help redecorate a room, plan and prepare a special meal?

  • Do you know any adults who work in a field that your child is curious about, who might be willing to do a project with them or give them a (virtual or in-person) tour of their work?

  • If your child enjoys certain games (Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, Settlers of Cattan, or video games), could you try a game event at a local game store or post on neighborhood groups to find a buddy with the same interest who would like to play?

  • Many gifted/2e kids are autodidacts - they are self-taught and like to learn on their own through online research, reading, playing, YouTube videos, and experimentation. These kids need plenty of time to engage with their interests through a variety of means. Many families have looser screen time limits in the summer so their child can learn online and through gaming alone or with friends.

Some kids need summer to rest and recuperate


Finally, some gifted/2e kids really need the summer to rest and recuperate.

For these kids, fewer demands and less structure may be just what they need.


If the school year is particularly tiring for your kid, consider whether they would benefit from extra down time or "time off" this summer. Many twice-exceptional kids need big chunks of the summer to relax, watch videos, play games, zone out, read for fun, and do nothing so their nervous systems can recover from a stressful year.

If you want more ideas like this directly to your inbox, sign up for Gifted Lab Notes, my weekly email with tips and information for supporting your intense or sensitive gifted or twice-exceptional (2e) kid.

If you, like your gifted kid, are craving a chance to learn with like-minded peers, my parent coaching program Support Your Intense Gifted/2e Kid is a great place to meet other thoughtful parents who understand what it's like to parent an intense gifted or twice-exceptional kid. Participants say it's the first time they've heard other parents describe the same challenges and dynamics they have in their home.  It can be a relief to connect with other parents of gifted kids in a space designed just for you.

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