More than just campfire songs and roasted marshmallows, summer camps provide both important life lessons for your child as well as lifelong memories. Summer camp is also a helpful tool for parents who find themselves at a loss to know how to entertain their children over the school vacation. Choosing the right camp for your young child is thus an important choice to make. Read here for some helpful advice on how best to do this.
The importance of summer camp
Many children will find it difficult to be away from home and their families during the vacation, and not only them: parents, too, can find it painful to see their child leave for several days to go into the care of other adults, especially if the child is struggling to let go. One of the greatest assets offered by this time spent away from parents is exactly that: camp teaches children to separate from their families, requiring that they learn to be independent and resilient in a space that is safe and carefree. Camp teaches kids about being part of a community that might be unfamiliar to them, pushing them out of their comfort zone and teaching them to cope with potential temporary separation anxiety. This is a learning curve for parents too.
Camps also allow children to be children, giving them a safe space for play, physical activities, social interaction and time spent out in nature away from the pervasive and addictive effects of technology used back at home.
Choosing the best camp
Depending on your child and his/her age, you might decide to start him/her off with a Day Camp as opposed to a Sleepaway Camp. With Day Camps, your options are limited to places that are located close by to your home. However, it is still important to do some research on the children’s camps in your area, and once this is done it is advisable to talk to camp directors before you make your decision. Even if the camp requires that you enrol your child online, many organisers prefer to meet the family beforehand.
The best camps will have somebody you can chat to before, during and/or after the event so that you as the parents will feel rest-assured that your child is in only the best hands. References from parents whose children have attended past camps is a good way to make a judgement about the camp in question.
What should I look for?
- Philosophy: Does the camp have a specific focus on sports, arts, leadership? If your child has an interest in a specific activity, find a camp with a similar focus.
- History: Although good new camps do exist, you cannot go wrong with a camp that has been operating for years. It would not stay in business if it was not well-run and enjoyed.
- Good staff: It is ideal to have a high camp leaders-to-campers ratio (roughly 1 to 10). You can ask for background checks or references, and can eve request interviews with the staff.
- Choice: Camps that give campers some choice over activities will give them a sense of independence and control.
- Good communication: The camp organizers should communicate efficiently with parents about upcoming events and should have a plan at the ready for if a child becomes injured or sick.
- Good reputation: Look through references, and do a ‘background check’ on the camp to see how it has been reviewed by past campers and parents. Ask camps if they have been accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), however, if they have not, this does not necessarily mean they are unreliable or risky. You will just need to ask more questions yourself.
The cost of summer camps
The cost of camps vary drastically around the country, ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. If you are struggling to find a sleepaway camp that suits your pocket, consider sending your child to day camps as they fall under the same tax guidelines as day-care. Most sleepaway camps do offer a scholarship program for families who cannot afford them. A camp might also refer you to external foundations who provide financial aid to kids across the United States.
Ensure that you are fully aware of the program’s set of values and philosophies. Check that its activities and foci are in line with the interests of your child. It is important that the camp includes some educational activity but most significantly lots of fun and play.