Just hearing the words, “summer camp” can make people smile. Why? Because it’s hard to forget a summer filled with new friendships and learning new things. This is true whether it involves sports, cooking over an open fire, identifying wildlife, stringing a bow or shooting an arrow.
Since school will be out soon, it’s time to make those summer plans.
The good news is, there are plenty of camp options for everything from the zoo, coding and nature, to scouting, sports and cooking experiences. And, many local organizations offer both day and residential summer camps. There’s really something for every kid out there.
The camp experience can be good for kids in many ways. It may help them:
mature socially, emotionally, intellectually, morally and physically;
discover and explore their talents, interests and values;
build self-confidence and increase independence as they learn how to navigate relationships away from their parents; and,
try new things and develop leadership skills.
So, how do you choose a camp that fits your child’s personality and needs?
The American Camp Association (ACA) website has suggestions for you as you make decisions. Here are a few for you to think about.
What is the camp’s philosophy? Does it complement your parenting style? Is the camp competitive or cooperative?
What is the camp director’s background? At a minimum, a camp director should have a bachelor’s degree and camp administration experience.
What is the ratio of counselors to campers? Depending on the age and ability of the campers, the medium range is one staff member for every seven to eight campers.
How old are the counselors? ACA standards recommend that 80 percent or more of the program staff be 18 or older. Additionally, at least 20 percent of the program/administrative staff must have a bachelor’s degree.
How does the camp handle poor behavior and discipline? Positive reinforcement, assertive role-modeling and a sense of fair play are generally regarded as key components of camp leadership.
Another good idea is to research references and camp policies, such as visitation, dealing with homesickness or other adjustment issues.
If your child is camping for the first time, you’ll want to make sure they are ready. Just because you think they are old enough doesn’t mean they are emotionally prepared.
Remember to include your child in the camp decision-making process. If you choose an overnight camp, be sure they can spend the night away from home and can handle being away from you. (By the way, sleepovers at Grandma’s don’t count!) Discuss what to do if they get homesick.
Also, prepare them to meet people who are different from them. Let them know they will encounter bugs and other creepy-crawly things if camp is outdoors.
Each year, more than 14 million children go to camp. Parents say it greatly impacts their child’s ability to get along with others, willingness to learn something new and how they feel about themselves.
Summer camp can be a home away from home. And, when the camp is right for your child, it can provide great fun, lasting memories and personal discovery.
This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on March 12, 2017.