By BronxMama Writer Marilyn Rincon
Not All Summer Camps Are Created Equal
Spring is just arriving, but most of us are already thinking about our summer plans, especially kids! If you’re considering placing your child in a summer camp, there are many things to consider.
• Is your child ready for an overnight summer camp? Some children do well when they are away from their typical home and family routine overnight. For example, your child may stay with a relative or friend overnight often. Still, be cautious. Typically, overnight summer camps last weeks. If your child is interested, discuss the possibility that he/she will feel homesick, how to cope with homesickness, and a plan B if he/she feels like the homesickness is too much to bear. One can never say which child will do the best in an overnight summer camp. The energetic, sociable, outgoing child may very well feel the most homesick!
• Is your child ready for a full day of camp? If you and your child have ruled out an overnight camp, an full day summer camp may be the next idea. With this option, your child returns home each evening. Consider whether your child can handle being at camp all day. There are camps that run from 8am until 5pm or even later. There are breaks and snacks built in throughout such a long day. Make sure to ask whether snacks are provided and how often. Also ask about the frequency and duration of breaks, such as bathroom, water, and relaxation or low key activities (art, reading, etc.). Ask yourself whether your child will tire easily or become bored? Can your child choose his/her activities? Will there be trips to break up the regular schedule?
• Does your child need a part time summer camp? If your child is not ready to spend nights away from his/her bed, family and home routine, and if your child is not ready for 8-9 hour day of summer camp, then a part time summer day camp may be best. The child may be present for a few hours or for half of the camp’s day. This option is great for the younger campers since it allows them the opportunity to engage in summer camp activities, but doesn’t tire them out to the point of no return (i.e.: crankiness, irritability, temper tantrums). Perhaps the camp may have quiet time or nap time. Be sure to ask, especially if your child is between 2 and 5 years old or you feel your child still needs those types of breaks. My daughter is almost three and she dropped naps when she was 18 months old, but still needs quiet, down time.
Ask Questions, Questions & More Questions
As a former summer camp group counselor, I firstly recommend that parents ask other parents which camps their children enjoy. The reputation of a summer camp is key!
• Shop around for prices. Some camps offer discounts for siblings and how long your child will be in camp throughout the summer.
• Ask about the camp’s list of activities.
• Ask for the instructors’ credentials in teaching their specific area (you don’t want to pay for an instructor that is teaching your child art, but never taught art before!).
• Ask about the frequency of trips and where the trips will take place (you want to expose your child to diverse trips that you probably wouldn’t be able to take him/her to, if possible).
• Ask if campers will be swimming at the pool and/or receiving swimming lessons.
• Ask about bathroom breaks, water breaks, snack policy, and a buddy system. I always paired my campers up so that I could count them easier during walks to and from a location. One example of a buddy system is when the campers hold their buddy’s hand, raise it in the air, and the counselor counts the campers to make sure everyone is present. I counted my campers several times a day, especially when departing from an activity location.
• Don’t forget to ask about the discipline policy so that you can assure it’s a policy you are comfortable with.
• Most importantly, visit more than one camp before making a decision. Your decision should be an informed one, based on asking all of these questions.
Make Camp Fun!
Summer camp can be awesome for your child! The sun is shining, the weather is warm, your child is among friends and kind counselors and engaged in diverse activities. Always send your child prepared with the appropriate clothing, water, food, snacks, and maybe even a camera! And don’t forget to ask him/her to tell you all about their day!