The Road to Happy Campers
Summer camp is a time-honored tradition, rich with activities, newfound friendships, and a lifetime of memories. Explore a few ways to make your child’s camp experience smooth sailing from start to finish.
photograph © Olesia Bilkei | Dreamstime.com
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S’more than just fun
According to the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, children who participate in summer programs, like experiential learning activities offered in an organized camp, are less likely to experience a significant summer learning slide.
Camp also enhances a child’s physical and emotional well-being. Activities build social skills, teamwork, and independence, which all contribute to stronger self-confidence and leadership abilities.
“I often hear from parents how amazed they are when their children return home after spending time at camp . . . about how they seem older and more mature,” says Doug Berkel, senior program director of Youth Development Services with the Kansas City YMCA.
Avoid Camp Run Amok
First, together with your child, decide what skills you want your child to gain and choose a camp that fits her needs and interests, as well as your family’s values.
Check out safety guidelines in the camp’s parent handbook. Look for overnight camps accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA). “ACA standards are the most universal and well-known standards adopted by most camps to ensure a quality and safe program,” Berkel says.
Day and specialty camps should carry a current state childcare license. Additionally, staff should be trained in emergency, communication and safety procedures, behavior management techniques (including handling the common bout of homesickness), and child abuse prevention.
Day camps rock
Day camps are a practical way to introduce children, ages five to 12, to the camp experience. Most center on a theme, like sports, science, nature, technology, and the arts.
Ann Bowley says that when her stepson, Trevor, was younger, he enjoyed planning out the day camps he wanted to attend each summer. However, as her son got older he grew more apprehensive about starting over with a new group of kids each week.
“We talked to him about it and he never changed his plans. We just looked for schoolmates that might be in camp with him to help him be more comfortable,” she says.
Specialty camps center around one activity like music, art, sports or science. These camps provide children the space to further explore and develop a skill that interests them.
“Specialty camps tend to run... partial days and could be a nice addition to regular day camps,” Berkel says.