Tue07222014

Magazine

Ready, set, camp! Finding the right summer experience for your child


photo Youth at Hidden Villa summer camp in Los Altos Hills learn about appreciating cultural diversity. Registration is available online at hiddenvilla.org.

Parents face a plethora of choices when selecting summer camps for their children. There’s a camp ideally suited for every child, providing a summer of growth and fun whether a day or overnight camp, a specialized or traditional camp.

Following is advice from American Camp Association officials to help parents sort through the choices and benefits that camps deliver. As spring approaches, parents and children can look forward to planning for the exploration and discovery that arrives with summer camp.

When are children ready for camp?

Children are ready for new experiences at different stages. Parents know their children best, of course, but the questions below can help them gauge whether this is the summer for their child to start camp.

• How old is your child, and what is your perception of his or her readiness level? Children under 7 who have not had overnight experiences may do better with a day camp as their first experience. If you think your child might not be ready for an overnight camp experience, consider a day camp to prepare him or her for a future overnight camp.

• How did your child become interested in camp? Does your child talk about camp on a sustained basis?

• Has your child had positive overnight experiences away from home visiting relatives or friends? Were these separations easy or difficult?

• What does your child expect to do at camp?

The perfect fit

Camp can last for just a few days or stretch to all summer long. It’s worth the trouble to investigate the variety of choices offered by camps before your child packs a backpack.

• Benefits of camp nearby: Easier to evaluate and visit, friends and family are likely familiar with the camp, minimal travel costs and other campers will likely include classmates or children from the same region.

• Benefits of camp far away: More choices, different experiences, different geography, perhaps different languages, promotes independence, diversity of campers and chance for family to visit and vacation at close of camp.

Session lengths

• Benefits of short sessions (one to three weeks): First-time or younger campers have a chance to learn new skills, bonds develop with other campers and staff, exposure to camp experience with less expense and minimizes homesickness.

• Benefits of longer sessions (four to 12 weeks): Strong sense of belonging to the camp community, chance to learn new skills, potential for lifelong friendships and opportunities to contribute to camp culture.

Traditional, specialty and special-needs

• Benefits of traditional camps: Wide variety of activities, chance for campers to try new activities and exposure to more campers and staff at varying activities.

• Benefits of specialty camps: One or two specialized activities (often combined with traditional offerings), expectation for increased proficiency during camping session and deepens knowledge and skill in particular area of interest or ability.

• Benefits of special-needs camps: Activities geared to campers’ abilities, knowledgeable staff with expertise to understand campers’ strengths and challenges.

According to American Camp Association representatives, when parents make the decision to send their children to camp, they open up a world of discovery and learning, a world that values children for who they are and who they will become.

For more information on child development and the camp experience, call (800) 428-2267 or visit campparents.org.

Originally printed in CAMP Magazine. Reprinted with permission from the American Camp Association. n

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