Summer is finally here, and that means no school and a lot more free time for kids. Free time however isn’t automatically a positive thing. Any parent with a school aged child probably stresses about child care during the summer months. There’s also the issue of productive play versus idleness, and how the latter can negatively effect behavior and learning ability. Today, only around 20% of homes are within a reasonable distance from a park or recreation center. Thus when school is adjourned (and with it recess), finding productive play opportunities becomes a tall order for the average American family.
Perhaps these considerations are why more than 11 million kids attend summer camp each year. Summer camp is a great solution to the child care gap during the off season, and keeps kids active in both mind and body year round. If you are considering enrolling your child in summer camp, try to keep the following tips in mind.
Know your child’s strengths and interests. Whether you are sweating over choosing the best preschool, looking into private schools, or considering summer camp, this is the most important factor. The fact is no child is going to do well in a place that they hate, and whether or not they mesh with a summer camp depends almost entirely on what sorts of activities it offers. Consider sitting down with your child and a few summer camp brochures in the final running. Ask their opinion directly. Would they prefer the swim camp, the Girl Scout camp, or space camp? If your child is shy, this might require some detective work on your part. In these cases, look at what subjects in school they do well in and use that as a starting point. (And remember, a shy kid probably won’t love theater camp or Toastmasters.)
Shop within your budget. Living above our means seems to be a general theme in American life lately, but we strongly urge you not to give in, even for something as important as summer camp. Breaking the bank for something that won’t last more than twelve weeks will hurt your family in the long run, and a little can go a long way. Don’t fall victim to the opposite extreme either and assume that camp is out of the question because you don’t have a lot of money to devote to the enterprise. Often communities will offer perfectly serviceable day camps, perhaps with a beach theme, that are both educational and affordable. Do your research and ask around.
Location, location, location. By this of course we mean pick a summer camp that isn’t outrageously far away and fits within your family’s commuting schedule. Children thrive in environments of structure and routine, and it won’t do them any good developmentally to constantly miss days of camp because getting there just isn’t consistently possible.
According to inquiries made by the American Camp Association, 63% of children who attend camp will keep up an interest in the skills and activities learned at camp long after their camp programming comes to an end. Choosing the right camp is an important decision, so we hope this article made things a little easier.