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Summer Camp 101

Summer camp offers all kinds of fun and character-building experiences for kids of any age. Whether you’re looking for a few hours of entertainment or weeks of intentional skill-building for your child, you can find it at summer camp.

Ages 0 to five

Day camps offer the perfect opportunity for young kids to experience time away from parents and explore new activities. Camp for preschool children focuses on free play, sharing with others, group games (inside and outside), and simple arts and crafts. If you’re sending your child to camp for the first time, make sure the schedule matches their personality and routine to prevent a stressful experience. Does there need to be naptime? Should your child be potty-trained to attend? Would your child adjust more easily by starting with a half-day camp instead of a full-day camp? Are there appropriate breaks for snacks and changes in activity?

It’s important to find out what the counselor-to-camper ratio is for children this age. You want to ensure your child will be adequately cared for with a friendly, well-staffed team. You also want to determine if the counselors are trained to help with issues common to preschoolers including separation anxiety, potty-training, and temper tantrums.

The best place to find camps for young children is through daycares, churches, nursery schools, and local elementary schools. Specialty camps also abound through gymnastic centres, music schools, sporting centres, to name a few. Consider your child’s interests and find a camp that fits to give your preschooler a chance to make new friends and explore new experiences.

Ages six to 11

Elementary-age children thrive at camp, whether it’s day camp or overnight camp. It’s the perfect solution to sibling squabbles and long summer days. But it pays to do your research and find the right fit for your child.

Camps for this age range from sports camps to music camps to academic camps to church camps. Don’t let the variety intimidate you as you research; start with the interests of your child and ask close friends and neighbors to give their opinion on camps their kids have attended.

At this age, kids have had the most fun at overnight camps that gave them the opportunity to try activities not available at home, such as ziplining, archery, rock wall climbing, in addition to swimming, arts and crafts, and campfire sing-alongs with friends. Kids gain independence as they make decisions and meet new friends outside the comforts of home. They gain self-confidence in trying new activities. They learn to appreciate the beauty of nature as they unplug from technology. Although they may experience periods of homesickness, they learn to forge through their feelings with caring camp counselors and new friends.

If your child has never experienced camp, start with a day camp or send a friend along for an overnight camp. It’s important that their first camp experience be a good one. If you find it wasn’t a perfect fit, try a different camp next year. But don’t give up on the beauty and benefits of camp for elementary-age children.

Ages 12 to 15

Tweens and teens have better focus than younger children and benefit from camps that more closely match their interests and personality. Sports and music camps are great for this age, and help kids advance athletic skills and musical talent. Academic camps offer youth-advanced learning opportunities in subjects they might want to explore for long-term focus. Church camps offer character-building and self-awareness experiences not learned in school.

Camps provide a safe place for tweens and teens to hang out while you work during summer break. Tweens, who are not yet able to drive or find a summer job, often overdose in technology over the summer months or get into unsupervised trouble unless you intentionally seek out creative options for them.

Encourage your youth to research camps with you to find one that fits. Some camps provide certification, such as lifeguard training or first-aid certification, that can enable your youth to successfully find a job upon completion.

Summer camp offers unique experiences and character-building opportunities for every child. Whether your child is two or 15, camp is the perfect place to find adventure and make lifelong memories in the process.

Gayla, freelance writer and mom of five, has sent her kids to camp every summer and continues to find new camps for her one child still living at home to enjoy. 




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