Prepare Happy Campers

Select the Right Camp For Your Child

Summer camp is a time-honored tradition, rich with activities, newfound friendships and a lifetime of memories. Explore your camp options well in advance of summer to select the best one (or more than one!) for your child. 

Why choose camp?

According to the RAND Corporation, a non-profit 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 wellbeing. Activities build social skills, teamwork and independence, which all contribute to stronger self-confidence and leadership abilities.

What to consider

Together with your child, decide what skills you want your child to gain, and identify camps that fit her needs and interests as well as your family’s values.

Narrow your choices by attending camp fairs to see many camps at one time and talk to their representatives. Ask friends about camps their children have attended and which they have enjoyed.

Look for overnight camps accredited by the American Camp Association. Camps that receive the ACA’s stamp of approval must meet up to 300 standards for health, safety and program quality.

Day and specialty camps should carry a current state child care license. 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

Day camps introduce children to the camp experience. The group of children often changes week to week, allowing attendees to make new friends and learn how to cooperate with others. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware offers Summer Fun Clubs for ages 5 to 13 that incorporate a wide range of activities like swimming, recreational and cultural experiences and field trips. Some Clubs offer STEAM-focused (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) programs. For parents looking for fun with a purpose, Hilary LaMotte Burke, director of marketing and communications, notes that the Clubs’ “Reading is Fundamental program has achieved award-winning success in combating the dreaded summer slide.”

With so many choices of day camps — either on one specific theme or with a combination of activities — parents and kids can mix and match to fill the summer months.

See overnight and specialty camps on page 2.

 

Overnight camps

Overnight camps can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks and generally serve children ages 7 and up. If you aren’t sure your child is ready to be away from home, allow him to spend the night at friends’ houses occasionally.

Cricket Snearing, administrative director and teen travel director for Rockwood Adventures, based in Blue Bell, PA, says, “A benefit of going away for camp is growing independence and learning to make choices, but still in a controlled environment.” To help prepare campers, especially those who haven’t been away from home before, the camp supplies families with literature that suggests things for kids to try — like taking short showers — that get them ready to share space with other campers while on a trip. Snearing also makes home visits to review preparation suggestions and field questions from families. By the time the teens begin their travels, they are ready to build soft skills like teamwork and resilience.

More than 95% of campers experience occasional homesickness. 

Nearly 75% of campers try new activities that they were initially afraid to do.

— Source: American Camp Association

Specialty camps

Specialty camps center around one activity like music, art, sports or science. These camps provide children the opportunity to further explore and develop a skill that interests them.

Science Explorers runs hands-on, science-themed camps in DE, PA and NJ — including at the Jersey shore. According to founder and CEO Jennifer Moorehead, campers in summer 2016 will get to choose from topics like space, engineering, potions and crime scene analysis. Preschoolers can attend half-day camps, and older kids can attend for either half or full days, which allows parents more flexibility with how to fill their camper’s day.

Choose the right camp for your child, and chances are he’ll come home a happy camper with a heightened sense of self- confidence, memorable stories and a passel of new friends to boot. 

Christa Melnyk Hines is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. 

Categories: Camps & Classes