Picking a Summer Camp
One way to conquer part of summer boredom is summer camp. Summer camps, when chosen properly, can provide wonderful experiences for your child that last a lifetime. Parents who do their research before the camp experience can rest assured as their child spends time away from home at camp.
KNOW THY CAMP
There are several possibilities when choosing a camp for your child. Day camps are great for children not quite ready to experience an overnight stay. They are also excellent ways to provide experiences that enrich your child’s life as they explore the unknown. Overnight camps provide a longer camping experience, meetings new friends, and also enrich your child’s world. Another choice for the camping experience could be Specialty camps. These are the type of camps that focus on a specific skill or need, such as Band Camp, Baseball Camp, or an Academic Camp. If you choose to provide a camping experience for your child, your first research project should be to determine the type of camping experience best meets the need for your child.
UNDERSTAND THY CAMP
Knowing the type of camp is only the first step when you decide to provide your child with an enriching camp experience. The next thing any parent should do is to research the chosen camp; after all, you are entrusting your most precious thing in your life to them. You need to have the peace of mind while your child is at the camp. Obviously, the cost for the camp is important to research, but what about the safety of the area? Does the camp provide references? Do campers return because they had a wonderful experience? Who staffs the camp and what are their qualifications? The American Camp Association suggests a staff ratio of 1 adult for every 6 campers. Are there medical staff available should anything happen? How do they handle discipline problems? Are there any special rules for campers that you should know about before you prepare your child for his or her camping experience?
PREPARE FOR CAMP
Once you have found the camp, and decided the specific camp is the best choice for your child, the third step is to prepare for camp. The first issue here is your own child. Are they experienced campers? Going to camp for the first time may be exciting, but it can also be scary for any child. The largest fear is “fear of the unknown.” Prepare your child by explaining the types of activities he or she can expect to do. Prepare your child for homesickness with the assurance that you will still be here when he or she returns. Allow the child to take some type of security with them to camp. Security blankets may not be the best choice because of potential teasing; however, another object may not be able to replace the glorious security blanket. Maybe the child will do well with a family picture or something of yours the child can take along to camp. For example, do you mow the yard with a special hat or bandana? That item may be enough to give the child some comfort while they are away from home. If the security blanket is the only thing that works – can it be disguised as a pillow cover under the pillow case or tucked down inside a sleeping bag? It is also possible that this event may be the beginning of the break-up with the tattered security blanket.
PACKING FOR CAMP
Packing for camp builds excitement, plus it is a good idea to pack a little early so you make sure you have everything needed for the experience. Most camps provide some type of checklist for packing, which may include additional rules and regulations you need to follow. Clothing does not need to be an entire new wardrobe; in fact, the old favorites provide security and comfort. Camp life can put more wear and tear on clothing anyway. In addition to clothing – a broad-spectrum sunscreen and insect repellant are 2 other items that your child should learn to use while at camp. A flashlight with backup batteries can come in useful as well. Garbage bags make excellent dirty laundry hampers, plus help on your suitcase’s wear and tear. A few other items such as a sleeping bag, pillow, sunglasses, small first aid kit (for small cuts or insect bites), and the personal hygiene needs (toothpaste, shampoo, soap, etc), and you should be ready to go! Provide your child a way to contact home, like a cell phone if the camp allows one, or some pre-stamped postcards so they can just write a quick note. Think about the luggage, too – you want your child to be able to pick their black bag out from among all the other black bags once they arrive at camp. One easy way to do that is to add something to the bag – perhaps that bandana tied to a strap or handle will be the key. There is one final element in packing – regardless of the camp you choose, it will not have activities scheduled constantly, there are downtimes. If you anticipate your child will not use the down time to rest – take along some of their favorite activities; a deck of cards or a puzzle book will do the trick.
EXPERIENCE THE CAMP
With some preparation and research, you can help make your child’s experience at camp a memorable one. Camp life can enrich your child when a parent chooses a camp that fits their child’s needs and interests. You are opening their world up to new experiences, friends, and just plain fun! The best way for children to learn is through play; something easily achieved by adding a camping experience to your child’s life. The results may not be immediate, but you can be assured that you have given your child the opportunity to grown in strength, skills, and social skills.