By Heidi Shull Band camp. Church camp. Girl Scout Camp. Those were my summer camp choices when I was growing up. But with the vast array of camps kids currently have to choose from, the days when the summer camp experience was synonymous with sunburns, mosquito bites, and muddy sleeping bags can be a thing of the past. Summer camps of the 21st century are now as diverse as fencing, scuba diving, international culture, and even bug camp. Camp programs offer options for the sports-inclined camper, the tech savvy kid, the nature lover, and those passionate about the arts. You can even find a camp for clowning! And that’s a good thing because the fun adventures and numerous life lessons awaiting kids at summer camp are sure to make for some wonderful life-long memories! Why Go to Camp? The most obvious reason to send your child to camp is because it’s fun! Kids get the chance to try all sorts of new activities with their peers, and they love it. But camp activities aren’t just fun. They provide excellent learning and growth opportunities. Consider some of the most commonly noted benefits of camp. Kids can :
- Make new friends.
- Break away from the school year social cliques.
- Develop a higher level of tolerance and respect for others.
- Gain confidence through new challenges and responsibilities.
- Try out new skills.
- Enhance social skills and teamwork.
- Discover new career interests and opportunities.
- Be inspired by new dreams and goals for the future.
In short, summer camp helps kids learn about themselves—what they stand for and what they are capable of doing. Camp Selection The best-fit summer camp experience is probably one geared towards one of your child’s favorite activities, but there are a few other things to keep in mind to make sure your camper has the best summer camp experience possible. One of the first things to think about is the format of the camp. There are generally three main types of camps: 1) Overnight Camp; 2) Day Camp; and 3) Family Camp, in which the whole family goes together, usually over a weekend. Once you have selected the type of camp that will best fit your family schedule, other factors to consider include: the length of the camp, you child’s age and comfort level with separation, and distance from your home. If the cost of the camp is a concern, be sure to contact the camp directly. Because so many programs recognize the long-term value of camp, many times there are scholarships available to help make it possible for every kid to have a camp experience. Once you have your camp selected, don’t forget that perhaps the most fundamental ingredient to a successful camp experience is preparing your child to be away from the family, which includes dealing with homesickness. These talks should start well before the packing list is in hand. For helpful tips to get your child, as well as your family, prepared for the separation, you can check out the American Camp Association website or contact your local FOCUS resiliency trainer. With the wealth of information on summer camps available online, finding out about camp possibilities that will give you that perfect experience may be no further than a few mouse clicks away. One place to start is with the American Camp Association site. Here you can search for an accredited camp either by state or activity. They also have a comprehensive list of specialized camps for various medical disorders, bereavement, or travel opportunities. Find More Information