Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking Into Summer Day Camps:

The kids are still in school and frost is still on the ground (in some places, anyway).  But, can you believe it’s already time to start planning for summer?  That’s right.  Now is the time to start thinking and planning about what activities your child will be engaging in this summer.

There are now summer camps for everything from swimming to tennis to acting or voice lessons.  If you’re not sure what summer opportunities are in your area, check with your local school or YMCA.  Many schools now even offer a Summer Camp fair, where parents can explore all of the possible camp opportunities in the area for their kids.

Summer is a great time to help your child explore interests that they might not have had time for during the school year.  For instance, your child may enjoy acting classes that culminate in a play at the end of summer.  Your child may enjoy extra art classes or golf lessons or horseback riding.  In addition to using summer camps to explore your child’s interests, they are also useful for helping your child maintain his or her physical activity through sports camps.

When signing your child up for summer camps, it is important to keep the following recommendations in mind:
1)  After school is dismissed for the summer, give your child a week off.  This might be a good time to go on a family vacation or have grandparents visit.  Use this week for some unstructured play to let your child fully decompress from the school year.

2)  Have your child assist you in picking out camps that may be interesting to him or her.  The more involved your child is with the choice, the less likely you will have difficulty getting him or her to maintain their interest in the camps.

3)  Many camps can be quite expensive.  If your income cannot support the cost, look for camps that offer a tuition reduction, tuition assistance or scholarshipsfor those in need. If you are fortunate enough to have grandparents with the financial means, they may also be willing to pitch in a portion of the cost of camp.

4)  Sign your child up for camp with a friend.  Many children are cautious in new situations and will adapt to camp more quickly if they have a friend there with them.

5)  Try not to schedule camps for every week of the summer.  As a working mom, I know this a tough recommendation to follow, but as a professional I know how important it is not to have your kids overscheduled.  Kids need downtime, even from fun activities.  They need to learn to entertain themselves, independent of others.  The research is clear that unstructured play is critical for positive child development.

6)  Know how many transitions your child can tolerate.  Each child is different in their ability to tolerate transitions.  Some kids can go from one camp location to another with ease and flexibility.  For others, having camps at multiple locations is more difficult, resulting in crying and refusing to go to the first day of each new camp.  For kids who are less flexible with transitions, it is recommended that parents seek a camp that offers multiple camps (e.g., sports, art, music, academic, etc.) in one location, like the YMCA.

7)  Do not schedule your child for camp the last week of summer vacation.  The last week of summer should be spent preparing your child for re-entry into school.  This is the week to shop for school clothes and supplies and to get your child back into a school year sleep routine.

Summer is a fun and enjoyable time for children. By finding the right summer camps for your children, you will not only enrich their summer, but they will enjoy a lifetime of memories and skills learned from camp.

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