Kids absolutely love summer. No school! But that exact reason is why so many parents get anxiety thinking about summer. How will you balance work and having some minor semblance of a life when your kids are just sitting there?
That’s why summer camps have been so popular for decades. Not only does it give you a chance to breathe easy again, it’s a wonderful way to take care of your child’s needs over the summer. School wasn’t just a child care center — it took care of your child’s nutritional, educational, physical, and social needs. Take school away, and you can leave those needs unmet.
But before you ship your kids off to the summer camp farthest from home, take time to do your research. Because what you want most is a summer camp environment that can meet your child’s needs.
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Do Your Summer Camp Homework
Summer camps are an industry unto themselves. That means you can easily get led astray by flashy website animations or artistic PDFs that focus on what that camp is the best. After all, it’s a business like any other. Their marketing will highlight their strengths and ignore their weaknesses.
That’s why it pays to do your homework before even bringing summer camp up to your kids. But pay attention to how the camp employees treat you, the parent. (Yes, that means emailing or talking to them instead of just reading their site.) If there’s no one who can talk to you when camp isn’t even in session yet, steer clear.
When you do talk to them, ask about the camp’s history and philosophy. Make sure they have a plan more extensive than some canoeing and s’mores. You also want to ask if the camp is accredited, how the staff are trained, and how much freedom your child will have.
The Academic Focus
When people think of summer camp, they often think about cabins in the woods, a lake, and a general theme of back-to-nature. Those can be wonderful experiences, especially if your kids live their lives in a big city. However, that’s not the only option out there.
Many schools, library districts, and tutoring companies have started academic enrichment programs as a different kind of summer camp. For example, your children can learn and get hands-on experience with engineering, robotics, and even coding. Then there are the camps dedicated to more traditional academic courses like reading, writing, and math. If you have a child falling behind during the school year, this might not be as much fun as archery, but it can provide something much more in need.
But going to summer camp is more than just learning something for next school year (or getting out of the house for a while). Research shows that kids who attend summer camp can be more resilient to stress and have better psychological development. That’s due to several reasons:
- They develop strong relationships with the other kids and the adults running the camp, giving them more confidence in working with adults.
- Achieving at a summer camp can help them feel more confident.
- Kids often learn to take care of their own needs (like building campfires or doing laundry), increasing their self-esteem.
- There’s a strong feeling of belonging to a tight-knit group that can help children feel secure and safe without mom and dad hovering over them.
In the end, both you and your kids can benefit from summer camps this year. Just be sure to do your research and find one that your child likes, not just you.