How to Choose a Summer Camp
Summer is a great time to supplement your child’s academics with fun yet educational activities. But with all the camp offerings out there, how do you choose a great camp that will not only fill your child with lifelong memories but also contribute to the hard or soft skills needed to excel in school and beyond?
Below are some things to consider as you weigh your summer camp options:
- Look for summer activities near you
Local YMCAs, houses of worship, community colleges, and parks and recreation departments usually offer a wide selection of camp options at an affordable price. For middle and high school students, summer offers an opportunity to either volunteer at a local charity organization or find an internship or first job.
- Prioritize your child’s passions, interests, and strengths
During the school year, your child has to focus on some nonpreferred work. But summer camp doesn’t have those same requirements. If your child loves video games, there are camps that offer game design. Or if your child loves art, there is painting, pottery, or puppet making. Finding a camp that focuses on your child’s passions, strengths, or interests will not only help generate excitement about going to camp but also may align with what your child has learned at school.
- Strike a balance between scheduled and unscheduled time
Summer is a wondrous time for children because it gives them time to unwind and explore. But how do you choose summer activities for kids that will not overload their schedules? If you can, be selective about how many consecutive weeks or days you fill with scheduled programs. Lazing in the grass in the backyard, collecting bugs in a jar, or riding a bike through the neighborhood can be just as fulfilling for kids.
- Provide a safe space for friendships
Going to camp can give your child an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. If your child is shy or has a hard time making friends, selecting a camp that caters to a specific interest—like Minecraft or horseback riding—allows children a safe jumping-off point to launch a new friendship. Not only will your child enjoy the specialized camp, but also he or she will enjoy sharing an interest or else be receptive to the overtures of a like-minded buddy.
- Give your kids plenty of outdoor time
Spending time outside—whether engaged in a group sport like soccer or an individual pursuit like golf—is therapeutic and renewing. Many camps offer daily swim time, camp circle and sing-alongs, nature hikes, canoeing, archery, and team sports. While all children can benefit from spending time moving their bodies, if your child hates sitting still and loves sports, an outdoor camp would be a natural fit.
- Grow leadership skills
Even middle and high school students can benefit from attending summer camp. Some summer camps have counselor-in-training programs for older kids. There, your child can take on more of a leadership role and teach outdoor skills or arts and crafts to younger students at the camp, help lead group activities, or be that friendly face younger children turn to for support during the camp day.
- Help your child take the next step
Most of the camp ideas here involve day camps, where you drop off and pick up your child (and she promptly leaves her sweaty gear reeking of bug repellant on her bedroom floor). But sleepaway camp is an alternative for children who are ready for the next step, who have shown growth and maturity, and who are ready to develop self-reliance. Each child is different, but generally, the advice is that by age eight or nine, most children are ready for their first weeklong sleepaway summer camp experience.
Start looking for a camp early. To give yourself the best shot at securing a spot in a coveted camp, you should start looking when swimming pools look more like ice-skating rinks. Camps usually open their registration in the winter months and give early bird discounts to fill their rosters. With pre-planning and forethought, your child can have the perfect mix of fun (and learning) to look forward to in the summer.
And, if you are looking for fun online summer courses to supplement your child’s academics, check out International Connections Academy’s online summer school courses.