As a parent, how do you find the best camp for your child? By focusing first on who your child is, the process of choosing a camp is greatly simplified. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
• Where does my child thrive? In small intimate settings or large groups, in high action or quieter activities?
• Is my child a hands-on learner or more contemplative?
• Does my child like to dream and imagine stories and characters?
• Where does my child naturally excel? Where does my child struggle more?
• Is making new friends easy or hard?
• Is an overnight camp exciting or stressful?
• What type of activities truly excite my child?
Once you’ve sorted through these questions you are on your way. And by now, your heart likely has an idea of what general type of camp would be the most fun for your child: dance, overnight, adventure, drama, Spanish,math, art, technology, swimming, cheer, video, wrestling, basketball or horses.
Now it’s time to add in the “where.” Here is where your goals as a parent come in, too. First and foremost, look for a reputable organization and read closely their program missions and goals. Camp IS about FUN — but true fun, for any child, requires safety, comfort, trust, respect and a deep sense of individual recognition and personal value.
Good questions to ask are:
• What is the student/instructor ratio? This varies by type of camp but needs to be low enough to ensure good individual attention.
• What are the qualifications of all individuals who will be supervising/teaching your child?
• What is the daily structure/schedule of the camp, Keep in mind you are looking for an environment YOUR child will thrive in — no camp “fits all”
• What is built in to the camp for developing positive relationship between the campers?
If, after covering all these questions, a camp sounds exciting for your child and you don’t know the organization well, ask for parent referrals of prior campers. A brief conversation with another parent, or two, can quickly make it clear if this is a good match for your child.
So, now you’ve found the camp that you and your child are both excited about. It’s time to send them off, enjoy your time off, and welcome them home with a willing heart to hear about their adventures.
After it’s all over, how do we know if it was worth the time and cost? Here are some exceptional, and perhaps unexpected benefits, besides FUN, to be watching for:
• A child busting with stories to share
• Refreshed children and parents
• Children with a renewed vigor for new activities and challenges in their lives
• Great family discussion topics about the camp experience-what they loved and what they would do different if they were the camp director. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn about your child in these discussions!
• New older mentors for your child found in your child’s counselor/instructor. Campers admire and adore their camp counselors and from watching them they learn how to serve others
• A desire for your older child to work as a camp counselor, (may sound far away now, but many great camp experiences build future counselors who in turn feed positively into other children’s lives).
• The building of responsibility and shared positive experiences in camp help develop strong self-esteems and self-awareness.
And finally, remember that if your family enjoys lying with their backs in the cool lawn while gazing up to find rhinos and piglets floating by in the blue sky….camp time will enrich this quiet pleasure of the slower summer days!