Summer Camps Are No Longer Just Log Cabins and Wienie Roasts
Some kids hear the bugle at the crack of dawn during summer camp. But 16-year-old Amanda Shaw heard the roaring engines of NASCAR stock cars outside her bunk area at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. She was attending Race Camp, a summer camp designed for kids who want to become race-car drivers.
Amanda is one of the 9 million kids who attend one of America's 8,500 summer camps each year. Maybe your child is not into race cars. Have no fear--there is a summer camp for nearly every activity, condition, pursuit or theme imaginable!
Perhaps your child is an aspiring Bill Gates or has visions of playing on stage with Yo-Yo Ma. Computer camps and music camps are easy to find nation-wide. There is a myriad of camp options from gardening camps to leadership camps, and from academic camps to special needs camps (for kids with specific medical conditions). How do you know which camp is right for your child?
How can you be certain that a camp will be safe and that the kids will have a fun and rewarding experience? While there is no simple answer to those questions, many parents take comfort in American Camping Association (ACA) accreditation. About 2,200 of the 8,500 summer camps across the country pay to undergo certification by the ACA in 300 different categories, including: staff, health, safety and program quality.
The experience your child receives at camp depends on the camper, the camp and how they mesh. Some important questions to ask when exploring camp possibilities: What is the camp's philosophy? What is the camp director's background? What training do camp counselors receive?
What is the camper-to-counselor ratio? (It should be about 8-1 for residential camps) What are the counselors' ages? (At least 80% should be 18 or older) How many counselors are returning from last year? (It should be at least 40%) How are behavior problems handled? Is there a nurse on staff? How are homesickness and other adjustment issues handled? "Can you visit your child during the camp?"
The wonderful thing about summer camp is the fact that it gives kids a taste of independence--some for the first time. Although this can be frightening at first, such independence challenges kids to grow as individuals. Without the aid of mom or dad, camp kids are given an opportunity to make decisions for themselves. They are also exposed to the freedoms of summer camp which improves their social relationship skills.
Living, learning, playing, eating, and sleeping with other kids their own age gives them a chance to improve their communication and negotiation skills. From late night fireside chats to squabbles over the breakfast cereal, children are repeatedly challenged to look beyond themselves and improve their social skills.
Price? For a lifetime of memories you can expect to pay between $20 and $100 a day at a residential summer camp, not including transportation to and from the locale.
After talking to your child about the transition from home to camp, you might also want to make sure that YOU are ready for the separation. Some parents often have a more difficult time with summer camp than do the children.
Best wishes for a safe and exciting and a memorable and rewarding camping experience!
About the Author
Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently V.P. of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., an Internet business providing valuable information on a variety of topics. For a camp tent full of advice, resources and suggestions about summer camps, visit http://www.SummerCampHere.com