It’s that time of year again… where we try to decide what awesome, exciting adventures our kids get to go on this summer. Whether they’re hanging out at home, heading out free-range, or they’re heading to camp, our great state has endless options. But, if you’re thinking about camp, here are some thoughts to help you get started.
There are so many summer camp opportunities out there that you can literally find one for everything, even underwater basket weaving (well maybe). The point is that there are: film camps, music camps, math camps, engineering camps, technology camps, art camps, adventure camps, you name it, so really think about what your child’s main interests are and do a thorough search before you make up your mind. Choosing a camp that is engaging is obviously the priority but balancing it out with some activities and interests that they haven’t had the opportunity to engage in can be really rewarding and open new doors for your child.
Empower your child!
Obviously, you want to choose a camp that isn’t right fit for your child. Recognize though that the right fit doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be any challenges. In fact, find one that presents some challenges. Summer camp should help your child to get out of their comfort zone and experience many new things. Overcoming some challenges at summer camp, like being away from home, eating unusual foods, trying new activities will be difficult, but then, it will go from difficult to empowering!
Don’t send them to camp with their friends
Don’t pick summer camps based solely on your child’s best friends. Going with friends can be fun, but it often minimizes some of the best experiences at camp and minimizes the sense of independence they get from camp. Summer camp is a time to foster and forge new friendships and for kids to discover who they are by themselves; it makes them independent. When you send your child with their bestie, they often don’t branch out to others at camp. Camp can be an invaluable resource for helping your child to widen their circle of friends and also to develop a grander sense of the unique offerings of people who are new and different, including people of different races, cultures, and religious backgrounds. The more experiences your child gets with new people, the more compassionate they will be in accepting people who are different than them. Of course a camp with your bestie can be great too especially if your child is extremely shy.
Do some soul searching and talking with your child about their thoughts about camp and the types of camps they might be interested in including, day camps, overnight camps, week(s) long camps. If your child wants to do a week long camp that requires they stay overnight away from home, assess whether or not your child has been comfortable going away with a friend, or spending the night away from their home. Summer camp probably shouldn’t be the trial run on whether your child is capable of sleeping away from home.
Consider a camp in nature
While your child might not have the nature bug, spending time in the great outdoors can be life changing for a child. Camps give children safe spaces to play outdoors, a safe place to explore, a chance to reconnect with nature over technology. Wilderness camps or even social camps that take place in nature have inspired a number of children turned activists to get involved in protecting these precious resources.
Do your research
Once you have found a few camps that you think would be a great fit. Find out more information about the qualifications of the staff. It is great that there are energetic teens on staff, but there also needs to be qualified adults who designed the curriculum and oversee the quality of the instruction and leadership. Call and ask for references from past campers’ parents to get the scoop!
Here are some websites that will help you get started on you and your child’s summer camp exploration:
https://denver.cbslocal.com/2019/05/10/best-summer-camps-kids-colorado-overnight-outdoor/ (a good news story on last year’s camps available in Colorado)
Finally, when you find one you are very interested in, sign up quickly and early. A lot of camps fill up in a short amount of time, and you don’t want to do all that decision-making and then have to go back to the drawing board. Better yet, make a list of your top three, and you will be sure to get your child into one of them!