What to consider when choosing a summer camp


While you are planning summer activities, take a good look at sending your kids to camp. Once you begin to do your research you are bound to find just the right camp for you and your child. You will be giving them an experience they will never forget.

Are working in non-profit agency planning a professional development event for your staff? How about an educational institution organizing professional training for the teachers? Or maybe you need a great spokesman to represent a family-friendly product? Come and visit my website, my programs may be just what you need.

I have a few trips planned and you may want to take advantage of the fact that I will be in your community. I expect to be in the Comox valley this summer or in the Fall, in Saskatoon in November and in Winnipeg from December 2 to 4, 2012.

Now, let’s take a look at summer camp.

Summer Camp Gives Your Kids Wings

Imagine a group of your friends sitting around a campfire on a beach somewhere. If any of them attended summer camp as a child I can guarantee you that they will find themselves thinking about the old camp songs.

Then someone will begin to hum and soon another will start singing. They will be eight, or 12 or 16 years old again, roasting marshmallows, sitting under the starlight sky and singing together.

Camp memories become a part of your psyche and stay with you for life.

All of which is well and good, but should you send your child to camp, and why?

We know we need to give our kids roots and wings. We give them roots with our love, with our guidance, with rules and boundaries. It makes them feel grounded and secure and ready to take on the world.

And it takes wings to move forward. Summer camp is a great way for our kids to take the necessary steps to independence. They go away without you, they make new friends, the live is a different environment and they grow.

Research shows that 90 per cent of people who went to a residential camp also send their children. Being that my husband and I were childhood campers and counselors, you can bet our kids attended.

The trick is to choose the right camp for your child. Then you need to trust the camp staff and your child. So what are the considerations when selecting the right camp?

Is he ready to be away from home? Has he spent some nights with friends or relatives and how did he handle that? Now remember this is about whether he’s ready to be away from home, not whether you’re ready. It can be hard to let our kids go, to let them head off into the unknown without us along to look after them. But, as soon as they’re ready, it’s the best gift we can give them. They learn they can handle things on their own and we learn they can survive without us for a short while.

First, however, do your due diligence. Look at the training of the camp staff. Is the waterfront staff qualified to lifeguard children? What is the ratio of staff to children? Are there staff members who have been working at the camp for a number of years?

The best way to really assess a camp is to talk to the parents of children who have previously attended. If you can talk to parents who share your values and have kids quite like yours that is the absolute best route to go.

Speaking of values, this is an important part of the discussion about summer camp. Often camps are associated with organizations you already know. Maybe your children are involved in programs at the Y, the Boys and Girls Clubs or your church or sports team may have a camp. In this case you already know a lot about the staff and its values. It is important to know who runs the camp. Ask whether it is religious and if so how much religion is included in the programming.

Some parents have chosen a great camp only to find out later, when their child returns home, that there was a strong, pervasive religious message that hadn’t been mentioned in the literature. If the camp is religious, ensure that that activities and messages fit with your belief system.

What do your kids want from a camp experience? There are so many options for kids today. Some children just love a rustic camp with tents or basic cabins and outdoor biffys. They are looking for water sports, hiking and physical challenges. Other kids are looking for something a little more up-scale with hot showers and flush toilets.

There are camps for all kids. There are sports camps for your young volleyball player who wants to hone her skills, computer camps for the nerds in the group and the more traditional wilderness camps. Choose the one that best fits your child.

To help you assess the safety of the camps, each province offers an accreditation process for all camps that have been running for at least one year. Knowing that the camp you’ve chosen is accredited is one way to know that it has met the basic standards in terms of training, programming and safety. Information on camps can be found on-line.

Once you have selected a camp, attend the open house at the camp or in town. This is a marvelous opportunity to meet the camp director and the staff. Listen to them and note how they talk about the kids and the activities. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If the staff is not comfortable with your concerns, choose another camp.

Do your homework then kiss your child goodbye and let him head off for a great adventure which he’ll remember for a lifetime.





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One Response to What to consider when choosing a summer camp

  1. Summer camp was a powerful element in my youth and development. Not only did I experience many wonderful adventures I never would have without it, far beyond anything my family could have even imagined doing, I was also inspired by the many skills and talents of my leaders.

    I loved the waterfront activities so much, in fact, I became a lifeguard and went on to work at the camp I grew up at, even paying my way through university teaching and guarding all winter at pools nearby. At the same time, I developed “people skills” and confidence that have served me well ever since, and went from being a shy bookworm to someone who loves to interact with people.

    Of course, my son went, too, and it did wonders for his self-esteem, independence, sense of adventure, and confidence, too! I see my nieces and nephews enjoying the same benefits, as well.

    Choose well (like Kathy says, not every camp is a great fit for every person), and then give them the opportunity of a lifetime! You never know what new opportunities it will lead to…

    Thanks for a great, timely post, Kathy, and for happy reminiscences. Wish I could be a camper even today! LOL!


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