For residential camps, the push is on NOW to fill up openings. And because many children opt to return to their beloved camps and their summer friends each year, it’s important not to wait until it’s too late for your child. Talk to your child’s friends’ moms to plan together for the kids!
Next, attend Cincinnati Family and NKY Family’s annual Summer Camp Adventure Fair on Saturday, Feb. 13 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Cincinnati Sports Club. Camp representatives will be in attendance to provide information about their special programs for potential campers and their parents.
Choosing a Residential Camp
If you decide on a residential camp, keep in mind that readiness varies by child. Know that children who are adamantly opposed to summer camp should not be forced into going! “The number one sign of readiness is being excited about it!” says Elizabeth Cochran of YMCA Camp Ernst in Burlington.
Most camps take children by the time they’re 7 or 8 years old. “At ID Tech, we allow kids 10 and up to spend the night at our summer camps,” says Tracey Price, Regional Manager for ID Tech, which offers overnight camps for kids interested in computer programming, web design, robotics and more. “We feel that at this age kids are responsible enough to handle their own sleeping and wake up routines and likely have the emotional strength needed to stay away from home.”
Cochran says, “Parents should always inquire about whether a camp is accredited by the ACA. ACA is the standard of the camping industry and a critical component to keeping camps and their staff accountable to best practices in health, safety, and programming.”
Other things to consider include the camper-to-counselor ratio. Depending on the age and ability of the campers, the median range is one staff member to every seven to eight campers.
Price is also something to consider. Overnight camp fees vary widely. When making initial inquiries, be sure to find out what’s included in the basic fee and what other costs will be incurred along the way. Is there a deposit? Is there a camp store? Are the campers required to wear uniforms, and if so, what’s the cost? If the bottom line is beyond your family’s means, be sure to inquire about financial assistance, which some camps offer to families who cannot afford to pay the full tuition.
Find out about the director’s background. Learn what kind of training the counselors receive. What percentage of counselors return each year? How are disciplinary issues handled? Also, make sure to get some references. Talking to others who have first-hand experience is the best way to learn the true colors of various camps.
Finally, once you’ve zeroed in on a few camps that you really like, it’s time to set up visits to get an up-close-and-personal look at the facility and a chance to meet the director. Cochran suggests looking for open house dates in the spring when families can visit and sample the camp’s amenities.
“Parents would be able to schedule an on-site visit the week prior to their scheduled camp week,” says Price. “If their kids are concerned about the overnight experience, it might be good for them to see the space prior to arrival.”
Preparing Your Child for Away Camp
It’s normal for children to feel slightly apprehensive about going to camp — day or residential — for the first time. Give your child the opportunity to discuss some of his fears while remaining positive yourself, and make sure you communicate your confidence in his ability to successfully handle the experience.
“The most important thing parents can do is to communicate to their camper that they believe in him or her!” says Cochran, adding that parents should never arrange a “pick-up deal,” meaning that parents shouldn’t promise to pick kids up early. “Kids need to know that their best cheerleaders (their parents) are confident in their ability to express independence and overcome difficulty.”
“Often summer camp is tougher on the parents than the kids,” says Price. She says that at ID Tech, the on-site director’s phone number is available for check-ins, and scheduled phone calls can be arranged once or twice during the weeklong stay. “We want parents to feel as comfortable as possible.”
Heading Off Homesickness
Kids get their first taste of independence at summer camp, and for some, it’s also their first encounter with homesickness. “Homesickness can strike any kid at any time,” says Price. When it happens, camp staff at ID Tech will try to redirect the child, she explains, and if that doesn’t work, sometimes a phone call home will do the trick. And since ID Tech is a technology camp, a Skype or Facetime chat is available, too.
Cochran says that parents should teach kids that it’s OK to miss home, but they will be excited to hear about their child’s adventures when they get back. Journals or letters home sometimes help, but she advises parents to keep their own letters light and positive, and avoid talking about how much they miss their kids.
The Importance of Camp Friendships
Your kids will come home from their summer camp experience with loads of fun stories to share — activities they experienced, games they played and most importantly, friendships they created.
The camp experience enables kids to be who they truly are, contributing to the authenticity of their relationships. When campers share that experience with other kids in their community, it’s no wonder camp friendships often have such a lasting and meaningful place in campers’ hearts.