Making summer camp memories

Sensational Summer Camps

by Chantal King

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Would you like your child to explore the outdoors, partake in physical activities, enjoy water sports, have overnight sleepovers, and sing around campfires? If you answered yes, then send them to summer camp!

Summer camp can be the highlight of a child's summer vacation. They get to let their imagination fly on the back of a horse or hiking through a forest. They can form new friendships and socialize with kids from different backgrounds. They can try new activities and discover different interests and strengths.

Is your child ready for a weeklong separation? In general, kids that are eight and older should do okay, but each child is different. Don't force them into an experience before they are ready. Luckily, there are many alternatives, from a day camp adventure to mini weekend stays, so you can find the perfect fit for your family.

At the American Camp Association website, you'll find a list of questions to help you decide if your child is ready, along with more information and advice about camps.

The key to finding a great summer camp where your child will thrive is to involve him or her in the decision making process. Sit down with him and ask him what he wants to get out of the camp. Does she want to learn some new moves at cheerleading camp? Does he want to spend lots of time in the water? Does she want to relax with her friends? Does he want to explore the wilderness?

The answers to these questions can narrow down your search. But how do you find a great summer camp? Schools usually send home a resource packet full of information in the spring. Another source is recommendations from other parents who are sending their child to camp. This gives an added bonus of a familiar face for first time campers. You can also check with your local Chamber of Commerce or the YMCA center.

Once you find a good fit, do a little more homework. In addition to the curriculum, you should ask about safety issues. What happens if there is a medical emergency? Is there a doctor on staff? How close is the nearest medical facility? Are the cabins or buildings equipped with sprinklers and fire extinguishers? This will give you peace of mind when you wave goodbye to your son or daughter for a week.

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As you research each camp, you can also check on scholarship opportunities. Many organizations offer reduced prices based on income, special needs, or unusual circumstances. It never hurts to ask!

The benefits of attending summer camp show up in countless ways. My son came back from camp with eleven new "best" friends. He gained confidence in his swimming, hiking, sports, and other physical activities. He enjoyed the exhilaration of riding a horse and boating. He loved the camaraderie and can't wait to attend the same camp next summer. He even wants to be a counselor when he turns fifteen!

Summer camp should be all about fun. It is a place to let go of inhibitions, try new things, and make new friends. It should be an environment where kids can explore their own strengths and build on them, where they can stretch their creativity and imagination, and where dreams can come true. Give your child the gift of the summer camp experience. The memories will last a lifetime.

Reviewed April 2017

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