Summer Camp season is just around the corner, so let the confusion begin!
I always struggle with which camp I should choose for my child. Is it 4-H, YMCA, school, local businesses or scout camps? We are lucky to live in a community that provides multiples opportunities for young people during the summer, but as a parent it can be overwhelming, too.
If your child is like mine, they are not much help because they want to go to all the camps. So how do you choose the right camp for your child? As a parent, and a 4-H youth development professional who plans multiple summer camps, I wanted to share some recommended tips and questions to ask before registering your child for camp.
First, look at the schedule of the camp and make sure there is a good balance of educational experiences and fun. As an educator learning opportunities are important to me, keeping that in mind I also know my child has worked hard throughout the school year, so summer is the time for fun and enjoyment. The camps I consider have hands-on activities, educational field trips, some crafts, and they incorporate confidence-building activities. I’m not going to pay for a camp that plugs my child into a television or computer all day, nor do I want my child running around playing games all day. A good balance will help develop your child’s mental and physical abilities.
Second, ask questions about the volunteer procedure at the camp. OK, I know right now you're saying: “What… volunteer procedure, what’s that?” Good question and an important one. For example, there are youth to adult ratio’s that must be followed for camping programs. Not only that, but those ratios are different for younger children than they are for older children. Additionally, if the camp is taking field trips ask how many volunteers are traveling. When I take 25 campers on a field trip, I definitely will take more volunteers than needed. The more eyes the better I say!
Parents would be smart to inquire about background screening and the training of volunteers, be proactive. My child came home from a camp a couple of years ago and was so disappointed because while the camp had plenty of volunteers none of them really knew how to teach the campers the topics the camp was about, so they watched movies. Additionally, one volunteer got so frustrated they didn’t come back from lunch because the children wouldn’t stay in their seats and listen. As a parent, we need to make sure that the camps we are considering have trained and qualified volunteers that understand how to work with different age levels and summer programming styles.
Third, when selecting day-camps, of course, you should ask your child which camp(s) interests them most of the ones you are looking at. Yes, as parents we have our interests, but we are not the ones who will be attending the camp. From my experience, youth forced to go to a camp they are not interested in, typically are the youth who are hard to engage and can be disruptive to the other campers. Sadly, this means they are not having fun and they are missing a good learning experience.
Lastly, remember that presenting our children with 35-camp options is not helpful as they get overwhelmed, too. You have a good understanding of things your child likes to do or will try, so pick three-to-six camps for them to consider. Then do your research and present the options. If the camps you originally select do not pique their interest, then you can always reevaluate other options.
These are just a few tips that I use when planning a camp, but also when I am looking for a camp for my child. For more tips about how to choose a camp for your child or to learn about camps offered by 4-H, contact the Clay County Extension Office at (904) 284-6355.