Haven't thought about summer camp? It's not too late!
By John L. Reilly - District Executive Director, Indian Valley Family YMCA
Region - posted Fri., May. 3, 2013
You may be a parent of a certain age if you remember endless summer days filled with long bike rides, imaginative games and neighborhood fun. The reality is that today, many neighborhoods are desolate come July, meaning that children who aren’t enrolled in summer programs are often left to fend for themselves. As everyday playmates scatter for summer, camp can fill the void with activities and experiences that will enrich your child’s days.
If the thought of packing up the kids and waving goodbye for a few weeks sounds like a slice of summer heaven, then you’ve probably already started researching overnight or summer day camp. If you haven't, it's not too late. There's still time for your child to have a summer experience filled with independence and fun.
Kids at camp have opportunities to try out new things, take risks and accomplish things they didn't think they could do. Choosing the right camp can be a rewarding experience for both parent and child.
The YMCA of Greater Hartford, which operates 10 camps in Connecticut serving more than 10,000 campers, offers the following suggestions to finding a camp both you and your child will feel good about.
Start by asking your children's friends' parents. Kids with similar interests can find fun together at camp. News travels fast, and your child’s friends may have well already tapped into the perfect place. Camps with a strong reputation have many return campers, and new ones who come for the first time as a result of word-of-mouth.
From rock-climbing to rocketry, there are day and overnight camps designed to immerse your child in his or her favorite pastime. Of course, just as many offer the good old-fashioned outdoor summer experience with canoeing and water sports, arts and crafts, and campfire songs. Choosing a summer camp is an adult responsibility, but be sure to start the process by asking your child what he or she envisions as the ideal experience.
Whatever you choose, be sure to choose a camp where you know your child will be safe. Connecticut camps licensed by the State Department of Public Health are regularly inspected for compliance with emergency preparedness, pesticide usage, and health and medication administration. American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation ensures the highest standards of program quality, safety and wellness, and camp operations. More rigorous than state licensure, a camp with ACA accreditation offers the assurance of a low ratio of staff to campers, with staff members who have been drug tested, and subject to background and criminal conviction checks.
Whether or not the camp on your list holds ACA accreditation, look at these important safety considerations:
How is the waterfront managed to keep children safe? There should be strict lifeguard to child ratios, rescue procedures, and a system to account for campers’ whereabouts regularly. There should also be a system in place to keep non-swimmers or beginning swimmers out of deep waters.
There should be safe, sanitary bathing and changing facilities readily available to campers - including sinks for regular hand-washing.
Drivers providing transportation for campers should be held to the same high standards of investigation as staff working directly with children.
If the camp offers specialized activities like archery, boating or ropes, the instructors should be properly certified in their areas of expertise.
Camp can have benefits for you, too. Outside of the obvious break from parenting, the youngster who requires prompting to get dressed on time, pack up the homework, and even bathe can - and usually will - perform at a high level of self-reliance while at camp. And who knows? These habits may well follow your child home!