The short answer to this question is probably YES. Kids camps help your child build valuable social skills, foster independence, and exposes them to different environments and activities they would not have tried otherwise. However, you should do your homework before signing up. You want to make sure it is a fun and safe experience for
your child and at the same time puts your mind at ease as a parent. Here are some guidelines to help you make a more educated decision:
Child readiness: This is probably the first and most important item. Gauge your child’s interest and readiness. You are likely to run into some initial resistance or pushback so it does not hurt to “nudge” your child in the right direction. Have your child talk to his/her friends about their camp experience, perhaps invite a friend to join, show your child the organization’s web site, pictures, videos, postings, etc. Having said that, there is nothing worse than forcing your child to attend a camp if they are not ready for it. Kids camps are not for everybody.
Age appropriateness: Many camps try to cater to a wide range of ages to consolidate groups thereby incurring less costs. Any group activity with an age range of more than 5 years is doomed to be a failure. Children have different skill levels, interests, abilities, attention spans, social awareness, and needs at different ages. This needs to be accommodated by splitting up groups into small age ranges with age appropriate activities and counselors.
Reviews/references: You can find out a lot about a camp’s reputation online checking out consumer reviews but you will probably get the most valuable feedback from other parents, teachers, church counselors, and of course your child’s friends.
Day/overnight: Some camps are more advanced than others. Overnight, week-long camps might be a bit overwhelming for a first-timer. Keep it close to home and start with a day camp so you can help your child through any initial challenges and monitor progress on a daily basis.
Counselor vs. child ratio: Large groups of children – at any age – are logistically challenging resulting in huge inefficiencies, long waiting times, slower learning curves, and less personal interaction with counselors. Counselor-to-child ratios vary depending on activities and age but in general one counselor for every 6-8 kids is reasonable for ages around 7-14.
Counselor experience, training, age, gender: Not all counselors are created equal. You want to make sure the camp you are considering has a majority adult counselors with several years of experience, CPR and first aid training, a clean driving record and background check, and perhaps some type of teaching or instructor background with kids. Be aware of “summer students” running camps without much training or direction especially with higher risk activities such as swimming or rock climbing. Also, with co-ed camps you want at least one male and one female counselor to keep a nice balance and address any gender-specific issues such as bathroom situations.
Activities: Most organizations offer one-activity camps like a soccer camp or tennis camp. Those are great to focus on improving skills in one specific area and if you know your child is interested in that activity. If you don’t know exactly what your child would prefer or would like to expand his/her horizon, we recommend a multi-activity or multi-sport day camp which offers something new every day. This exposes your child to different activities and helps them further define their interests and skills.
Safety and emergency plan: Ask the camp leader or organization about their safety procedures and emergency plan. For instance, did they ask you about your child’s allergies? Do they ask for your ID when you pick up your child? Do they know your emergency contacts and people authorized to pick up your child? Is there a set camp agenda/itinerary? How do they handle bathroom situations? How is the camp leader? How can you get a hold of the counselor? All of these items should be clearly defined ahead of time.
Cost: Of course cost is always a consideration but unfortunately as with many things what you see is what you get. If you or your child are skeptical about your first camp, go with a “higher-end” establishment to help increase your confidence level, familiarize yourself with the process, and make your first experience a positive one for you and your child.
Oh, and one more thing, popular kids camps fill up very quickly with many having registration deadlines in February so get started now.
Check out our multi-sport summer kids camps at www.denveradventures.com or for more advice, please call (303)984-6151.