By Marté J. Matthews, LMFT
In the middle of March, summer plans are furthest from our minds, but really this is a good time to think about your family’s summer plans. One experience that can be great for many kids is summer camp. Whether choosing day camp or sleep-away camp for your child, this can be a great experience for parents too!
Why look at summer camps now, before Spring? Some of the best day camps begin enrollment in January and February, so right now there are still a few spots available to get all of your kids out of the house and into camp during the same week. Partial or full scholarships may still be available for families who qualify and apply by the deadlines.
Which kind of camp is best for your child?
For families, and especially kids who have never been away from home before, consider a family camp. Live in San Jose? Visit http://www.friendsofsanjosefamilycamp.org. Live in another town? Consider Yosemite, Big Basin, and the entire coast from Pacifica to Santa Cruz and Monterey.
For young kids, consider a day camp, which can be half-day or full day. Many day camps offer childcare in the afternoons for families who need it. These programs are often found at a local YMCA, a community center, an art school or even a school campus locally.
For older kids, they may be ready for sleep-away or residential camps. Some programs have kids stay only one night, and others are five or six days long. Older kids may be ready for longer camps, even a few weeks away. These programs may be offered at colleges or universities throughout the Bay Area, in the mountains, or on the coast, in other parts of California, or even other states.
This is a great way for kids to learn some independence. The #1 rule for parents: no helicopter parenting. When packing for camp, leave the cell phone at home. They won’t need it. Kids can learn important skills, like how to ask for help from a camp counselor, instead of mom & dad.
What makes summer camp a great choice for kids?
Kids can make friends at camp with other kids who share their interests. Making new friends is a great way to step out of the social ruts they may be in with children they’ve known since kindergarten. Research shows that kids to attend summer camps often have improved social skills, self-confidence and even have better attention & focus when they do go back to school. In addition, summer camp is a great way to keep active in a way that is actually fun. With childhood weight problems on the rise, and out of control screen time the new norm, summer camp gives kids a way to explore, stay healthy and make friends. Camps are a great change of pace from the school year for your child to immerse themselves in something they love, or try something new. Try out a new sport or a musical instrument for just a week, without making a long commitment. They may discover something new that they love, or maybe they find something they don’t want to try again. Either way, they learn something important about themselves.
With so many different kinds of camps here, there really is something for everyone.
Sports camps, nature and hiking camps are minutes away. Even here in Silicon Valley, we are surrounded by natural settings. Community centers and kids’ organizations in Campbell, San Jose, Vasona in Los Gatos, the Santa Cruz and Saratoga foothills have a great selection of camps to keep your child active all day and back at home for dinner every night.
Drawing, painting, drama and music camps abound throughout our area. Visual arts camps are likely to feature a showcase on the final day. Performing arts camps usually feature a performance at the end to truly give your budding performer a chance to shine!
Robotics or computer programming more to your child’s liking? We are in the heart of Silicon Valley and surrounded by great resources all available with a quick internet search!
But maybe you want academic enrichment for your child? Consider carefully! Many kids find they have renewed energy for academics when they go back to school after a summer full of activities that have nothing to do with writing or math. However, if you want your child to have academic enrichment this summer, look for a camp that teaches academic subjects like science in a hands-on, engaging way. Kids may not even realize they’re learning something that can help them next year.
Begin your search at the American Camp Association website: http://find.acacamps.org/
Does your child have special health problems or food allergies? Don’t let that stop you! Many resources can help you find a great camp for your child!
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? These kids need the high energy and structure of a great summer camp more than most! Learn what to look for at https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/features/summer-of-fun-for-children-with-adhd#1 Research camps for kids with ADHD at https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-camp-and-school-guide/
Autistic Spectrum? Find helpful links at https://www.autismspeaks.org/summer-camp
Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has a list of food allergy safe camps nationwide: www.foodallergy.org.
Does a child in your family have cancer? Research summer camps for child cancer survivors and siblings at http://mychildscancer.org/childhood-cancer-summer-camps/
If a parent has cancer, look at the website https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/children/camps-and-retreats-families-and-children-affected-cancer for great resources for kids and families.
Diabetes? Learn about camps across the nation http://old.childrenwithdiabetes.com/camps/
to learn about opportunities for children with complex social, emotional, communication, developmental, behavioral or medical needs.
Summer camps are a valuable learning experience, no matter what kind you choose. So do a little research and give your child a summer camp experience this year!