What type of camp will my child enjoy most – traditional or focused?
Kids should see holiday camps as a benefit, not a chore, and will thrive most if they have an interest in the key subjects and fun activities based around them. Traditional camps have existed since the late 1800s in the US, and generally offer a mixture of arts, crafts, games and sporting activities. Increasingly, however, providers are offering summer camps that include specialization in specific sports, cookery, and STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). If your child is a massive fan of Harry Potter or obsessed about science or Space, see if you can find a camp that will cater for this interest. Some companies also offer themed camps that can satisfy your little one’s appetite for learning about Christmas, Chinese New Year, or Halloween, for example. Camps shouldn’t just be about learning, as children need a break from school. Good camps offer a balance of enrichment, games, and recreational activities with regular breaks for snacks and meals.
Does the camp have a guiding philosophy?
Reputable camps should have policies for issues such as safety, sanitation (increasingly important since the Covid pandemic), and dealing with disruptive behaviour. In addition, many camps will have a guiding philosophy or clear values on issues such as kindness and tolerance, teamwork, helping others, and respect for other cultures.
What sort of teacher-student ratio is reasonable?
Many established camps employ teachers with specialized knowledge (eg in a particular scientific discipline) and who have English as their native language. Teacher-student ratios can vary significantly between different providers, but recommended ratios are around 1:5 for kids aged 5 years and below, and 1:7 for kids aged 6 years and above.
How do I prepare my child psychologically for camp?
If it’s your child’s first experience of camp, a little pre-camp anxiety is quite normal. Talking to them in advance about what the camp will entail – interesting topics, games, recreational activities, making new friends – can help to settle nerves. Kids will pick up on any anxieties you might have so it really helps to be positive when discussing the upcoming camp. If you have any concerns it can be reassuring to discuss these privately with the camp organizers in advance.
What should I pack for camp?
Most camps will expect children to bring a daypack packed with a reusable water bottle; helping kids pack their bag, maybe even including a few small memories of home, can reassure them. It really helps to label everything your child takes, especially as they shouldn’t be sharing things with other children in order to follow sensible Covid precautions. One of the most important things to label is therefore their water bottle.
Should I do a test run?
Ideally kids should already be attending a school or preschool before they join camp so that they have some experience of being away from home and parents. If they get anxious about new experiences or joining new groups, it can help to do a test run for camp by arranging a drop-off playdate or activity with friends in an unfamiliar environment. This can help to show your kids that they can try something new, have fun and survive without you.
Should I force my child to join a camp?
Whilst it’s never recommended to force your child to join a camp, kids are often uncertain about new experiences and so may not be keen to try a camp for the first time. But after one or two days at camp this anxiety normally disappears, and children are too busy having fun to worry about anything else. What can unsettle kids is when their parents come to check on them, so giving them some space often speeds their transition.
What’s the takeaway message?
Camps provide a caring and nurturing environment in which kids can start developing into confident, independent young people. They can provide a rewarding experience for kids AND parents! The main thing for which you need to prepare your kids is to have a lot of fun!