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Lucky you, summer camps of every kind are available for kids and families these days. You might head up to the mountains or down to the sea, or you may stay close to home. You can choose a camp with a variety of fun, or you can focus on sharpening your know-how in one area. Several camps specialize on a specific area or set of skills, like athletics, the arts or academics.

Do you want to swim every day, perhaps perfect your pirouettes or work on your jump shot? Are you more into arts and crafts or do you want to get ahead in science or math? Do you want fun activities and new challenges to be part of your summer camp experience? Now’s the time to find the right camp to make this a super summer!

Some Things Change, Some Stay the Same

Almost any activity under the sun (or in the shade) probably has a camp devoted to it. Nowadays, you can choose from space camp to karate camp and everything in between. Get out your pen and paper, because there’s even a handwriting camp! 

You can choose to attend the kind of traditional camp where your parents and grandparents may have whiled away their summer days. These sleep-away camps have been welcoming summer campers for decades!

These fun-packed, enjoy-the-outdoors kind of camps haven’t changed very much, yet remain amazing. Many are similar to how things were back in the ’70s, and the memories and lessons they provide are unfortgettable—horseback riding, being out in nature, making friends and learning to be leaders.

Overnight Camp or Day Camp?

There are many things to think about when it’s time to pick a camp. One important aspect is whether or not a child is ready to go away to camp.

Parents need to consider their child’s age and what camp activities they’ll enjoy and learn from. If they’ve never been to a resident camp—or sleep-away camp—then they might want to start by being dropped off and picked up at a day camp.

Day camps offer many great opportunities for fun and learning and let you sleep in your own bed at night. But if you’re itching to spread your wings, then head to a sleep-away camp—it’s the perfect place to grow, gain confidence and make lasting friendships!

Maybe the biggest advantage to going off to camp is perhaps being on your own for the first time in a safe, supervised setting meant to build self-confidence. Things that we take for granted, they have to learn and figure out. 

Routine responsibilities, like keeping your things organized without help from mom or dad, allow kids to develop their independence, self-reliance and inner strength. Plus the friendships you make at camp can be life-changing. Experiences shared by campers often forge long-lasting friendships

Camp is a great place for friendship and personal growth. Camps are amazing at developing social skills. Campers do all sorts of activities where they learn to work together in groups. And most camps give  you opportunities to make choices on what you’d like to do and when—a great way to build your confidence in your decision-making. 

Not Too Far, Not Too Long

Camp experts recommend that kids who want to attend a resident camp should have some experience being away from home without their parents—

a visit to the grandparents or sleeping over with friends may do the trick.

It’s really a good idea for kids to take part in choosing a camp, too. If a child is enthusiastic about going to camp, he or she is more likely to have a great experience.

Kids also should be heavily involved in preparing for their camp stay. Campers can help decide what they pack into their suitcase or backpack, checking off the necessary items from a camp-provided list as they pack. If possible, parents should involve their kids from the very beginning.

Camp experts point out that the biggest mistake parents sometimes make is sending their child for too long when he or she isn’t ready. Start slow, maybe with a one-week camp unless your kid is used to being away.

First-time campers may not want to travel too far from home, either. Consider a camp within driving distance as opposed to one across the country. That may be easier on kids and parents.

No Smartphones? Write Home!

When a child goes off to a resident camp, it may be mom or dad who worry more than the kid! 

Fortunately, the length of camps have shortened over the decades. Now campers go for a few days to one or two weeks. There can be more trepidation for parents on how well their kids will fare at a sleep-away camp. 

That reluctance to send kids to camp for long periods started before cell phones and instant messaging, but those things accelerated it, experts point out. Parents who are used to having immediate access to their kids may get a bit worried, but traditional camps serve an important role. 

Camp works best to teach campers self-reliance (and) self-confidence. Most often, that means you really have to make a break from home and the parent(s).

To keep in touch with parents, some camps will post pictures, and many encourage a weekly letter, according camp experts. But getting to know the camp director and staff is probably the best way for parents to allay any worries.

Most camps offer an open house day before camp, where parents can walk the grounds, see where campers are housed, where they eat, where they do activities, etc. Visiting a camp and is a good way figure out if it’s a good fit for your kid. You might want to check out what other parents have to say about the camp, too!

It’s a good idea for parents to talk to the director, ask a lot of questions and get information about safety and how medical issues are handled—ask anything you’d ask of a babysitter. HAPPY CAMPING!

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