Monday, January 4, 2010

Thinking About Summer Camps

Whether you spent the New Year's weekend sitting in front of a cozy fire, lying on a beach on a tropical island, or sitting out in the cold to watch your favorite football team finish up the regular season (Go Jets!), summer seems a long way off.

Still, if you are thinking about summer camp for your child, this is prime season for considering what kind of camp might be right for your child and exploring your camp options. For most children and young teens, even those who struggle in school, a regular camp setting is a great place for them to set aside the cares of the school year and to develop skills and affinities. Whether your child will do best at a day camp, at a short term sleep away camp with a program that lasts for a week or two, or at a summer-long sleep away program is a very individual decision. You need to consider your child's age, maturity, and ability to get along with others. Sending a child to an eight or nine week sleep away program that he is not ready to manage can make both the child and parents miserable. Trying to leave the camp on visiting day with a child latched to your leg screaming, "Don't leave me here!" can put a knot into any parental stomach. When in doubt, try a short term sleep away program or a day program with a "bonus" sleep away week at the end.

Children who need special support because of serious learning, attention, behavior, or medical issues can also do well at camp, so long as the program is equipped to handle their needs. Resources for Children with Special Needs is holding their annual Camp Fair on January 30th in New York City. Another source for information about summer camps for children with special learning and attention needs is the website of our friends at The Center for Learning Differences.

The American Camp Association sets standards for camps and has a website feature that allows parents to search for regular and specialized camps of all kinds.

One concern of many families is the expense of many camps. It's true that some private camps can cost thousands of dollars a session, way beyond the means of many families. But there are camps associated with organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, religious groups, and public schools, that can provide meaningful experiences at reasonable costs. Start by asking around to see what options are available in your community.

Thinking ahead can help assure a postive summer experience for your child -- and may help you think warm thoughts in the depths of January's weather!

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