By Christina VanGinkel
Summer camp was something or somewhere that almost every kid I knew growing up went. Some kids were gone all summer long, disappearing the day after school let out, and not showing up until the day before school was to start again the following fall. Some kids went to summer camps that specialized in certain activities, or were formed from being part of some other group, such as band camp (I went one summer); camps that would help them lose weight, or church camps. Most kids at least went to 4-H camp for two weeks, broken into groups depending on our age. We would get to meet kids from the surrounding towns, who also belonged to 4-H, and even some kids who did not. 4-H camp was a place to have fun, to do fun summer things, such as canoe, swim, do simple crafts, and hang out, and you did not have to be a 4-H member to go, though the parents paid more for the opportunity if their kids were not members. I knew this only because neighbors of ours sent their two kids each summer, even though they were not in any 4-H group.
In today’s busy world with lifestyles that may mean summer for the kids, but extra work hours for the parents, sending the kids off to summer camp has continued to be a routine that many families continue to participate. What has changed though, are the choices that parents are required to make when it comes to choosing a camp. Camps can range from those that the kids attend only during the day, to the more traditional sleep-away camps, those that last a few days to a week, to those that last all summer long.
As to the interest of the camp, that is where some parents might really become confused. There are camps dedicated to various sports, from cheerleading to rock climbing, baseball to horseback riding, wind surfing to snowboarding, along with many others. There are also camps dedicated to academic study, the arts, special needs camps, and just about any subject you can think that might somehow relate to kids on some level.
Choosing a camp for your child to attend can be an event all by itself, and just figuring out what camp to send your kids to can be quite the experience. The activities at each camp should be closely considered, as having fun should be a priority, it is summer camp after all. Safety is by far the most important issue, and each camp that is under consideration should have the ACA, or American Camp Association accreditation. While there may be other seals of approval, both at the local and state levels, the ACA accreditation means that over 300 standards have been met by the operation. If a camp you are considering is not ACA approved, I would definitely want to know why, and if they were denied ACA, for what reasons. Do keep in mind that ACA accreditation is voluntary by each property, but they cover such a wide range of issues that the best camps have no problem applying for this seal.
Accidents can and do happen though, so be sure before you send your child off to any camp, that they are old enough to go, in both age and maturity. Visit the camp yourself, as nothing beats a visual inspection. Talk to the counselors and medical staff, and ask for references of past families that have used the facilities and follow through with checking the references. If your child has any special needs, make sure that the camp staff is prepared to deal with any and all issues. If even one thing does not seem right, do not send your child. You want the experience to be fun, not something that will bring about nightmares or cause distress. Be sure to keep in contact with your child while they are at camp. Talk to them before they leave about being honest with you if things are not going as planned. I am a firm believer that after the first few days of transition, that if a child wants to come home, they should be allowed. It is camp after all, and not jail.
Sending your kids to camp can be more of a trial for you, the parent then it is for your child. Like any other decision you must make where they are concerned, it is vital that you make the right decision. With this in mind, take the time to research any possibility before sending them off. When things are rushed, mistakes can happen, and summer fun should not be compromised because of a rushed decision.