For children, summer is a fun time full of long, lazy days without school or homework. But for parents, it’s often a challenge to keep their children engaged and entertained. No matter the child, within a few weeks, most everyone utters the dreaded words, “I’m bored.” Summer camp programs are a fun and educational way for your child to spend their summer days. Camps can help your child gain new skills while strengthening the ones they’ve already learned.
With many of today’s children having an overabundance of technology — including TV, computers, phones and other devices — it’s easy for them to spend hours inside without face-to-face peer interaction. Summer camps provide the opportunity for children to get outdoors and enjoy fresh air, games, fun and social activities with other kids.
The American Camp Association reports that there are more than 5,600 summer day camps in the U.S., with more than 14 million children and adults in attendance each year. Some of the many benefits of attending summer camps include developing independence, resilience and self-confidence. Children who attend camps also show increased social, friendship and leadership skills and a greater willingness to try new things.
Summer camp programs offer children a fun and nurturing environment where they can safely encounter new experiences while practicing life skills such as working together, taking responsibility and building self-reliance. Interacting with peers and positive role models is another of the many significant benefits children gain from attending summer camp.
From music to sports and even science, there are many summer day camps available for elementary-aged children. Depending on your child’s interests and age level, there is a camp for almost every interest. As a parent, it can be overwhelming to figure out which camp would most interest and benefit your child.
When deciding on the best summer camp program for your child, there are many aspects to consider. The right summer camp program is one that most closely fits the educational, developmental and financial needs of both your child and family. Some topics on which to focus your research include the program’s level of social interaction, camp theme and mission statement, camp schedule and associated costs and the program’s educational and enjoyment factors. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as quality summer camps want parents to be involved and informed.
Will Social Interaction Help My Child Grow?
The words “summer camp” often evoke the image of campfires, fun songs, games and roasting marshmallows. While many camps still incorporate these time-honored traditions, the summer camp experience has branched out to include many other academic and interest areas. While summer camps may encompass different topics, the theme of making friends, gaining life skills and making memories runs throughout them all.
Children must learn to get along and work well with others. The opportunity to meet new people and gain new relationships with both peers and trusted adults helps them develop their negotiation skills and sense of identity. Camps provide the chance for children to be seen for who they really are, free from the worry of being bullied or excluded.
Your child may want to base their camp decision on where their friends are going. While it may be comforting for a shy child to bring a friend with them to camp, sometimes it is more beneficial when they have a chance to meet and interact with other children outside their familiar circle. You also wouldn’t want your child to choose a camp that won’t interest them just because their friends are going.
Summer camps provide an excellent opportunity for children to separate from their parents safely. Day camps are a great way to introduce your child to the concept of separating for short periods of time. Parental separation in a safe environment builds resilience and independence in children. Temporary separation also helps parents to learn to detach from their children as well. Positive separation results in the growth of both parents and children and helps kids develop problem-solving and coping skills.
Camps also provide a chance for children to try new things. The sense of community fostered in summer camps helps children develop a sense of acceptance and belonging. The confidence gained often gives them the courage to leave their proverbial comfort zone. Don’t be surprised if your usually shy child comes home singing silly songs or marveling about getting up in front of the whole camp to demonstrate a science experiment.
What Themes or Topics Will Be Explored?
Many summer camp programs take place in schools, recreation centers and libraries, transforming these places into magical, themed settings full of adventure and fun. There are camps for everything these days — from music and drama to computer coding, animals and sports. Choosing a camp tailored to your child’s interests is key to ensuring they have a fun and successful camp experience. Your science-loving youngster may be bored to tears if you enroll them in a sports-themed camp, so be sure to include them in the decision-making process.
In addition to choosing a camp with an appropriate theme, there are some other factors to look for when considering which camps may be a good fit for your child. Check out the camp’s mission statement and philosophy. These pieces of information are extremely helpful when determining what types of activities and programs will be offered. Quality camps usually focus on fostering a sense of community where everyone is included and accepted.
Good camps employ well-trained staff who are background-checked and have effective communication skills. They may also be CPR and first-aid certified. The ratios of staff to campers should also be appropriate for the age level of the campers, and the camp should have an efficient communication system for keeping parents informed. Their policies should also be fair and consistent, with the purpose of keeping fun and safety at the forefront.
Is the Camp Schedule a Good Fit For My Child?
Day camp sessions typically last several hours each day and are broken up into week-long blocks. You may wonder if your child is ready to attend a summer camp program, or if the day may be too long. Fortunately, many day camps offer both full- and half-day programs to suit the developmental needs of children. Typically, half-day programs are available for children ages 4-6, while full-day programs are more suitable for older children ages 7 and up.
Learning the daily camp schedule can also help you and your child make your ultimate decision. Viewing the list of planned activities, along with the setup of the day, can be a big help. Good camps maintain a healthy balance of routine and unstructured times. Fun activities are usually interspersed throughout the day along with scheduled meal and break times. Children stay engaged when they are interested and challenged, so choosing a camp with activities that will do both for your child is key to keeping them engrossed each day.
Many parents work full-time and need childcare throughout the summer. Day camps provide a great way for children to stay safe and well-supervised while enjoying fun, educational activities and socializing. Most camps also offer before- and after-care options, which are essential for many working parents. These options exist to give working parents some flexibility in their schedule and allow more campers the opportunity to attend.
Summer camps usually have established drop-off and pickup procedures in place to ensure the convenience and safety of campers. Discussing these with your child beforehand can also help them feel more confident and comfortable with attending camp each day.
How Much Does the Camp Cost?
The costs of summer camp programs vary widely throughout the country, with day camps usually being the most affordable. While it’s important to choose a camp that works best with your family’s budget, there are usually a few ways in which you can save money. Be sure to research what is included in the camp costs. Check to see if snacks and lunch are included, and whether or not there are additional activity fees. Don’t forget to factor in before- and after-care costs, if applicable.
Money-saving options about which to inquire include:
- Tax Write-Offs — Summer day camp fees fall into the same tax category as daycare expenses, and may be tax-deductible.
- Flex Plan Options — If you pay for daycare fees with a flex plan, you can also use this money to pay for summer day camp fees.
- Early-Bird Discounts — Many summer camps offer early-bird discounts for registering early. This can result in a significant savings off the registration or program fees. For this reason, it’s important to get on the email lists of any summer camps in which you may be interested.
- Gift Certificates — Some summer camps offer gift certificates that may be purchased and used toward program and registration fees.
- Multi-Camp/Sibling Discounts — If you’re considering more than one week or session of camp, it may save you more money in the long run. Many camps offer a multi-camp discount where you can save a percentage off of the registration or program fees if you enroll in more than one session. Some camps also offer a discount to families enrolling more than one child.
- Scholarships — Many camps offer scholarships to campers who demonstrate financial need. While each camp is different, and some camps don’t advertise this option, it may be worth discussing with your camp director. Scholarships may also be available from outside sources that focus on providing camp scholarships.
Is the Camp Program Educational and Enjoyable?
While more than 49 percent of camps encompass school curricula in some way, summer camp programs are meant to be educational in a different way than the traditional classroom. They should allow the child to experience activities they would not get in a regular school setting, and a chance to gain new skills as a result. At camp, children should get the opportunity to develop their unique talents and interests.
You and your child should discuss the different camp options available so you can both choose a camp that satisfies everyone’s needs. Your child is more likely to have a great camp experience when they have had a say in the camp they will attend. While you may be tempted to choose a camp based solely upon what you want your child to learn, involving them in the decision will get them excited about attending.
When looking for educational summer camps for your kids, remember that the primary goal is for them to have fun! Your child should be excited to attend each day. Camp activities should be hands-on and keep the child active and engaged. Camp staff should be enthusiastic and get your child excited about learning. Summer camp is all about making positive memories and building skills that children will carry with them throughout their lives.
Is Parent Involvement Encouraged?
While summer camps are usually no-parent zones, quality summer camps encourage parents to get involved and ask questions during the research and selection process. They should have staff members who are readily available and will return phone calls and emails promptly. Good camps will also have parental references available for you to talk to. Summer camp staff members want to get to know you and your child so that everyone can have the best experience possible.
Parents always feel more at ease separating from their children when they know that they’re leaving their kids in the hands of a caring, educated and well-trained staff — and good camps want you to feel comfortable leaving your child in their care. Relevant information to discuss with the camp staff is your child’s level of social development, any medical conditions/allergies or any other concerns that you may have. Some things about which to inquire include camp rules and discipline policy, along with emergency procedures and preparedness.
Don’t be afraid to ask about the topics and activities that will be covered during the week. You want to be sure the camp is a good fit for your child, and camp staff want to be sure your child has an awesome experience. The American Camp Association has a whole website devoted to choosing the right summer camp for your child, and also has a helpful list of questions that you can use when talking with camp directors.
Finding a Fun and Educational Summer Camp in NJ, PA, DE and MD
When you’re ready to enroll your child in the best summer day camp in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware or Maryland, check out Science Explorers. We proudly offer fun and educational science camps and clubs for children ages 4-11. Your children will engage in hands-on science experiments and activities that get them excited about science! Our weeklong summer camps are offered at various locations including schools, colleges, museums and community centers. Visit our Science Summer Camps page for more information about enrolling your child in a camp near you.