As the days get longer and kids start counting down until school comes to an end, parents across the city start to realize that, if school is out, then the kids are in … in your house and in your hair.
In households where both parents work during July and August, summer camp registration happens like clockwork at the beginning of the year, both for day camps and “sleep away” camps. But for parents who are just now looking to have their kids spend a week or two at a day camp in the city, they’ll need to consider some key factors first.
There are many different types of camps, as many as there are types of kids. From the all-sports, to dance, to fencing, horseback riding and everything in between, there is something for everyone. Finding out what interests your child and fits your budget and location (for driving purposes) are the factors you need to consider first. Don’t offer “math camp” to a child who spends all of his or her time outdoors playing hockey and which happens across the city and only runs from 9 to 11:15 a.m.
Many parents choose camps that offer a variety of activities during the day, which allow their children to explore different interests and expose them to new things.
What to look for
• Camps that discourage technology — particularly smart phones. Part of the great thing about camp is that it develops independence and skills. It’s hard to do both if your child is texting Mom every five minutes.
• Hours and transportation. This can be key for working parents who need to know exactly when they can drop off/put on a bus and pick up. Many camps offer extended hours, but some only operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., which doesn’t quite cover the typical workday.
• Costs outside of the itinerary. Ensure all field trips and equipment needs are stated and accounted for before committing.
Preparing your child
“Discussion about camp for the first time should depend on a child’s ability to cope with this change,” says Dara Kahane, camp director and educator at Bayview Glen Day Camp.
“Some children benefit from starting the discussion early in the year and some children benefit from waiting until closer to the start time,” Kahane notes. “I will often tell parents that if their child is seeming overly anxious about this prospect, waiting a couple months to begin the discussion might help.”
• Let kids participate in the choosing of the camp — once you’ve narrowed it down. Don’t tell them there is an option to go or not go, if that in fact isn’t an option. Ask them which one they’d prefer if you have that flexibility.
• If a friend is also participating in the same camp, this can be a key selling point for many children. Once you’ve chosen a camp, ask around to see if your friends want in, allowing for shared driving responsibilities and giving your kid an “insta-friend.”
• If possible, familiarize your child as much as possible before the start date. Visit the website; look at photos and videos if you can’t get to the camp physically before it starts. Kahane agrees: “A visit to the site to meet some of the senior staff and director — so that a child has a frame of reference for the first day — would be ideal.”