As we charge headlong into May, the school year is coming to an end, and for some people, it may be time to start thinking about what summer camp or camps you want to send your children to. I ran a summer camp for several years, and I have put together a list of things that you have every right to expect from a summer camp. Please keep in mind though, the type of camp I’m talking about. The summer camps that I’m referring to are not the specialized “band camp” where you would send your middle or highschooler as a prerequisite for making a team in the school year. Rather, they’re the “daycare” type camp that are run by local instruction clubs, like karate clubs, art schools or gymnastics clubs.
- Expect a variety of activities. It doesn’t matter how much your child likes art, there is no way you can keep a group of children seated quietly doing “artful” things for 6-8 hours a day. At some point, they need to blow off steam. Conversely, no matter how much energy children have, they should not be doing a constant rotation of gymnastics for 6-8 hours a day. Their bodies need a break. So, whether your child is at art camp or karate camp, expect them to participate in at least some activities that are not in the “name” of the camp.
- Expect your child to learn new skills. This ties in right with the previous point. If you are sending your child to a specific camp, like circus camp, or music camp, you should expect them to learn some skills from that camp. Don’t expect your child to come home as a circus ready trapeze artist by the end of the first day, but they should know some new things by the end of the first week. At the end of a full summer, they should definitely have improved.
- Expect Fridays to be a quieter day. We always had movie day on Friday, because by Friday afternoon the kids were exhausted. They fought, and argued and started to exhibit unsafe behaviours. You may feel that you’re wasting your money to have your kids watch a movie at gymnastics, but if it protects them from injury, I think it is money well spent.
- Expect reasonable class size. Standards and regulations vary, but you should look for a camp that has a 12:1 ratio of children to coaches. 15 at the max. That is only for on the premises. For field trips, there should be absolutely no more than a 10:1 ratio.
- Expect a structured routine. When you have a large group of children from a variety of families, the best way to avoid issues is to keep the children busy. There may be free time, but even that will have very distinct boundaries and limits.
- Don’t expect your preschooler to be at camp all day. There are regulations that require proper napping facilities for preschoolers, and many non-daycare summer camps do not have those facilities.
- Expect some of the coaches/counselors/instructors to be teenagers. Often, sports schools will use their more advanced students for extra help in the summer. Although they are young, they have a lot of experience in their field. It’s a valuable time for them to learn to convey their knowledge to others as well.
- Expect there to be at least one “adult” instructor with the kids at all times. Adult technically means over 18, and I would expect absolutely no less than that. If there is not a “head” instructor, I would be very cautious.
- Expect to be able to ask questions and obtain clarification. A well planned camp should be able to tell you what activity your child will miss if you pick them up early. They should be able to tell you if the activity that your child needs the most work on is in the rotation for that day. If you have questions, feel free to ask.
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