I think more planning and time goes into juggling schedules for the summer than any other time of year. What to do with your children for 9 or more weeks is definitely a challenge. They want to enjoy themselves with their friends. You want them to: not watch tv, play 5 hours of video games each day. As a parent I look for the following features in a camp: friends are able to sign up to, engaging, learning a skill, being local or convenient and be cost effective or a tax write off. The older they get the harder this list is to fill.
It is important to include your child and their wants and desires in this process. Ask them what they want to do. Most parents would agree that TV and video games are not activities to be done for 9 weeks straight. For myself I negotiate and give in to two weeks of “no programming “ so the random play date, pool swim or sleep over can happen with friends and they can revel in the freedom from school by watching too much tv. After that wears thin structured time for the next 7 weeks.
Camp programs are geared towards certain age groups. Stick with your child’s age for several reasons: It is important your child is with their peer group doing things that are age appropriate so they have more likelihood of making new friends and they can actually succeed at the goals of that program. You do nobody any favours thinking your child is brilliant and should go into an older age group. They build confidence with their successes and camp size ratios are related to their age and need for help. Also younger children 3-5’s tend to do things very quickly so they tend to cycle through a lot more projects. Once children learn to read their abilities shift, so 6-9 want to do it all themselves. Older children, 8-12 years, tend to want more in depth programs, that take longer and have a different set of intentions and skill set that just would not interest younger children. Learning how to draw in perspective for example, is best learned after the age of 8 or even 9 because the child’s brain is ready to learn that concept and not before.
Sports camps are great for exercise, being outdoors and of course team building. They do foster a sense of group collective but can be a poor choice for the noncompetitive, introverted, or shy type. Visual Arts, Music, Dance and Drama camps will give them opportunities for growth, foster self esteem, improve skills in problem solving and still give them an opportunity to succeed at something in a noncompetitive way. Team building happens in a very different way within the context of an art show or a performance at the end of the camp week. It gives the child a chance to shine and parents a chance to praise.
Listening to your child’s desires should always be the first step in summer camp planning.
Lauren Renzetti , is Assistant Director of Art Works Art School , Chair of Program Development and also an Instructor. This mother of two understands how challenging it is make everyone happy. Art Works has over 60 camps this summer with a wide variety of themes and age groups.