By Bruce Hyde, M.D. — Pediatric Alliance, North Hills Division
If you have already decided that summer camp is in your child’s future, then there are many things to consider. For families where both parents work, summer camp is a natural follow-up after school ends.
First to consider is day camp vs. overnight camp. Many children have their first experience with overnight camp during the tween years, ages 10 to 12. Children at camp can make new friends, learn new skills, learn independence and broaden their knowledge of the world and their interests. Before opening up your wallet, you must ask if your child is ready and interested in a sleepaway camp. Is she independent, able to ready herself for school by herself, get herself dressed, prepare a snack etc.? Did he get anxious when you mentioned the idea, or did he seem interested and excited? Has he experienced several sleepovers or short times away from home? In all cases talk to your tween and explore the idea. Often, your child will need lots of reassurance and an understanding about what the experience is likely to include.
If you are considering day camp, children age 5 and above often welcome the opportunity. Here are several points to think about:
1) Your child’s interests. Would they like a camp focused on a specific interest or sport, or a camp where general activities like hiking and swimming are provided? Nowadays, there are many different kinds of camps. Camps specializing in soccer, tennis, swimming, skating, and football are available. There are camps for special needs children, gifted kids, kids with diabetes or celiac disease, as well as camps for children with ADHD, autism or hearing loss. There are also camps that may have religious overtones, such as YMCA camps, Jewish camps, etc.
2) Summer camp can be expensive. You many need to plan for it and save in advance. Sometimes there are funds available to help families send their children to camp.
3) Your need for child care. When school ends, you and your spouse or partner both still may work and your child needs somewhere to go. Summer camp is not the only option, though, for a summer experience.
4) Convenience of transporting your child to summer camp. You may need to plan car pools or a driving schedule as to who takes and picks up your child. Of course, location and proximity to your home or work should be taken into consideration.
5) Your summer vacation schedule. A certain camp might not fit in with other summer plans. Camp can be a great experience, but sometimes kids need a break after a highly scheduled school year.
6) Many camps require a medical form, including a physical exam. Our office is happy to examine your child and fill the form out for you. Appointments often can be made for the next day.
Once all of the above are taken care of, a parent must plan what to send with their child:
1) A good backpack. It should be durable, have a large enough compartment and an outside mesh pocket for a water bottle.
2) Clothes. An extra set of clothing should be included. An extra pair of shoes, a hooded sweatshirt and a baseball cap or hat are also desirable.
3) Swim gear. Of course a bathing suit and towels should be sent along with sunglasses and flip flops or sandals. A plastic bag is helpful to house wet clothes.
4) Miscellaneous. These items include sunscreen (SPF 30 or more), bug spray, hand sanitizer, and prescription medicines.
Lastly, label everything with permanent marker. Also include a surprise, a small note, favorite snack or a family picture. Camp is fun and even more enjoyable with a little bit of planning.