Eve sat down to discuss the benefits of summer camps and programs for children today, advice for parents and how Tips on Trips and Camps can help you find the right program for your child. Click to listen!
“I really love the service you provide! It’s just about impossible to sort through the zillions of camps out there and figure out which might be right for a particular kid. Word of mouth, which is very effective for locating local services, has not been at all useful for summer camps. I appreciate your guidance…” A Washington DC Parent
How often do you feel frustrated when searching the web looking for something for your child to do this summer? Traditional and specialty camps, travel camps, wilderness expeditions, community service? What is right for my child?
How often do you wish you could speak with a real person to ask a few specific questions about your child’s summer? What are the differences? What questions should I ask? What is age appropriate?
Everyone is asking their neighbors, online chat rooms and rating websites where to send their child to camp. Why not ask a real person who has visited over 400 camps and has information not available in a camp brochure.
We are real people waiting to speak to you. Our expertise is available to you free of charge. 1 866 222-TIPS
Ninety Nine per cent of our end of the year reviews of summer camps and teen programs are excellent. Occasionally, we do hear concerns regarding the summer camp director or teen program director.
This past summer, I had the privilege of being Director of Camp Erin New York City, an overnight, bereavement camp for children who have lost a parent, sibling or a loved one.
I would like to share my thoughts as I wear my director’s cap. We DO care about each and every child- as we are in possession of your precious children. Each specific concern while a program is in session, is ultimately our responsibility – a travel complication, bunk request, medical dilemma, equipment snafu, lost clothing, missed medication, food allergy, schedule change, clogged bathrooms – the list is endless. You are a psychologist, safety monitor, problem solver, nutritionist, teacher, mentor, motivator and peacemaker. The reality, however, is that you are only as good as your staff and those around you who are hopefully executing the policies, procedures and guidelines you have set in place. Parents need to have trust and faith in the director to hire and train the most qualified staff to take care of their children. When not directly working with children or staff, a director is constantly monitoring the pulse of the program. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the director is held accountable for the success or failure of a program.
Every camp director’s goal is to succeed and offer a happy and SAFE environment in which kids can learn, participate, live together and share amazing summer experiences and memories. Once in a while, things may fall through a floorboard, as there are so many things to juggle and be on top of. It is not okay, and no one is more disappointed and disheartened than a summer camp director or summer teen program director if something goes awry. Our sleepless nights and hours of prep attest to that. What parents don’t see and what we feel is our hearts and souls as they travel with each camper and teen as they dance, climb, draw and explore.
I was in the Tennis Factory the other day and overheard the owner talking to a mom about how important it is for the shoe to fit for the player to be successful. She was getting expert advice. Often when I am visiting summer camps, I see kids on the tennis court in sandals playing with over-sized racquets. I am struck by the lack of fit to the situation. Makes me wonder how much better a child’s experience would be if the parent had guidance and advice as they research to find the best camp for their child. Summer camps come in all different sizes and cultures and the right fit is what matters, just like with shoes. As part of the process of choosing a summer camp or teen travel or study program, parents should speak with a camp expert to get advice that will ensure the best fit for their child.
Is your tween or teen ready to make the transition from Summer Camp to a Teen Program? That depends on the individual child. Many traditional camps can certainly offer summer programs through the teenage years and some have added Leadership programs and Community Service to keep older children challenged. As a camp advisor with Tips on Trips and Camps, I have explored hundreds of traditional summer camps and teen programs by meeting directors, visiting programs, and reading camp reports written by my fellow advisors. Being able to go beyond the websites and web searches and knowing as much as I do about all the wonderful options available, I am still challenged to come up with the best option for my own three boys. Each have distinct personalities and needs and I have found that what works for one child may not work for another. While my oldest loved learning to sail and scuba dive, I have ruled it out for my middle child who would never make it past his sea sickness issues.
Even among the traditional camps, there are subtle differences that make them unique and a better fit for one child over another. That is why, as an advisor, speaking with a parent is critical in helping me to determine good fits for my clients. You know your child better than anyone and if you can communicate to me their strengths and interests, I can give you several options that will work. With so many summer choices, I can save you time and protect your summer camp investment by narrowing down your choices. Anyone with distracted or lethargic teenagers knows that too many choices will not help them make a decision. Often they need to be pushed to step outside their comfort zones (leave their cell phones and friends behind) and explore places and interests that will allow them to grow as individuals. Whether it’s learning more about an interest they might want to pursue in college by taking an academic/enrichment class or seeing how people live in different parts of the world and the challenges other cultures face, they will come away with a greater sense of self. My goal for your family is that you will be pleased with the happy child you greet at the end of their summer experience.
It’s April, and I, like many of the parents I work with am thinking: “what is my daughter going to do this summer?” It would be great for her to get a job, but as we all know, it’s not that easy in this economic climate.
As a camp advisor, I have access to, and relations with hundreds of incredible summer overnight programs. The programs that I represent are carefully screened, I know the directors, and I am familiar with the culture of each and every one. You’d think with all the amazing summer camps and trips out there, my daughter would be chomping at the bit to take part this summer, right? No, not really… She is completely immersed in her schoolwork, sports and extra curricular activities, not to mention the college decision-making process that is happening right now. My daughter, a senior in high school, isn’t ready to think about summer plans yet. I think she just wants to get through the semester, graduate, and then take a deep breath.
But I however, am doing behind the scenes research for her on the most meaningful and fun summer program that I think she would love. The summer trip is going to be a graduation gift to her, a reward for her work well done, and a celebration of all her achievements in high school. She mentioned traveling to Fiji or Australia at one of our dinner conversations. She also likes the idea of doing meaningful community service with families struggling after the hurricane. Or she could join a leadership expedition specifically for graduating seniors, and earn her Wilderness First Responder certification in Colorado. Whether we decide on a two or four week trip, I know once she goes she will love it, meet interesting kids, see amazing sights, and have incredible experiences that she will remember for a lifetime.
Overnight programming in the summer is so valuable. Whether your child is 8 years old, and is a first time camper; or he is 18 years old and is a graduating senior, the lessons learned and the experiences gained can be life changing. Independence, self-esteem, and confidence all come to my mind when thinking about the value of sleep away summer camp. I know that my children have benefited from the fact their mom is a summer camp advisor. They are lucky to have taken part in amazing overnight camps and programs these last six years, and I am grateful for the personal growth they have made as a result of their overnight camp experiences.
Regionally, camps often have a common set of characteristics. These characteristics can be based upon geographical attractions or the region’s social mores. One of the ways that camp regions differ is around the issue of single sex vs. co-ed camps. The East coast offers more co-ed camps, especially the mid-Atlantic Pennsylvania camps. The Carolina camps are predominantly single sex. The Colorado western camps are co-ed, but split into girls and boys camps (called “brother-sister camps”). Brother–sister camps usually have a gender divide for daily activities and dining rituals, but have socials together at night or on weekends. The Northwoods Region of Minnesota and Wisconsin is home to an abundance of single sex camps and a number of brother-sister camps. What kind of camp did you go to as a child? Will this inform the type of camp you send your own child?
This is the time of year when parents start thinking about summer camp. If your oldest child has already started going to sleep away camp, then the hard part is over. Right?? Well, not always. How do you handle a situation when the second sibling is ready for sleep away camp? Do you automatically send him/her with their older sibling? For some families, it is a “one for all and all for one” approach. There are many advantages to taking this route. The second child has the comfort of their older sibling. They probably also know some of their siblings friends. Seek out those parents and ask if they also have younger children. My son met the younger brother of one of his brother’s friends and they were able to start camp together and have been inseparable since meeting.
What if their interests are totally different? If your oldest child wants a sports camp and your younger child wants an arts camp, are you doomed? Does family trump individuality? If so, speak to the camp director, many camps can accommodate all your summer camp needs.
Maybe you want your children to have separate experiences. You know your child and your family best. This could be the best thing for both your children.They already have a family connection, but by attending different summer camps they get to enhance their own interests and skills.
Regardless of which route you take, go with your gut. Do your research. Get your advice on camp from a professional to help you find the right choice for the right child.
As I speak with families, the issue of cost is always part of the conversation, no matter if we are talking about summer camps for kids, unique summer experiences for tweens or travel or study options for teens. Parents spend a lot of time and financial resources investing in their children’s experiences. Travel sports teams, lessons in the arts, and a myriad of other after school and weekend activities. They supervise, volunteer and generally make possible a rich life for kids. So why is an away from home summer experience worth the financial investment? The personal growth that kids gain from sleepaway summer camps or high schoolers learn from summer travel programs occurs when kids have opportunities to make decisions independent of their parents.
Here are 5 important skills a child of any age masters by being away from home in a summer program.
1. Practice sleeping away from the comforts of your own home. For some kids this is the hardest part.
2. Ability to keep track of your own “stuff”. Whether at traditional sleep away camps, enrichment on college campuses, community service programs or the other types of summer activities, lose your socks and it can be a problem.
3. Learning to negotiate through conflict. This might be simply improved patience in taking turns or dealing with the disappointment of not being chosen for a desired activity.
4. Advocating for yourself. So often we hear from camp directors that when kids find themselves in challenging or disappointing situations the first thing they do is call home. Asking for help and speaking up for yourself are lessons that can only be learned away from Mom and Dad’s participation.
5. Trying new things not available at home. Rock climbing camps, water skiing camps, archeology camps, community service with native Americans to name a few of the activities not readily available to most families.
The benefits kids get from these fabulous opportunities are often intangible. Is it worth the investment? Absolutely!
A summer camp or teen program is an invaluable gift to give your child. Whether it’s through the friendships that are made at camp or traveling to an exotic location, summer programs provide endless possibilities of growth and memories that last a lifetime.
Overnight camp is often a throwback to the past. As Michael Eisner says, “Camp transports kids with everything to a place where they have close to nothing.” Going to an overnight camp or summer program allows them to forge ahead in new directions without parents hovering over them. It’s an opportunity for children to learn new skills, become independent and develop passions that may lead to life long hobbies or even future careers. Imagine a place where you can take risks and try things that you never dreamed of doing!
Camp allows kids to be themselves. At summer camp children are celebrated for who they are – not by what they can do, how much they have and how many things they’re good at. They return home with a new sense of confidence and self-esteem.
Here is a glimpse from parents and students who commented on the summer experiences we connected them with last summer:
“They appreciated the setting, with a meadow, forest, pool and lagoon – and, of course, the animals. They came back proud, insisting we sign them up for next summer!”
“She enjoyed every minute and bonded with her horse. She had stories about sleeping out under the stars and cows breaking down the fence they put up! How wonderful to hear her telling stories – a girl who lives near downtown LA!”
“My internship was unbelievable! I met so many great people and learned so much about the industry. I am so lucky to have begun so many friendships that I hope will last a lifetime!
The holidays are the perfect time for you to look at summer programs with your child. What better gift . . . than the gift of an amazing summer experience!