Below is the transcript for an upcoming article "Is your Child Ready for Day Camp?" to be published by MetroKids next month- Check it out!
1. What are some tips for parents to know their kids are ready for day camp?
I wrote an article about this a couple of years ago- use what you like:
2. What is the difference between day camp and summer camp? I'll assume day camp kids go home at the end of the day, summer campers get to stay overnight?
I think the comparison you are looking for is Day Camp vs. Resident (sleepaway camp). The obvious answer is that at Day Camp, the kids go home at night and sleep in their beds, while at resident camp, they live their 24/7- for the duration of their stay. Good Day Camps (like Liberty Lake) simulate the resident camp experience by creating a "home away from home", even though the kids go home. For most children in the Liberty Lake area (Burlington, Camden, Mercer, Ocean, Monmouth counties) going to Day Camp is a big enough step for their parents, and very few make it all the way to resident camp. My kids have gone up to a New Hampshire resident camp for the past 7 years- for 7 weeks each summer, and had the time of their life- meanwhile, at Liberty Lake we have over 1000 children who attend somewhere between 2-10 weeks each summer, and for them- the impact resonates similar to that of resident camp.
3. How young is too young for a child to attend day camp?
It's not about age, as much as it's about personality and endurance (and potty training). Many day camps take 3 year olds, Liberty Lake takes 4-15 year olds (with an amazing 14-15 year old Teen Leadership Program). Day Camp for young campers is NOT like day CARE though- no 2 hour naps in the afternoon- end to end fun! Resident Camp tends to start campers at 3rd-5th grade.
4. What do you think the biggest gains of day camp are for children?
This is the most important question of your interview/article…
Check out Liberty Lake's 5-Points of youth development- it's our goal to create leaders of the 21st century- and the skills listed are those which most good camps do anyway. At Liberty Lake we are intentional about this-
5. Is bullying a common episode at day camps? How does your organization deal with it?
Great question. I can't speak for all camps, but at Liberty Lake, there is a ZERO tolerance policy for bullying. We speak to the campers, we speak to the parents, we have a conference if necessary- and we remove campers if it gets to that. Big picture though, we hope that in teaching children better skills in how to socialize and relate with each other- helps nip potential bullying episodes in the bud- as at Liberty Lake we teach children the skills of making and keeping friends.
7. How can parents tell if their child is ready for day camp?
Their child is ready for day camp. We know that parents love their children and want to spend as much time as possible- but parents need to also see their role as planting the seeds of life, and then allowing the flowers to grow. At Camp, kids are given their wings of independence in a safe an controlled setting. They find their own voice at Camp, make their own friends- without parent involvement- and for many, these moments become the cornerstones of their childhood, and their life. That may sound extremely profound- but talk to adults who went to camp, and you will hear stories that echo these sentiments.
8. How can parents help kids get ready for day camp?
Parents need to put THEIR OWN fears and anxieties aside and support their children in being excited about going to Camp. Children are stronger and more resilient than most modern day parents give them credit for. It's usually the parents that worry about camp- please don't transfer them over to your kids!
7. What do you think are the least favorite part of day camp for kids?
Many children find swim lessons to be challenging- but it just that- challenging. Swimming is a life skill that all children (especially in NJ & PA) need to know how to do- they go to the beach, to the river, etc. They need to know how to swim. Child Psychologists are unanimous that children of today are in dire need of GRIT. They need to learn how to fail, so that they learn how to succeed. Camp give kids a safe and supportive environment to do that- The results are amazing, and life long. So if children have issues with a certain aspect of Camp, we hope that parents will support the camp and the child to get through it, and not give up!
8. Do you have to deal with homesickness? How do you handle this?
Homesickness is very often a misnomer for "Kidsickness" which parents have when missing their children creates anxieties in them that transfer to their children. All kids should "miss" their home/parents/routine/TV/Xbox/Facebook/Cell Phone/iTouch/etc- to some degree. But in 99.9% of the campers, they naturally make friends and enjoy their new camp experiences right away (while their parents suffer unwarranted guilt and fears).
9. How is a summer camp different from an early education provider or daycare?
Summer Camp is more than day care. Good Camps become an "extraordinary world" that is different from what children experience throughout the year. Some Summer Programs bill themselves as Summer Camps- but in my eyes there are some prerequisites for a "Camp" - Swimming (outside), getting dirty, camp spirit, singing, making NEW friends, and experiencing things that you don't do during the school year!