Summer camp season is upon us. As you finalize your plans or are just beginning the process, Westtown’s Director of Auxiliary Initiatives and Camp Director, Brian DeGroat, has some tips to make your child’s camp experience one to remember – for the right reasons!
1.When researching camps, start with your child, instead of with your choices.
There is no lack of camp options out there, from the highly specialized to the more traditional, all-things-outdoors. To find the best fit, start by having a conversation with your child and find common ground. Let their interests and goals take the lead, and good decision-making will follow.
- Do they want to stretch into new areas, or gain confidence from shining in their comfort zone?
- Are there skills they’re hoping to build, like becoming a stronger swimmer? Stepping up to service or leadership opportunities?
- Do they need something dynamic or would they prefer to focus on one theme per week?
2. It’s OK for parents to have questions. Camp directors welcome them.
No matter how much information is available on a website or brochure, you are going to have questions. Feel free to ask whatever’s on your mind, to put yourself at ease–it will make your camper feel more comfortable, too. At Westtown, we invite parents to tour our campus in advance, or schedule a phone call with us to talk things through. It’s important for parents to answer questions, too. As someone in charge of a large ecosystem of children, counselors and staff members, it’s best for me and my staff to know about things like allergies, behavior plans, and recent family news. Fully completed registration and medical forms are critical to make camp a positive experience for all.
3. For ultimate flexibility, don’t wait.
Family schedules are complicated, and flexibility is king. Some great options to look for are one-week instead of multi-week commitments, half-day and full-day options, and camp activity “bundling” like an outside swim program that is incorporated into the rest of the camp day.
4. Parents gain things from camp, too.
In addition to the many advantages your children receive from camp, parents can receive their own set of perks. Look for bonuses such as:
- Camp transportation to spare you from the daily drive.
- Included meals or snacks (or the ability to order) to spare you from the daily pack.
- Before and after-care to match your schedule.
For instance, Westtown serves a homemade, locally-sourced, family-style lunch to all of our campers–which kids enjoy, and parents love, since it’s one less thing for them to worry about.
5. Middle school is not too late.
Although tweens and preteens are sometimes quick to express their newfound maturity, day camp is not just for young children. The right camp offers this age group an opportunity that will serve them well over the long haul. Benefits include:
- The opportunity to begin to figure out who they are and what they like to do.
- The best chance of getting hired as a camp counselor at that camp, or others, in the future. (The young counselors I choose usually have first-hand experience, and a fondness for day camp, and have completed a Counselor-in-Training program.)
- Lastly, a huge benefit for this age group is learning to live without a constant screen presence in their lives, which is a skill no one outgrows.