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Choose the Summer Program That's Right for Your Child

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By GreatSchools Staff

Consider Your Child's Needs

There's general agreement that most children are ready for sleepaway camp by the time they are nine or 10 years old, but every child has a different temperament and developmental timetable. Is your child comfortable staying overnight with friends or relatives? Is he excited at the prospect of camp? Talk to your pediatrician or your child's teacher if you're not sure your child is ready.

Your child may have loved her day camp last summer, but that doesn't mean she'll want to go year after year. Children's needs change as they grow, and your 10-year-old may have developed interests that make a special interest program in volleyball or dance a better option than day camp or sleepaway camp.

Summers can be even trickier for parents of teens, who may want more free time than their parents are comfortable allowing. Many campers "graduate" to become counselors-in-training or junior counselors, a great way to combine the experience of camp with the responsibilities of a job.

Consider Your Goals for Your Child

Summer is a great time for your child to sample new activities, and there's likely to be a summer program that includes just about any you can think of, whether it's video production, yoga, rock-climbing or songwriting.

Whatever new experience you'd love to introduce to your child, experts advise that you involve him in the process of choosing, whether it's the type of camp or the length of his stay. It's a way for a child to retain a sense of control, and also a way to head off homesickness if he's heading to sleepaway camp.

"The child needs to buy in and have some choice," says the ACA's Sheets.

Myers-Walls, the Purdue psychologist, also advises parents to involve their children in planning for summer. But that doesn't mean you don't push them a bit, she says.

"As a parent you may say 'my child is afraid of any spider in the house' and I know a nature experience is going to make her a little uncomfortable,'" she says. "That doesn't mean you don't do it. You'll just want to look for ways to make your child less uncomfortable."

You can help your child feel more at home outdoors by giving her some practice. Plan a family weekend at a nearby campground this spring or help her organize a campout with friends in her own backyard.

Comments from readers

"Do you know of any camps for learning disabled children or children with disabilities in the Flint Michigan area? How do I go about finding these types of camps?"
"This information is very helpful. I found the camp for my child that she and he will love. If your child loves to sing then next year send them to American Idol Camp that is where my children are going and i think they will have the time of their life."
"Most Michaels Art and Crafts store offer a summer camp program...its just for a couple of hours each day. But if your child loves to draw or do crafts this is the place for him or her...its only $8.00 a day for either 9:30-11:30 or 12:30-2:30!"
"Great article. I'm a year away from looking into camps for my young son. As many concerned parents it's a juggle to determine what would work best for your child and our schedules. One of the last options would be to hire a teenager to care for a young one. I remember my teenage years and looking back as a babysitter I wasn't the most attentive nor would I have known what to do in case of an emergency. It's always best to do your research way ahead of time."
"I am a stay at home mom and have 5 year old and 2 year old who will be staying home for summer from school. Any suggestions on what I could do with them?"
"Good day, I was interested in reading this as I operate a fashion design camp! Westchester Fashion Academy for Children! Quite different. The interested children select from 1-4 weeks of portfolio design, pattern making,sketching their creations in preparation to visit the fashion industry to share their work with the behind the scenes real pattern makers and boutique owners ! We also offer textile design, where they can create their very own textiles, to create a design using their fabric! This camp is for ages 9-17, we are located in White Plains N.Y.914-428-1047"
"I am so pleased to have access to this type of information. I am now a bit more informed on how to make a summer camp choice for the little ones in my life. Thank You."
"Hello, Thank you for this article. It was very informative and easy to read. I work away from home and reconized the need to have my son's summer plans set preferably as early as April and no later than mid May. It definitely brings peace to one's mind and lifestyle. One thing I did not feel comfortable with was the suggestion of hiring a teenager to watch a child or group of children. Granted my son has participated in a theater program that involved several young college students and older teens as the 'team leaders'. This was done under the supervision of qualified adults. I don't have Dr. Dobson's book in front of me to quote, but his suggestion to not hire teenagers, especially teen boys to care for children for long periods is worth considering. Please don't take this wrong, the article was very helpful. "