Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Summer Camp for Your Kids: Yes or No?
Local parents weigh in

by Gretchen Keene

April 01, 2012

Though it’s only April, plenty of parents are already thinking of summertime, and deciding whether or not to send their child/children to camp. And if so, which one? Where? A themed-camp? What kind?

While not as labor intensive as finding, say, the right college, finding the right camp can be tricky. One thing that makes it easier for Fishers mom Maureen Randall (also the co-director of Camp Tecumseh) is giving her kids options. “My kids are given choices as to what camp they would like to attend,” she said, “and we try to accommodate their preferences from there.”

Joe and Gail Dalton of Westfield agree with this strategy. Although now out of the camp-going stage, Joe said, “Our daughters had a lot of input on their camp choice. We chose two to three camps that we thought would have some benefit for them, then we let them choose what interested them most. We felt that it would help them attend with a more positive outlook if they had a vested interest in the decision.”

While the child’s specific interests or talents can play a part in what camp they attend, it doesn’t always have to be the case. Indianapolis mom Jenny Verbrugge said, “[Our daughter’s talents and hobbies] were not part of our decision as we chose a church camp [for her], which was more important than finding a camp geared toward her specific interests. However, the church camp still offered many activities that interest her such as swimming, boating, hiking, etc.”

Randall took the opposite approach. “[My kids’] interests play a big part in choosing a summer camp because camps can really foster an interest, skill or hobby. They get excited about camp not only because it’s fun, but because they will get to take part in something they love to do and it may be an activity that they normally get little opportunity to be involved with.”

Joe Dalton echoed this sentiment, “We wanted our girls to go somewhere that would allow them to stretch outside their comfort zones, and grow from new experiences. Our younger daughter attended Space Camp,” he continued. “It included topics in which she had interest and some academic knowledge. This allowed her to see how her interest in science had real world application, and was fun for her, too.”

One would assume that the main goal of sending a child to camp is that he or she have an enjoyable experience. Simply put, fun! And that was the case across the board according to the parents we spoke to. And the kids also learned a few things, too.

“My kids have always enjoyed the camps they attended,” said Randall. “They developed new skills, made new friends, self-confidence grew, knowledge increased and they also gained a new perspective about the world and themselves. They grew emotionally, had fun and enjoyed new experiences.”

Basically, children, especially teens, get to go to a new environment at camp and really re-invent themselves. Whatever clique they are in - or left out of - at school, they can leave all that behind and be whomever they want to be, all within a safe and caring environment. But a lot also depends on the counselors and other staff members.

“Both our daughters enjoyed the camp experience very much,” said Dalton. “The camps were well organized and run by counselors who enjoyed being with, and shared similar interests with, the campers. At the space camp, most of the counselors were science and engineering college majors who could relate what they learned at school to the campers.”

But the final take-away was much more than an increased knowledge of space alone. “Activities they participated in there helped their confidence,” said Dalton. “The group activities taught them about getting along with others, as well as learning about leadership.”

Verbugge’s daughter enjoyed church camp so much, she’s gone back several years in a row. “I think she’s had fun and at the same time learned some things about God and herself. It helped that she invited a friend to go along. I’m not sure she would have agreed to go the first year if one of her friends did not also attend.”

A good point to keep in mind: If your child is particularly shy or trepidatious about attending camp: Bring a friend along. That was especially helpful for one of Joe Dalton’s daughters as well. “Since our younger daughter was more quiet and reserved, it was important that she was able to go to camp with a friend.”

Randall sums up the benefits of camp best, “Summer camps offer kids a chance to look at the world and themselves through a different lens. They are given experiences and other learning opportunities that are unique to the camps they attend. It takes them away from what they consider ‘reality’ and shows them there is more to our world and their lives than they realized. It expands their horizons.”