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Lifestyle

March 28, 2014

Dr. Kate: It’s time to think about summer camp

Parents are being bombarded with information about summer camp, which seems to be so far off, and yet, when it comes to planning, the time is now.

Psychologically, it’s hard to imagine the summer in the midst of the long, dreary winter we are still enduring. Those of us who have kids know that time flies when you’re a parent, and there’s never enough planning time. Parents need to sit down now with their children and present them with options for camps. While it’s OK to steer kids in a certain direction, their input is essential to the success of the camp experience.

I view summer as the social high point of a child’s year. It’s a less stressful and less risky time for kids to challenge themselves. Opportunities that don’t typically occur present themselves in the summer, and, without even realizing it, kids do things they can’t imagine doing just because of the situation. Summer is a time for kids to hone social and personal skills such as self-advocacy (speaking up to the new camp counselor when they have a problem), initiative (joining a new peer group because their friends aren’t around) and risk-taking (trying something new). Together, these skills quickly add up to greater maturity, confidence and independence. It’s very exciting to think about!

Here are six tips to help parents make the best camp choice:

1. Type of camp. Is your child more likely to enjoy a skills-based camp, for example, a sports camp or art camp as opposed to a general camp, like a YMCA camp? This is not always easy to determine. Kids who seem like they need a focused, sports-based camp actually may benefit from a less structured, more general camp to increase their ability to feel comfortable in a group engaging in a variety of activities, some of which they may not excel at. Camp is a less risky and, therefore, excellent opportunity for kids to get outside their comfort zones and stretch themselves in nonacademic ways.

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