It’s the time of year that strikes fear into the hearts of parents everywhere: Time to plan the summer schedule! Over the past nine years as the parent of a school-aged child, I have learned that my visions of a relaxed summer full of meaningful, educational family fun are not always grounded in reality. I discovered the key to a successful summer is a balance of family travel, enrolling kids in programs that interest them, and some downtime.
Over the past 20 years as the director of curriculum development for companies that provide educational enrichment services, I have learned camp programming needs to be more relaxed and fun than school, while still providing true learning opportunities. These goals are not mutually exclusive. I might even argue that the camp environment, which allows for greater self-selection and more time to deeply engage in meaningful activities, can provide rich and diverse learning experiences that complement the traditional school environment.
Choosing Summer Programs for a Fun, Fabulous Summer:
- Location and Dates - These are the most basic criteria. If the logistics don’t work for your family, then no matter how great the program seems, it is not a fit. Choosing a camp your child has no interest in just because it is offered the week you need it, usually doesn’t work either.
- Plan Early - The earlier you plan your summer, the more choices you will have.
- Cost - Every family has a budget and there are excellent programs at all price points. Look for early-bird discounts, sibling discounts, multi-camp enrollment, and other discounts. Some programs may also offer scholarships or financial hardship assistance if you ask.
- Registration and Policies - While filling out registration forms may seem endless, this is important information and you can evaluate a program, in part, based on the policies and registration questions. Does the camp have policies that make you feel your child will be safe? Do they require you to provide health information? Do they have policies on drop off, pick up, and release procedures?
- Experience - How long has this program been around?
- Camp Staff - Who is the camp administrator? What are the hiring criteria for camp counselors? How much experience do camp leaders have in working with kids?
- Size of the Program - Programs vary from small to large; what is the best fit for your child? Some kids will thrive in a big program that serves hundreds of kids in a session, while others will do better in a smaller environment.
- Topics - To avoid a situation of having to force your unhappy child to go to camp each day, choose topics your child is interested in and excited about.
- Exposure to New Activities - While it’s important to choose topics you know your child will love, one of the great benefits of summer programs is to offer the opportunity to try new things. If your child loves building with LEGO bricks, perhaps a robotics camp or a non-LEGO engineering camp would be a good fit. For the child who loves art or reading, a Harry Potter Potions camp might be just the thing.
- A Good Mix of Activities - Even when choosing a themed camp such as coding or science, camps are better when some physical activity/movement, group games, teambuilding, and arts and crafts are included. This is another way your child can be exposed to new activities even within a camp theme or topic that is familiar.
Radhika Tatineni is the Director at FGA sponsor Bricks Bots & Beakers.
Bricks Bots & Beakers is an exciting education company that creates meaningful opportunities for children to experience a full range of STEM classes, camps, parties, field trips and workshops. Click here to learn more about their programs and summer camps. I