The final school bell rings, the children run out with the top excitement because they will not have to see their teachers or homework again for the next three months. They hop on the bus and hurry home…to the parents.
Mothers and fathers love their children and they want the best for them even during the summer. However, most parents do not get summers off from work. Children shouldn’t be left home alone, unattended. That’s when the trouble starts. So what is the best way to keep children engaged during the hot summer months and maybe even learning something new in the process?
In the 90s, a popular trend was sleep away camp movies (Think The Parent Trap, Heavyweights, Camp Nowhere). The parent’s shipped the kids off for eight weeks where they pitched tents, rode in canoes, and slept in cabins. Sleep away camps are not spoken of as much these days, but are they old news?
What are the other options?
Sleepaway Camps: Sleep away camps usually last between one and eight weeks and children spend the night. Sleep away camps may have a theme of some sort such as theater, science, or athletics. There are also camps they are more medical oriented, such as weight management, diabetes, or autism.
Children are able to get away from mom and dad where they are able to practice solving their own problems and learning to deal with other people and personalities, a trait that will certainly come in handy later in life.
A Step Out of The Comfort Zone
Specialty camps allow children to meet others like themselves and make friends outside of their home school, possibly allowing for diversity in their lives.
Sleep away camps are naturally more expensive because of lodging and meal costs. According to an article by Care.com, the American Camp Association average a weekly cost of $690 dollars. The price can go up to over $2000 per week.
Another thing to think about is homesickness. Every child is different, of course. A little homesickness may be overcome in a short time, but it could remain, causing negative experiences or feelings of abandonment. Yes, a parent may feel the child should tough it out, but they need to be conscious if it lingers despite staff’s attempts to help them overcome it. If it leads to symptoms such as loss of appetite or physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches, it could be an indicator of a psychological problem they shouldn’t be ignored.
Day Camps: Another alternative to an overnight camp is a day camp. Day camps offer many of the same amenities as sleep aways, only without the sleep away element. Just like sleep away camps, day camps can also have specialized themes an activities for kids of like-mind, or could be more generalized.
Day camps are closer to home and allow the child to meet different children like overnight, but their new friends could be right down the street. Or they can be found in a neighboring school district, as opposed to another state. They are also a good alternative if a child is prone to homesickness. Also, having daily access can provide security to parents who worry about strangers being in full time care of their children.
According to the ACA, day camps are more affordable, with an average weekly cost of $304, half that of sleep away camps. Many local culture centers such as museums and colleges have day camp programs, as well as day cares that take field trips to local attractions. Some of these places may charge on a sliding scale or may even be covered through the child’s school.
Sometimes, familiarity can be less exciting for children. Also, depending on where you live, exciting specialty camps and fun attractions may not be available. The parent’s may have to be more involved in making sure that their child is kept entertained, even while attending a day camp. Sometimes, lower cost may mean that less activity is conducted with the children, leaving a lot of free time to run around aimlessly during the day, causing the “day camp” to be nothing more than glorified babysitting.
Often, the responsibility of commute falls on the parent. If the location is close, this may not be an issue. However, if a parent finds that the best program is a distance away, or begins/ends at a time that is not in agreement with the work schedule, they may have the added responsibility of finding before and after care, as well as travel to and from camp.
At the end of the day, it is up to the the parent to know their child and determine which option, if any, is best for their children to remain engaged throughout the summer. Often, families may decide it’s best to forgo a camp altogether and plan activities at home as a family, and there is nothing wrong with this either.
Remember, when considering camps, be it sleepaway or day, think about what the child’s interests and goals are and the convenience for the family. It may be very easy to achieve the summer the kids will remember!