Camps may make life a lot easier for working parents who are assured their children are taken care of, having fun and not glued in front of a screen playing mindlessly.
However, although we would like to believe it is a burden of one’s chest, the nature of each summer camp varies with accordance to the institution based on the resources available, level of expertise and most importantly their drive! Camps could range from being nothing more than a babysitting center for your child or a place for fun and frolic.
Are they age appropriate?
An important factor to weigh in before enrolling your child for the summer is to make sure your child is in an environment where he or she will not go unheard. While being with children of different age groups is a good way for them to improve upon their social skills, and creates a sense of community it needs to be monitored wisely.
Children of different age brackets need to be separated based on their capabilities and mindset. The age difference between each child should be not more than three to four years. If your child is too young, chances are, they will not be able to keep up with the program and feel lost or on the other spectrum, an older child will easily get bored and frustrated being in an unstimulating environment.
What is the focus and program?
Much like a regular nursery, it is essential for each day of a summer camp to be planned precisely and have a set routine. Ask to have a look at what program the organizers have in place for the month (or however long the camp is scheduled for).
Is there a set routine that organizers follow through the day or is your child meant to ‘play’ freely. What does the summer camp choose to focus on? It could be based on sports and outdoor activities, creative crafts, music, field trips or even an amalgamation of all. However, be aware if it matches with ideologies of what you want your child to learn keeping in mind their interests and hobbies too.
Are the staff well-trained?
Sometimes, when most teachers/ school staff are on summer break, it is the help staff who run summer camps. Although, this might not be the case in all camps, it is a good possibility. Is the organization employing summer staff or trained individuals to conduct the camp? For instance, if the camp focuses on outdoor and physical activities, a coach or an athletic teacher needs to be in charge.
What are your child’s needs and interests?
Is your child shy and requires a more diverse group of children to mix and interact with? Or has your child always said they want to try out swimming? Choosing a summer camp based on location convenience or timing is not always right as it will waste your child’s vacation and be money down the drain.
Ask your child what they would want to learn, if they are too young, it is a good idea to make a choice on their behalf as long as it is not forced or imposed. If you feel your child is more of a homebody, do your homework to find a camp which pays particular attention to physical well-being to make your child more active. Summer camps are a great testing ground to build future hobbies that can continue throughout the year.
Evaluate and reflect
At the end of a summer vacation, evaluate if the camp served beneficial for your child, and what skills your child harnessed from it. Check in with your child to see if they enjoyed their time or would they like a change. Ask other parents for ideas or suggestions of camps they may have tried and tested. Reflect to see if the camp was within your budget for the year or you could have done better with a less expensive one.
Summers can be long, so ensure it is optimized to the fullest, recharging your child for the academic year ahead. It is also a great way to deal with separation anxiety if your child is going to be starting school as it prepares them for a world outside home, just do not forget to factor in the fun.
- Sanobar Mistry is a published journalist and currently a kindergarten teacher in Dubai