Guide to choosing a camp_lead
For a memorable summer, don’t pack children’s schedules with too many activities. Incorporate the elements of unstructured time into their routine so that they can simply indulge in things they enjoy. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Activities and interests

While choosing a summer camp, we often don’t look beyond the pricing, location and schedules, ignoring the critical point of whether these activities match children’s interests and personalities. Parents must be open-minded and include children in the conversation about what might be fun to do during the holidays. “Sign up for a camp that fits your needs as well as the child’s hopes and plans for summer,” says Dr Mohammad Yousef, Specialist Psychiatrist, Aster Clinic, Al Muteena. While it’s always a good idea to encourage kids to get out of their comfort zones, pushing them too hard to pursue activities they are not interested in can leave them feeling stressed.

Sign up for a camp that fits your needs as well as the child’s hopes and plans for summer.

- Dr Mohammad Yousef, Specialist Psychiatrist, Aster Clinic, Al Muteena

Specialty or multi-activity?

While a specialty summer camp focuses on a particular subject or activity, such as academics, sports, art and music, a multi-activity camp gives children a more general experience, offering a mix of indoor and outdoor fun. Ask your child if they are looking to try new activities this summer as you’d find in a multi-activity camp setting, or would prefer to work on one of their existing skills, such as language, theatre or cricket. Whatever you choose, ensure that the programme supports your child’s key physical, social, emotional and intellectual developmental goals.

Calculate the cost

While summer camps in the UAE aren’t cheap, that doesn’t mean you’ll need to bust your budget to give your child a good camp experience. While estimating the total cost of sending a child to a camp, factor in all the associated expenses — such as travel, stationery, sports gear and meals — you may have to incur during the holidays. Find out from the organisers whether the prices of the camp are inclusive of all the activities or there are extra charges for special instructions, use of equipment and the field trips. Most camps in the UAE have payment plans and discounts to help ease the burden on parents. Look for sibling discounts, early bird offers or multi-week plans to make a camp easier on your budget.

Stance on safety

Once you’ve narrowed down your options to a few camps, schedule a tour to get a first-hand view of the place. Talk to the managers and other staff to get an idea about its general safety standards. Here are some of the key questions to ask the staff: What are the camp’s minimum standards for safety and security? Do they have medical staff on site to handle injuries and health emergencies? How do they supervise children during swimming? Do they have lifeguards and trained swimming instructors? What is the camp’s approach to fire risk?

Training in positive discipline and positive behaviour support should be a fundamental requirement for anyone dealing with children regardless of the subject or sport they teach.

- Devika Singh-Mankani, Chief Positive Psychologist, Fortes Education

Staff credentials

Check the qualifications and experience of the staff before enrolment to ensure that you choose the right facility for your children. “The most important credential is experience,” says Devika Singh-Mankani, Chief Positive Psychologist, Fortes Education. “The camp mentor, who is expected to supervise and guide children, plays a critical role because of his/her potential impact on a child. Training in positive discipline and positive behaviour support should be a fundamental requirement for anyone dealing with children regardless of the subject or sport they teach.” Before you sign up, find out the ratio between the staff and the campers and check if the staff have special training in first aid.

A few hours of structured activities during the day can not only help keep the little minds sharp during the summer but can actually have positive behavioural impact on the unstructured time at home.

- Tania Siddiqi, Director, Masterminds Nursery & Kindergarten

Value of downtime

For a memorable summer, don’t pack children’s schedules with too many activities. Incorporate the elements of unstructured time into their routine so that they can simply indulge in things they enjoy. “Children always need a balance between structured and unstructured time,” explains Tania Siddiqi, Director, Masterminds Nursery & Kindergarten. “In the summer months, things tend to become more unstructured than during the year. However, a few hours of structured activities during the day can not only help keep the little minds sharp during the summer but can actually have positive behavioural impact on the unstructured time at home.”