If your kids are too young for sleep-away camp, consider local day camps as a great introduction to the camping experience.
A camp experience is beneficial to children for so many reasons — it teaches children independence, helps develop self-esteem, and allows a child to take healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment. This experience at camp helps many children develop authentic relationships with peers and adults, learn to be a part of the natural world, and participate in human-powered activities.
If your family determines that a sleep-away camp may not be the right fit for your child, there is a place that provides the benefits of camp without an overnight stay — day camp. Day camp is an excellent camp option available to families because it provides children with the opportunity to experience camp close to home. Perhaps a child is too young for resident camp, or perhaps scheduling does not allow for extended time away from home. Regardless of the reason, day camp is an excellent alternative.
Just like resident camps, day camps offer a wide range of programming and activities — from sports to arts to science and education. Day camps can also offer team building activities, leadership training, and wilderness programs. It's important to find a camp program or camp activities that best suit your child. For many families, the ideal day camp program may be closer than they think. Families can start by checking with local YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, 4-H, or city parks and recreation departments for programs. Families can also use the Internet to help them locate the perfect day camp experience close to home. By visiting www.CampParents.org, parents can use the "Find a Camp" database to research camps by location, cost, and activities offered.
There is still time to find the perfect day camp experience for this summer. The American Camp Association® (ACA) recommends that families use the following questions when researching day camps and speaking to the camp director:
* Is the camp accredited by ACA? If not, why not?
* Is transportation available?
* What about extended care before and after camp?
* Will the camp provide lunch?
* Are campers grouped by age, activity, or both?
* Does the price include the full range of activities?
* Are parent visits encouraged?
Camp is critical to the education of the whole child. It is an equal opportunity life changer — teaching children and youth the skills they need to become successful adults. A positive day camp experience can teach real world skills, develop self-esteem, and help a child gain a sense of independence and community. But most of all, children will create memories that last a lifetime.
The American Camp Association® (ACA) works to preserve, promote, and enhance the camp experience for children and adults. ACA-Accredited® camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities. There are over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps that meet up to 300 health and safety standards. For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org
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