Summer Day Camps and What to Expect for Your Kids

By Jenny Sneigoski
Kids Program Director at Granite Health & Fitness

Summer is quickly approaching and school aged children everywhere are counting the days! We all long for sunny skies, warm weather, and lazy afternoons! But soon those lazy afternoons become boring afternoons and parents are quickly wishing for school to begin again. So how can we avoid this summer boredom? One solution is finding a summer day camp or two for your child to attend. Right now is the perfect time to plan ahead to help your child create an eventful and memorable summer!

What is a Day Camp?
Day camps, also known as summer camps in some areas, are geared for those who are of school age. They offer activities in a social setting, usually in the community, and the children return home in the evenings. Day camps can be booked by the day, by the week, or month depending on the institution organizing them.

Why should my child attend a day camp?
Day camps provide opportunities to promote self-esteem and build confidence.  Studies have shown that a quality camp will give children the opportunity to be who they are and be valued for it. The right camp will encourage individual growth within an environment that boosts self esteem.

A quality day camp will also develop children physically and keep them moving.  Look for camps that provide structured activities as well as time for unstructured play. Children may not be as active during the summer months and that can lead to unhealthy weight gain. Day camps may encourage a healthy lifestyle through those long summer months.

Finally, day camps develop a sense of community and build social skills.  Attending camp can give children a chance to develop a sense of community as they learn to work along peers they have never met before. This in turns strengthens their social skills as they discover new ways to develop friendships that could last a lifetime.

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What Camp Should My Child Attend?
Communities, like Billings, have so many options it can feel overwhelming trying to narrow down the choice. First, start with what your child is interested in: Do they like cooking? The outdoors? Sports? Arts and crafts? Etc. Focus on the camps that offer opportunities for them to explore their interests. Many camps will offer a variety of activities throughout their day. For example; Granite Health & Fitness offers a weekly summer day camp that includes active gym time, swimming lessons, and crafts centered around a weekly theme. The City of Billings Parks and Recs offer a variety of camps such as sports, special interests (cooking, martial arts, rocket camp), and youth camps.

Also, you will want to look at the cost of the camp and decide if it is right for your budget. Some programs offer scholarships or discounts so be sure to ask about any financial benefits you may qualify for.

You may even want to look for camps that offer children a chance to develop responsibility. Something that may make them step out of their comfort zone a bit. Children will have to learn how to ask for help from others, what team work entails, and will hopefully be given the chance to take ownership on a project. This in turn helps develop crucial leadership skills that will carry them into their adult life.

 
Is your child ready to attend camp?
Many day camps begin around the preschool age of 4, but the answer to this question depends on your child. You will want to make the decision based on whether or not your child is ready to be away from you for an extended amount of time. A day camp is a great place to start as the child still has the comfort of knowing you are nearby and accessible if needed.

Day camps also offer the opportunity of creating a partnership with the camp counselors. Camp staff can incorporate “character growth to encourage things like respect and responsibility in their campers, and these campers can share what they have learned at camp, using that same vocabulary, with their families just a few hours later. This creates a cycle of positive reinforcement from both the child’s counselor and his or her parents, further strengthening the skills learned at camp.” (Kimmelman, 2011)

Sources:
Kimmelman, A. (2011, November 01). Why Day Camp Matters. Retrieved February 28, 2017, from http://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/camping-magazine/why-day-camp-matters

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