Ask the Expert: There’s Still Time to Find a Summer Camp

Soft skills matter and summer camp is the best place to teach them to your children



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PHOTOS PROVIDED BY AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION, NY AND NJ

With the end of school quickly approaching, many parents are just now thinking about summer plans for their kids.  For parents interested in day or overnight camp, there are still openings at some day and overnight camps.  The American Camp Association, NY & NJ offers families the following tips for finding the right camp at the last minute.  Keep in mind that looking for a camp this summer for next year also has many benefits. 

Be Flexible
While you might have wanted your child to start camp a certain week, try and be flexible and be open to other camp sessions.   

Do Your Research
Just because you’re choosing camp at the last minute, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your research.  Camp may not be a great experience for your child if you choose the wrong one.   Consider the following when looking into camps:

  • Director– Make sure you have a conversation with the director before registering for any camp program.  You want to feel comfortable with the director and what he or she has to say about the camp program.  When you choose a camp, you are forming a partnership with the camp director so you want to feel you can speak with the director honestly and that he or she is happy to answer any questions you may have.  
  • Program– Consider how many weeks you would like your child to attend camp, what the “must have” activities are, how many electives your child will have and if the camp is a coed or single sex camp.
  • Philosophy– Finding out about a camp’s philosophy is crucial to making a good decision.   If you don’t agree with the camp’s overall philosophy, you aren’t going to be happy with the camp program.  
  • Safety – Ask about safety procedures at camp including staff training, water safety, emergency plans, medical staff and staff to camper ratios. 
  • Outside Review– Make sure the camp you’re choosing is at a minimum inspected by the Department of Health or has chosen to be accredited by the American Camp Association.  Accreditation by the American Camp Association is a parent’s best evidence of a camp’s commitment to safety. 

Call the American Camp Association
Not sure which camps still have openings? Parents can call Renee Flax at the American Camp Association, NY & NJ at 212-391-5208 for free, one-on-one advice to help find the right camp for their child. Renee has been helping families find the right camp for their child for more than 20 years. 

It’s Not Too Early for Summer 2019
Thinking about camp for next summer? Touring a camp while in session is one of the best ways to learn about it. You’ll see campers in action and have a chance to ask questions about the camp while in the environment.   If you like the camp, you can register early and take advantage of early bird rates.

For over 20 years, Renee Flax has been the Camper Placement Specialist for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, a not for profit organization dedicated to enhancing the summer camp experience.  Renee has an extensive knowledge of each camp’s philosophy, program and facilities and visits dozens of camps every summer.  Each year, she helps hundreds of parents find a day or overnight camp for their child.  Renee is recognized as an authority on summer camp and has been featured in the New York Times, Associated Press and NJ.com, among other media outlets.  Renee takes great pleasure in helping families find the right camp for their child.


 

The Skills All Kids Needs to Succeed (and Here’s Where They’ll Learn It!)

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION, NY AND NJ

There’s no doubt that summer camp is loads of fun but it also provides kids with a learning environment where important life skills are gained. In order to thrive in the future, young people must develop soft skills such as problem-solving, communication, creativity, leadership, responsibility and collaboration, according to research done by the not-for-profit organization Partnership for 21st Century Learning.  In a study of its own hiring and termination, Google found that soft skills are most important at their organization, as reported by the Washington Post.   While school is great for reading, writing and math, the skills needed to be successful in life are all skills that are fostered in a camp environment. Here are just a few of the skills your child will gain at summer camp that will help him or her become a successful adult in the 21stcentury. 

Communication 
Kids eight to 18 spend an average of 7 hours 38 minutes a day with digital media, according to a study by the Kaiser Foundation.  Camp is one of the last unplugged environments, allowing children to take a healthy and much-needed break from technology by leaving their ipads, smart phones and XBoxes at home.  Instead of texting and snap chatting, children speak face to face, practice one-on-one communication and build strong interpersonal skills.

Leadership
Camp offers children so many opportunities to be leaders.  Whether it’s a camper leading their group in a camp cheer or being matched up with a younger camper as a “big brother” or “big sister” for the summer, camp allows young people to gain the skills needed to become leaders.  

Teamwork 
Campers are constantly collaborating.  Teamwork happens on the field playing a team sport, on the lake paddling a canoe, at the ropes course doing a trust exercise and each day working together to clean up the bunk. No matter what profession your child pursues in the future, he or she will need to be able to work as part of a team. 

Creativity
Creativity is celebrated and encouraged every day at camp.  In just one day, a camper might create a camp song, tie-dye a shirt, make a bead bracelet, take photos, rehearse for the camp play and learn how to play the guitar.  

Community
Children become part of a loving and nurturing community at camp where they eat together, support each other at activities, bond over shared traditions and at overnight camp, live together.  Overnight camp is a wonderful prelude to children going off to college and children who have attended sleepaway camp often report an easier transition to being away at school.  

Problem solving
Children learn to rely on themselves more when they are at camp.  By being away from their parents, whether for day camp or overnight camp, children are trying new things on their own and solving their own problems without the help of mom and dad.  This builds confidence and encourages children to trust their own instincts. 

Resilience
 Camp builds resilience.  Today’s children have grown up in an environment where parents try to solve every problem they have and shield them from feeling any kind of uneasiness.  But what happens when these kids become adults? Children need to learn how to face adversity but move through it and know they will be ok.  At camp, children often go to camp not knowing anyone, feeling a bit out of their comfort zone but quickly realize they are going to be just fine.  Sometimes children get homesick but a week later, they work through it and have a great time at camp.  Giving your child the opportunity to gain resilience will give them the tools they need to become adults who can handle any situation they are faced with. 

For over 20 years, Renee Flax has been the Camper Placement Specialist for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, a not for profit organization dedicated to enhancing the summer camp experience.  Renee has an extensive knowledge of each camp’s philosophy, program and facilities and visits dozens of camps every summer.  Each year, she helps hundreds of parents find a day or overnight camp for their child.  Renee is recognized as an authority on summer camp and has been featured in the New York Times, Associated Press and NJ.com, among other media outlets.  Renee takes great pleasure in helping families find the right camp for their child.

 

 


The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Camp for Your Child

Photos provided by American Camp Association, NY and NJ

Are you thinking about camp for your child this summer or even in 2019? Whether you’re considering a day or overnight camp, there are a number of things to think about when doing your research. Try not to just listen to your friends and neighbors about what the “best” camp is. The best camp is the one where your child will thrive.

Consider your child and the goals for a camp experience
Camp is an important decision for any family – whether it’s a first-time day camp experience or an overnight camp. Before you begin the process of choosing one, think about what your goals are for the camp experience and who your child is.  

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • What skills would you like your child to gain? 
  • Is your child outgoing?
  •  Does he or she need time to warm up in a new situation? 
  • When you attend your child’s teacher/parent conference, what does the teacher tell you in terms of how your child relates to other children and new situations?  
  •  Is your child independent?
  • Will he or she need a nurturing environment to thrive? 
  • Does your child have food allergies, food restrictions or religious needs?

Renee Flax from ACA of NY & NJ on Vimeo.

Once you’ve answered these questions and can articulate your thoughts to a camp director, you’re ready to start researching camp options. 

Look at the Camp’s Philosophy
The camp’s philosophy is crucial to making a good decision. Ask the director about the goals they have for their campers and what the camp’s philosophy is. If you don’t agree with their basic philosophy, then you won’t be pleased with their program or their daily routines. 

Get to Know the Camp Director
The Camp Director is the most important role of any camp program. The director is the ultimate decision maker at a camp who sets the program, hires the staff, decides on the activities & structure of camp and sets a general feeling for all campers and staff.  Get to know the director through conversations and emails. Make sure you click with him or her so you can discuss your child’s interests and needs honestly.  If you’re hesitant about this person(s) then you should think about looking at other camps. 

Evaluate its Programs
Don’t think about just the first summer your child will be at camp, but subsequent summers as well.  Program considerations include:

  • How long is the camp program and how long you want your child to be there?
  • Is the camp elective based or traditional where a bunk travels as a group?
  • Are there electives in the daily program? 
  • Is the camp coed, single sex or brother/sister?

Understand the Total Cost
Cost is certainly something families need to think about since camp prices do vary.   When looking into the cost, make sure you’re getting an accurate assessment of what’s included.  

 Ask if the camp incorporates youth development into their program.  Are transportation and lunch included for day camps?  As a general guide, not-for-profit camps are less expensive than private camps and often offer financial aid.  Many camps also offer an early bird rate and payment plans.  The government also offers programs to assist with day camp costs such as a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. 

Tour When Possible  
Touring is an ideal way for parents to get a feel for a camp.  While watching a camp video and looking through a camp’s website is a good start, seeing the camp in session, with campers and staff, will give you an accurate picture of what a camp is really like.  If you can’t tour in the summer, many day camps will tour all year long or you can schedule a home visit in which the camp director comes to your home and meets your family.  

Ask About the Staff
Inquire about the staff at camp. Who are the people in charge – the directors, the girls or boys head counselors and your child’s group leader? You want to know if these people have been at the camp for a good amount of time and whether they are familiar with the camp philosophy and goals.

Do a Safety Check
Safety is paramount! The most important thing is that your child be safe both physically and emotionally. Knowing that a camp is accredited by the American Camp Association is a parent’s best evidence of a camp’s commitment to safety.  Ask the camp director about its safety procedures, staff composition, staff training, medical staff and other safety concerns. 

Check References 
Word of mouth from family and friends is very important, but, just because they are happy with a camp doesn’t mean that you will be, too. You must do your own research.   Parents looking for a camp can call the American Camp Association, NY & NJ for free advice about finding the right camp for their child.  If you find a camp you like, don’t be afraid to ask for references.  Parents are very honest with each other and want to help other parents make good decisions. 

For over 20 years, Renee Flax has been the Camper Placement Specialist for the American Camp Association, NY and NJ, a not for profit organization dedicated to enhancing the summer camp experience.  Renee has an extensive knowledge of each camp’s philosophy, program and facilities and visits dozens of camps every summer.  Each year, she helps hundreds of parents find a day or overnight camp for their child.  Renee is recognized as an authority on summer camp and has been featured in the New York Times, Associated Press and NJ.com, among other media outlets.  Renee takes great pleasure in helping families find the right camp for their child.
 

 

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