Selecting a Day Camp

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A camp experience is beneficial for a variety of reasons – camp teaches children independence, helps develop self-esteem, and allows a child to take healthy risks in a safe and nurturing environment, according to the American Camp Association (ACA).

The experience 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.

The ACA works to  preserve, promote and enhance the camp experience for children and adults.

But what if you have decided that a traditional resident camp isn’t a good fit for your child? Is there a way to provide camp’s benefits without an overnight stay? Yes, there is – day camp.

Day camp is one of many camp options available to families today. It allows for children 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, a 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, community centers, 4H, or city parks and recreation departments for programs close to home. 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.

When selecting a day camp, there are important questions for parents to consider. The American Camp Association 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 real life skills they need to become successful adults. A positive day camp experience can teach real life 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,”  according to the ACA.

ACA literature says that ACA-accredited camp programs ensure that children are provided with a diversity of educational and developmentally challenging learning opportunities.

For more information, visit www.ACAcamps.org.

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