Is Your Child Ready for Camp
Photo courtesy of Children's Museum of South Dakota
Even though it’s not summer yet, it’s never too early to start looking for a summer camp. Your first consideration should be if your child is ready to go. You need to keep in mind that they will be away from home for at least a week and will have to be independent. If they are unable to follow a basic routine without parental assistance, your child probably is not ready for a full week of sleep away camp. You need to know what the expectations for campers are, to see if it’s a good fit for you and your child.
The biggest factor for many families is cost. Sleep away camps range from $200 to $2,000 per week, depending on the location and activities. It is a big investment and just as you would with any major purchase, you need to do your research. With the Internet, it’s easier to find out information on a camp and even see videos of the camp in action. There are some key questions you would want answered before committing to a camp:
1. What activities are offered? Is participation mandatory?
2. What is the camp’s philosophy on competitiveness?
3. How many returning campers come back each year?
4. What is the camper-counselor ratio? What training do they have? Who is first aid certified? CPR training?
5. What kind of insurance does the camp have and what does it cover?
Janelle Kelly, the mother of a Lincoln High School sophomore has sent her son to Camp Minneboji for six years as a camper. Before he started at camp, Casey had attended sleepovers at friends’ homes so he was ready to be away from home. Kelly learned about the camp through her church and the fact that several of her district pastors were involved was a huge factor for her. Also, the fact that many of her son’s friends would also be attending helped ease the transition.
Thunderhead Episcopal Camp in Lead offers a family camp, which offers a camp experience for those who want it, but might not be ready to be at sleep away camp on their own yet. Camp Director Holly Mosely also offers a 5th/6th grade camp that is popular, along with weeks designated for just middle school and high school campers. Many of the counselors were once campers and look forward to returning each year.
Children with special needs also have similar opportunities to experience camp. The state Department of Human Services has a listing on their website (http://dhs.sd.gov/ddc/summercamps.aspx) of different programs as does the South Dakota Parent Connection. While it may be more challenging for a child with disabilities to attend a sleep away camp, there are more opportunities than ever to provide a similar experience to their peers. Many of the camps also offer adaptive aquatics, riding and kayaking. So no matter the disability, each camper gets a true camp experience.