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If you’re looking for a camp to send your child to this summer, you have much to consider-especially if it is a first time camp experience. Misconceptions abound about summer camp and what goes into choosing the best one for each child.
1. Myth: For children prone to homesickness, a shorter camp session is best.
Fact: In reality, a longer camp stay allows a child to get over any homesickness, make new friends and enjoy the complete camp experience. Once they have done this they feel a real sense of accomplishment.
2. Myth: If another child liked this camp, then it must be a good one for my child.
Fact: Program offerings and philosophies vary from camp to camp. Some are more sports oriented, some more artistic, and some more competitive. Just as no two children are alike, a camp that is a great fit for one child may be a poor choice for another.
3. Myth: The proximity of the camp to my home is what’s most important.
Fact: It’s fine if the best camp for the child happens to be close by, but often that’s not the case. It’s better to select the right camp, regardless of location, than a wrong one that’s nearby. In the event of an emergency, parents can’t be at the camp immediately regardless of where the camp is.
4. Myth: My child loves baseball, so I’ll send him to a baseball camp for a couple of weeks.
Fact: This may be okay if the child has already attended a general camp and is a little older and ready to handle the intensity of a one-activity camp. But sometimes a general camp might be best for a child’s first sleepaway experience. General camps are more nurturing and spend time helping children to adjust to being away from home. They also offer children exposure to a variety of activities, which often generates new interests for a child.
5. Myth: The best camps are the most expensive ones.
Fact: While it’s true that you generally get what you pay for, there is a wide range of camp tuition available, from about $400 to $1200 per week. Some very good programs are available at the lower end of the spectrum. Examine all the factors, not just price.
6. Myth: My child must attend camp with a friend.
Fact: This may aid in the process of getting the child to go to camp, but once the children are there, it typically does more harm than good. Friends that go to camp together often stick together, alienating themselves from the group and preventing a very important aspect of camp from taking place: making new friends. Occasionally, the more independent child will begin making friends, leaving the other child feeling abandoned and betrayed, resulting in a strained camp experience-and a broken friendship.
7. Myth: My child is too young or not ready for camp.
Fact: Frequently, the parent is really expressing that they are not ready for the child to leave the nest and go to camp. Historically, families who send younger children (ages 6 to 10) to camp report a much easier adjustment and better overall experience. Older children have a more developed sense of fear, which can hinder the adjustment process, teens can often be rebellious and fight the notion of going to camp, and older children may be newcomers in a camp with children that have been attending for years.
8. Myth: I need to visit the camp before I make my selection.
Fact: Some families are early planners and do visit camps the summer before they send their kids to camp. This is really the only useful time to pre-visit. To visit during the off-season, when camp is closed, is to see nothing more than an empty facility-dull and uninformative at best. Today, most camps have videotapes and websites which are a great way to see a camp in action.
9. Myth: I’ll start my planning in the spring.
Fact: Over the past two years, a record number of children have attended camp. Demand has outgrown supply. Many families have ended up on waiting lists that never opened up. The slowing economy is not expected to have much of an effect on the growing demand for summer camp. Families should begin their camp selection process as early as possible, as the peak months for camp enrollment are December through March.
10. Myth: Not every child is cut out for camp, so maybe camp is not for us.
Fact: While it is true that not every camp is right for every child, there is a camp out there where each child can thrive. Regardless of a child’s personality or nature, camp can afford them the chance to have fun, make new friends, develop skills and cultivate new interests. What’s important is to understand the child’s style and interests and find a camp that meshes.
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