Good camp counselors are crucial to the success of a summer camp. Credit: JupiterImages
School is out in about two months, so it’s time to start thinking (if you haven’t already) about sending your child to summer camp. But finding the right one can be challenging. Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program, offers some important pointers when looking for the right summer camp for your child.
”If you don’t have the right staff, it’s all for naught," Saltz tells us. "That's the number one thing to look for." But an enriching physical activity program is also on Saltz's list of must-haves. “It’s important to have a diverse schedule of activities that challenge kids in different ways,” says Saltz, “especially for younger kids who have shorter attention spans.”
Academics should also play a key role in the summer camp experience, but learning doesn't have to feel like school. “Summer camp should be fun and recreational, but it doesn't mean that kids can’t learn,” said Saltz, “You can find creative ways to bring learning into camp.” This year the 92nd Street Y has joined forces with the New York Academy of Science to bring the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum to their summer programs this year. Saltz is confident that using the STEM curriculum to connect kids with the outdoor environment will create a fun and educational time for the campers.
“Life is all around you outdoors, from plants to insects, so we make it a part of the camp [experience],” he says. Even during physical activities the STEM curriculum will be present. For example, campers will learn about the mechanics of a baseball swing.
Finally, it is important for kids to have a positive social experience at the camp. Sometimes kids will go to camp with a group of their friends, but Saltz does not recommend this. “It’s better to [go alone and] start with a clean slate so you can meet other kids and form relationships,” he says. “The reality is that kids usually go with at least one person that they know, and that’s OK, but they should keep it limited, because a whole group becomes a clique.”
All of these elements combined make for an enriching and formative experience. “Kids will develop social, emotional and academic skills that schools don’t reach sometimes,” says Saltz. “School and camp combined is the total package. Every parent should find a way to send their child to a summer camp.”