Expert advice for summer camp

 A camper expresses her gratitude for an "asome" time.
A camper expresses her gratitude for an “asome” time.

There’s a lot more to summer camp than bunk beds and campfires. Wheaton Griffin, head of YMCA camps in New York, has the encouraging spirit and enthusiasm that seems to embody everything that camp represents. He answered some of the most common questions that parents have about summer camp.

How can parents choose the right camp for their children?

It’s important for parents to go to the camp and meet the camp director — they should meet the people that will be caring for their child. That’s a great way to make the decision as to whether or not the kid should go to sleepaway camp, actually. Many times, the child will have a reaction that they’re going to have fun and are ready to take the plunge with sleepaway camp after visiting.

What do children take away from camp?

One of the biggest things we do for kids is have them demonstrate that they can learn. They learn that they can develop archery skills, that they can make more baskets in basketball than when they first arrived, that they can climb up a really scary-looking tower and go through their fear. The child may not be doing well in school, but in camps they are taught that you can learn, you can do things that are hard for you. There is very little bullying at a good camp. It’s a really corrective emotional experience.

How can parents decide if day camp or sleepaway camp is the right option?

Often, the child knows what he or she is ready for, so listening to the child is a good idea. Often a precursor is that the child feels secure staying with friends. Does the child have experience sleeping away from home, away from mom and dad? If the child is not comfortable doing that, then they wouldn’t be comfortable at a sleep-away camp just yet.


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