Summer may be the last thing on your mind, but camp enrollment time is already here. The number of options and different types of camps can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time sending your child to camp or he or she has entered a new age group. We talked with Alan Saltz, the camp director at the 92nd Street Y, to set the record straight on some of the most common camp myths.
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Myth #1: Camp isn't for everyone.
"There are so many different camps out there that if somebody doesn't like something traditional, they can try something speciality or interest-based," Saltz tells us. "Not everyone is right for sleep-away camp, but then there are day camps. Then there are different types of day camps. At the 92nd Street Y, we have camps for kids with special needs or who are autistic. There are camps for kids with diabetes or [are] chronically ill. There's just so much out there."
For many parents, deciding whether their kids are ready for sleep-away camp is a big decision. Saltz says that if your child expresses interest in going, has shown independence in other areas of his or her life and has been OK at sleepovers with friends, he or she will most likely thrive at sleep-away camp.
Myth #2: It's too expensive.
While a lot of camps do charge hefty fees, Saltz says many also offer financial assistance. "There are also plenty of camps that are either free or close to free, like the Fresh Air Fund," he says. If you don't think you'll qualify for financial assistance, Saltz recommends reducing the session, having your child attend camp for half of the time advertised. He also recommends asking about a payment schedule.
Myth #3: The most popular camp is the best one.
"Word of mouth is still the most popular way parents hear about camps," Saltz says. It's natural to ask the other parents in your kid's class where their child is going to camp, or finding out where the other kids in the neighborhood are going so you can send your son or daughter there, too. But Saltz warns against sending your child to a place where he and she won't make new friends, since that's such a big part of camp. "It's nice to have a friend your child knows going as well to help ease the transition, but if there are five or six kids who want to be together the whole camp, it becomes more of a clique. It should be a balance," he says.
Myth #4: Summer camp isn't educational.
A new trend in summer camp is introducing formal education in fun ways that don't feel like school. "At 92Y we started robotics last summer, which we're doing again, and are thinking about adding a software development and coding class," Saltz says. So, summer camp isn't just sports and crafting. Whether your child is into photography, filmmaking, art or science, there are many ways to nurture those interests during the summer by finding a specialized camp.
Myth #5: To get out of the city, sleep-away camp is the only option.
Not true. Saltz reiterates the variety of camps available, saying there are several that bus kids out of the city so they can experience the outdoors. "There are even some sleep-away camps where kids go home on the weekends, so it's sort of a mix of both," he says.
No matter what type of camp you're looking for, now is the time to start searching and enrolling. Summer will be here before you know it.
Follow Emily on Twitter: @EmLaurence