For parents, summer presents a dilemma. You want your child to get outside, play and have a chance to enjoy their vacation. On the other hand, you know how important it is for your child to be ready to start the next school year off strong.
While children really do need some downtime to rest and recharge, summer learning loss is a documentable phenomenon. The National Summer Learning Loss Association found that giving kids the summer off causes them to slip an average of two months of grade-level equivalency. That’s why, if you want your kid to retain their achievement from the previous school year, it’s important to make sure they keep learning and thinking over the summer.
For many parents, summer day camps can be the perfect solution. Not only do your children retain the routine of going to school, they are continually challenged to pick up new skills and use their problem-solving abilities. Best of all, many kids don’t even realize how much they’re learning when they attend summer enrichment programs with fun subjects ranging from 3D printing to Minecraft, martial arts, robotics and even knitting.
Top 7 Mistakes Parents Make When Choosing a Summer Day Camp
Here are the seven most common mistakes we’ve found parents make when choosing their child's summer day camp.
1. Letting kids stay within their comfort zone
Children, especially the youngest ones, are notorious for resisting change. They want to hear the same story at bedtime; they want to eat the same foods for dinner. But, kids grow when they’re challenged. The best summer camps introduce children to new experiences and fresh learning opportunities.
2. Not keeping their child’s interests in mind
Engagement is key to learning —and what is the best way to ensure engagement? Choosing something a child wants to do. To strike a good balance between a summer camp that will challenge your child but also keep them interested in learning, talk to your child about what they want to do this summer and use that to short-list a few good summer camps. Does he adore being outside? If so, consider summer camps with athletic activities or nature programs. Is she a budding engineer who is always coming up with new ideas? Consider a day camp that give kids a chance to play with 3D printers or teach coding. The more a summer camp aligns with your kid’s interests, the more likely they are to throw themselves into it.
3. Picking a summer camp based on what your child’s "bestie" wants to do
What kid wouldn’t love to spend the summer going to camp with their best friend? If you choose a summer camp based on what your kid’s friends are doing, however, they could miss out on a chance to expand their interests and social circle. Summer camp is a great opportunity for kids to learn how to meet new friends and expand their social circle. When you send your kid to a summer camp just because their friend is going to that camp, you can deprive them of an important opportunity for growth.
4. Ignoring the importance of STEAM
Many summer camps focus on traditional warm weather activities such as swimming, hiking, and watersports. At those camps, kids can spend time outdoors, learn an appreciation for the natural world and may even pick up some survival skills. However, we live in a rapidly changing world economy. Children need to develop their skills in science, technology, engineering, art, and math to succeed in life. Consider looking for summer day camps that give kids the chance to gain hands-on learning experiences in STEAM subjects such as computer programming, filmmaking, digital media and robotics.
5. Not checking staffing qualifications
It’s important to investigate the staffing qualifications at any camp you’re seriously considering. Does the camp hire professional personnel? Or, do they simply fill positions with local teens? While teen staff members can certainly add youthful energy to the programs they lead and be role models to younger children, the programs themselves should be developed by professionals in education or child psychology.
6. Overlooking your needs as a parent
Of course, you want your kid to go to a summer camp they’ll love, but some parents forget that their needs matter too. When looking at summer day camp options, make sure you consider your own work schedule and family obligations. If a camp is too far away, ends early in the day when you’re not available to pick your kid up, or has other obligations that will make your summer stressful, it might not be the best option. Summer is a time for relaxation and if getting your kid to camp stresses you out, your kid will pick up your unhappiness and enjoy the experience less.
7. Stressing about finding the “perfect” summer camp
While it’s important to help your kid find a summer camp that they will love, there’s no one perfect camp out there. There are tons of fantastic summer camp options out there for kids—from soccer camp to chess camp and even Minecraft camp. Your kid can have a fun summer whether they’re learning about the natural world, exploring their artistic side or practicing new skills. In the same vein, don’t panic if their first choice fills up. Summer camps are an opportunity to explore different interests—your kid could have an incredible summer at a camp they never expected.
How to Pick a Great Summer Camp
When you’re searching for a summer day camp for your child, it’s important to talk to your child about their interests and to do your research. You should look for a camp that will challenge your child to keep learning in a fun environment, while paying attention to the qualifications of the instructors. That way, your child can enjoy their summer vacation while keeping their brain engaged and ready to start the next school year off strong.