by Tom Livingston
If camp directors could offer parents a suggestion to make their child’s summer camp experience more enjoyable, what would it be? MetroKids asked a sampling of camp directors for their thoughts. Here’s what they told us.
Several directors urged parents to choose a summer camp that matches their child’s interests. “Many times parents will send their children to a camp that the parent wants the child to go to, not taking into account what the child wants to do,” says Mark Perner, director of Philly Point Guard Camp, conducted at eight Delaware Valley locations.
“You want to make sure that you get your money’s worth, that you’re not just paying for a baby-sitting service, that your child looks forward to going back to camp each day,” Perner adds. “Before making a snap decision, check the camp out. Ask if you can visit with your child beforehand, and ask for references. Make sure the environment is friendly and will be a good fit for your child.”
“Every child is unique and their summer camp should be suited to their interests,” says Lisa Kasser, owner/director of Burn Brae Day Camp of Creative Arts in Dresher, PA. “With your child, choose a camp whose activities, setting, philosophy, staff and environment will offer a happy, safe summer camp experience tailor-made to him or her.”
Rodney Robb, director and president of The Actors Center in Philadelphia, has seen quite a few campers win auditions for stage, TV or commercials. Still, he advises, “Don’t look for stardom for your children. Let them enjoy camp. We major in self-esteem for children.”
Before Camp Starts
Some directors focused on preparation before camp begins. “If the child is new to overnight camping, foster independence with sleepovers at friends’. Weekends away with family even help, allowing them to adapt to different environments,” says Phil McGovern, executive director of YMCA Tockwogh Camp & Conference Center in Worton, MD.
Aaron Selkow, executive director of Pinemere Camp in Stroudsburg, PA, suggests that before camp starts, “set your kids up for success by being positive, and resist the urge to make any deals with them about coming home early. Children will take the lead from their parents, and lower expectations may affect their outlook.”
If you’re choosing a day camp, find one “that has indoor facilities to accommodate your child in case of inclement weather, either rain or severe temperatures,” suggests Danny Collins, day camp director of Gwynedd-Mercy College Day Camp in Gwynedd Valley, PA.
Make sure you have good communication with your camper and the camp, several directors advise. “If there is something of concern for you or your camper, please let it be known,” says Mary Jo D’Ortone, director of Hideaway Day Camp in Collegeville, PA.
She adds, “Parents should encourage campers and remain positive, even when obstacles present themselves. It might take some time to adjust to a new camp.”
“Engage your camper each day around the dinner table, asking, ‘What was your favorite activity today? Did anything funny happen?’ A discussion like this helps to form a positive connection between home and your child’s camp,” suggest Rick and Jacquelyn Blum, owners/directors of Southampton Summer Day Camp in Southampton, PA.
And relax! “I would stress for parents not to worry. It will only alarm the children,” says Larry Zeitz, director of Willow Grove Day Camp in Willow Grove, PA. “At an American Camp Association-accredited camp, your children will be safe, make friends and have a great time. If there are concerns during the camp session, contact the child’s group counselor or the camp office ASAP.”
Tom Livingston is executive editor of MetroKids.