FOR ADVENTURE: Summer camp is all about fun adventures in the outdoors. YMCA camps have a new adventure for every child and teen. Visit About our Summer Camp for details.
FOR NEW EXPERIENCES: Day and resident camps are about learning outside of school, exploring and appreciating the outdoors, developing new skills, making friends and showing leadership.
FOR PERSONAL GROWTH: While being away from the routine back home, youth have a chance to develop confidence and independence by taking on new responsibilities and challenges.
FOR NEW FRIENDSHIPS: Amidst the fun of camp games, songs, swimming, archery and talent shows, campers meet new friends.
FOR MEMORIES: Summer camp is an unforgettable experience that will give each camper memories that will last a lifetime.
How to Select a Summer Camp
Selecting a Summer Camp
Our children are our most cherished treasure and our greatest responsibility. As such, determining when your child is ready to go to camp and finding the best camp for him or her can often be a difficult decision.
Camping experts from the YMCA of Silicon Valley offer the following helpful tips to help parents choose the best camping experience for their child:
Know your options. When looking for a camp, parents should start with the American Camp Association (ACA), which accredits camps across the country to ensure they meet the highest standards. YMCA camps are accredited by the ACA.
Know your budget. Remember, camp does not have to be expensive. Camps are available for every price range. At the Y, we offer financial assistance to ensure no child is turned away for inability to pay.
Know your wants. Families should consider what they want for their child from the camp experience, e.g. a fun vacation from school or a chance to build new skills. YMCA camps vary, some are highly structured and others offer kids greater flexibility in setting schedules.
Know your child’s readiness. On average, 8-year-olds are ready for an overnight camp experience. To ease the transition, kids should experience sleeping over at a friend’s or relative’s house at least one night before going to overnight camp. Day camps are another option available for children of all ages.
Know the camp. Review camp brochures or Web sites. Call to ask staff questions about activities, policies and special needs for your child. Seek references from other families whose children have attended the camps you are considering.
Know your child’s wants. Don’t forget to include your child in the decision-making process.
How to Talk to your Child about their Camp Experience
To help you decide whether to enroll your child in a particular camp again, and to help keep your child's memories alive, make time to talk with your child about their camp experience.
Avoid getting one-word answers like "Yeah" and "Nope" by using open-ended questions that require your child to think about the answer and put it into their own words. Depending on age, you could try:
"I heard you started each day with a ‘thought for the day.’ Could you tell me about one of them?"
"Did your cabin get to sleep out and cook your own dinner one night? What jobs did you have at the campsite? How did you cook dinner? What did you do after dark?"
"Which activities did you like best? What did you get to do? What did you get better at?”
"Can you teach me some of the songs you sang at camp?"
"What kinds of chores did you have to do to keep your cabin clean each day? Did your cabin ever win a cabin clean-up award?"
"Who was a good friend at camp? What did you do together? Would you like to write a letter?"
"Who was your favorite counselor? What did you like about her/him?"
Homesickness – Expert Advice for Parents
The best solution to homesicknessis a simple solution of preparation and patience.
In a study of over 300 boys ages 8-16, Dr. Christopher Thurber, a Phillips Exeter Academy psychologist, found that homesickness is the norm rather than the exception. A whopping 83 percent of the campers studied reported homesickness on at least one day of camp.
The following tips for parents to help their child deal with homesickness at camp:
Encourage your child's independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend's house, can simulate the camp environment.
Involve your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable the child will feel being at camp.
Discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
Reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child's camp has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it.
Send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say "I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp."
Don't bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child's new found confidence and independence.
Pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
When a "rescue call" comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective. Avoid the temptation to take the child home early.
Talk candidly with the camp director to obtain his/her perspective on your child's adjustment.
Don't feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
Trust your instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, Thurber's research shows that approximately seven percent of the cases are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, it is time to go home. However, don't make your child feel like a failure if their stay at camp is cut short. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.