SUMMER CAMP IS A LOT OF FUN, but not everyone is convinced right off the bat. Take Sami, for example.
Sami is the main character in Sami’s Sleepaway Summer, a book written by Jenny Meyerhoff. Though her family thinks Sami will enjoy summer camp, she is quite certain she will not. Sami and her family decide that a mini-session, just four days and three nights, might be enough to change her mind.
Part of PJ’s Gefilte Fish (7 to 8 years) age group selection, this story reminds us that every child — and every family — has different summer camp needs.
CHOOSING A CAMP
The benefits of camp are easy to see. They provide children the opportunity to venture beyond their own neighborhoods and spend time doing things they don’t ordinarily do — things that don’t involve TVs or computers.
In her Parenting Magazine article, “How to Pick the Right Summer Camp for Kids,” writer Barbara Rowley provides some good tips for parents considering a summer camp experience for their children. “Whether you’re thinking about sending your child to the little day camp down the street or an overnight outfit a few states away, follow these tips for planning a no-regrets summer,” Rowley writes.
When choosing a camp, Rowley suggests you look for the following characteristics:
- History — When a camp has remained in business for decades, it’s usually an indication that it is run well (and run safely).
- Philosophy — Does the camp have a theme or a focus? How is does this philosophy integrate with its daily activities and routines?
- Community — “Good camps think about how they place kids together to create the most inclusive experience for all,” Rowley says. She adds, “Another good hallmark of community is a scholarship program.”
- Well-Trained Staff — An adequate staff-to-camper ration is 1:10, according to Rowley. “The staff should be background-checked, too, with references, an interview, and a criminal-records search,” she adds.
- Free Choice — An element of choice is key. “Your child will feel more independent if he can choose some activities,” Rowley advises.
- Communications — There should be a plan for alerting parents to special events or, in the worst of scenarios, emergency. There should also be a consistent telephone-use policy for campers.
- Accreditation — “Ask camps if they’re accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), which conducts on-site visits and reviews programs, facilities, and hiring and safety policies,” Rowley writes.
WHAT MAKES A JEWISH CAMP?
According to the Foundation for Jewish Camps (FJC), Jewish camps offer all the benefits of other summer camps while also giving children the opportunity to experience Jewish community in a safe, supportive setting.
“Jewish camp weaves Jewish values, culture, and traditions into the fabric of camp, helping campers to connect to their own identity and the larger Jewish community,” the organization states on its website. “Whether they’re telling stories in their bunks, learning about the environment, or playing kickball, campers explore what Judaism means to them in a safe, nurturing, and fun environment.