How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

Keen to give your child some structure through the unscheduled summer weeks? Summer camps can be your best bet to help you strike that balance. Here’s why

By Susan Narjala

How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

Summer is around the corner and so are those endless hours of fun and uninterrupted play for children. However, it’s also a time when you may soon be bugged by the phrase: “I’m bored” coming from your children. How can you ensure your child has meaningful fun during the vacation? Are summer camps your best bet? How can you make the right choice when it comes to a summer camp? Read on for a complete perspective.

Why Send Your Child to a Summer Camp?

To be Engaged: With nuclear family system on the rise sharply, thanks to both parents working, summer camps have become a utility rather than an option. For such families, popular options for  child’s summer vacation include:

  • Sending him to a relative’s place
  • Planning a long vacation as a family
  • Summer camps

The ultimate choice is determined by how much these elements engage your child as well as the time at your disposal. But, it sure will keep your child engaged for the summer.

To Be Unplugged: Free time can mean so much fun. But soon, the long unscheduled days can leave your child clueless. We live in a world where screens can easily take over a child’s time and mind. There will be repeated requests for video games and TV shows; and sibling fights can become unmanageable. Therefore, scheduled summer camps can give you the opportunity to limit screen time.

To Learn New Skills: Your child steps out of his comfort zone and learns new skills during summer classes. Be it practical life-skills or specialised training, summer camps provide that perfect opportunity.

To Explore Interests: If your child is passionate about a field, she can use summer classes or camps as a springboard to explore it further. For instance, if your child shows excitement each time you pull out your camera, she can now dedicate two full weeks to photography – and figure out if she wants to pursue this as a future career option.

To Foster Independence: In the absence of hovering parents, children display a greater sense of responsibility, especially, when they participate in overnight camps. Your child will even surprise you with his resourcefulness and wisdom.

To Make New Friends: Your child ends up making new friends within a short span – a huge step in becoming more confident socially. And there’s no discounting the memories that are created. Camps are places where life-long friendships and lasting memories are made.

How to Choose the Right Summer Camp

Choosing the right camp for your child is more important than simply signing up for one. There are several factors at play here, from cost of the camp, to activities offered. Here are our top pointers to help you choose one:

  1. Your Child’s Interest: Understand your child’s interests. Research various camps and present some of the best options to her and discuss. From video game programming to wildlife rehabilitation, the options for camps, internships and workshops are aplenty.
  2. Safety: Have a one-on-one conversation with the camp organizers. Observe their attitude towards children and discuss the camping experience. Find out if the staff have been subject to all the necessary security checks. You can also talk to other parents whose kids have already participated in the same camp.
  3. Budget: Choose a camp that fits your bill. Do not be under the illusion that ‘expensive’ equates to ‘safer and better’. Summer camps need not drain your bank balance. Trust your instincts and look for more substance than style.
  4. Day, Sleep-over or special camp: The best place for children to get accustomed to the idea of summer classes is in day camps. Here, your child learns about being part of a community and understands the art of coping with temporary separation. It’s a great start for parents who need some ‘coaching’ with separation skills, as well. Parents of older children might want to consider overnight camps. There isn’t a fixed age when children are ‘ready’, since it depends on the maturity of each child. However, conventional wisdom suggests that children in the age group of 9-12 years are likely to be ready to spend a few nights away from mom and dad.
  5. Fun: Ensure your child has enough opportunities to have fun. Camps need not be all about growing your child’s IQ. After all, everything needn’t be about academic achievement.

Studies have shown that children are becoming less social and less conversational because of the influence of the digital world. Summer camps can help kids appreciate nature and kindle a sense of imagination that is often lost in a world of gadgets. Parents need to encourage their children because this is a great step toward a child’s independence.

You need to find out about the camp organiser’s training, credibility, child protection policy and safety measures. Being a big name alone doesn’t guarantee safety. Find out about their experience and track record. Don’t be hesitant to ask relevant questions about measures in place in case of an emergency — Rajshekar Murthy, Founder-Director of The Fishermen Trust, which has been running outdoor camps for the last 12 years.
How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

Importance of free play

Summer is the ideal time to allow kids to be kids without the pressure of school or studies. Children need free play to develop their imagination and creativity. Several studies indicate that unstructured outdoor time where children play with each other helps in strengthening their core, apart from improving their thinking, behavioural and physical abilities. According to the authors of a study titled, Less-structured time in children's daily lives predicts self-directed executive functioning, 2014, when children spend more time in less-structured activities, they develop a sense of intrinsic motivation and are more self-directed. So, allow your child to have plenty of unguided, unstructured play time as well.

What Parents Say

I would love to send my son to a summer camp. He is in class 6 and this is the first summer vacation after I’ve started working. My mother might come down or I might send him to my relative’s place in Mumbai. But, given an option, summer camp does sound like an ideal choice since he will get to have fun and explore something new  Smriti, Bangalore

My son is nine years old and has already made plans for his vacations. He plans out his year at the start of every academic year, marking holidays and making plans. He wants to visit his aunt in Kerala this summer  Akash, Kolkata

If there is a learning (not academic) opportunity, yes. Be it a day camp or overnight – Sathiya, Chennai

Anything to get her off the TV and computer! Directing her energy in a productive way is what I look for – Mahalakshmi, Mumbai.

What Children Say

I’m now a big girl. I want to do my own things. I don’t want to go to summer camps and have someone tell me what to do and when. I want to go to my grandma’s. – Eesha, 9, Bangalore

Holidays are a time to have fun and relax. I would like to travel or spend time at home. But, if there is a camp that really interests me -- like something to do with robotics or circuits, I would not mind going for that. – Chaithanya, 12, Delhi

I think my mom just wants to find ways to keep me off TV. All I want to do is relax. If my friends and I plan to go for some classes together, then maybe I’ll think about it  Vriddhi, 13, Coimbatore. 

I’ve been to camps and workshops since I was nine years old. I think my mom is the best in picking the rights camps. The first was an overnight yoga and fitness summer camp where I learnt to make my own bed, wash my own clothes for the first time! From then on, I have attended theatre workshops, life-skill camps, media workshops and more. I’m now in class 12 and can’t wait to hop out of exams and jump into a 3-day camp that I’ve signed up for before all the higher study hustle begins! – Vishitha, 17, Chennai. 

How to Choose the Right Summer Camp for Your Child

With a little research, you’re bound to find the “happy spot” where your budget and your child’s interests coincide.

If there are no options that capture your child’s imagination, you can still do plenty of day trips to the zoo, museum, planetarium, libraries or parks. There is learning all around us. Summer is a great season to explore and learn with your child. Goodbye boredom!

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