Summer camp may be hard to think about as the snow flies and the temperature drops, but really, these chilly months will fly by and you'll be wondering what to do with your tween all summer. The time to start planning for summer camp is finally upon us. Summer camp veteran and operator Val Harle is guest posting today to share her unique perspective and to offer some tips on picking the right camp for your family.
"Tweens are my favorite age group"
As someone who has operated summer camps for seven year, I’m constantly impressed by kids, tweens especially. Tweens are my favorite age group. They solve problems, they take care of their things, and they remember things they learned with me in a 20 minute session a year ago. They are smarter, braver, more caring, and more engaged than we give them credit for sometimes. I have seen them comfort a bunkmate who misses home. I have seen them so in love with helping that they argue about who gets to wash the dishes after a meal. They will stay back and walk with another camper who is struggling on a hike, even when the counselor is trying to get them to hurry. Parents often don’t believe me when I tell them their tween was the one who swept after every meal or made her bed every day.
I say this because I see hundreds of them in a kid-ruled world every summer. Kids rule at traditional overnight summer camp and at the camp I work at they literally make the rules. They decide that fighting is off limits, they decide that they need to keep their bunks clean; they decide that we’re going to pretend to be pirates at dinner. Letting them shine is the best thing about camp and tweens simply glow. They grow, they take responsibility, they learn to be independent. Tweens help younger kids, they idolize older kids and counselors. They are perfect for summer camp and camp is perfect for them.
Find time in the summer schedule to send your kid to camp.
Sending your tween to camp can be hard, but it is worth it. There are all kinds of summer programs, and sports, and music lessons to squeeze in. Kids are overscheduled and underwhelmed by a lot of the program and activity options. Most tweens I talk to love the idea of summer camp, new friends, cool adults, and fun activities that they get to choose. There is a wide variety of camps available, including “camps” that are housed on college campuses, and computer camps for the day. There is, however, something different about traditional outdoor-focused summer camp.
Finding time to send them to a traditional summer camp for three days, a week or more can be very difficult with their loaded schedules, and sometimes a little scary, but well worth it.
There are some great resources out there for choosing a safe, fun summer camp that fits into your schedule.
- Check out the American Camp Association. This national association of camps is the industry leader in camp safety and resources. They operate a website for parents with information about finding and preparing for summer camp. It’s jam-packed with resources and information about making sure your tween is safe, healthy, and happy at camp.
- Don’t overlook local camps.Girl Scouts, YMCA, religious camps, and other organizations have been getting kids outside for more than a hundred years. These are often very affordable camp options with summer camp grants available. Your tween doesn’t need to be a scout or a member to participate, either.
- Listen to your tween. Your tween probably knows the camps in the area and what other kids are saying about them. I was recently at a holiday work function for my spouse; families were all there, just some annual socializing. Someone asked what I did and I said I was camp director for the Girl Scouts. A nearby eleven year got wide eyed and yelled, “Really!? I heard that place is AWESOME!” The tweens know what they want; we just help them get there.
Val Harle has been working at summer camps for seven years. She works with a team of staff and volunteers that operate two overnight summer camps, year round outdoor programs at four properties and more than 20 day camps that serves girls from all over Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.. She received an M.A. in Communication with a concentration in Leadership and Management Communication. She only went to camp once as a kid, and was sent home the second night with the stomach flu. Following the camp name tradition, hundreds of girls only know her as Einstein. Follow her tweets about camp stuff @CampWithGirls and learn more about their camps by visiting their Facebook page here or their blog or www.GirlScoutsToday.org/camp