The many benefits of summer camp are well documented. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], besides providing children with memories that will last a lifetime, camp can positively impact kids’ psychological development, self-esteem and their sense of independence.
To guide parents in their efforts to maximize the benefits of a child’s camp experience and guide camp administrators in creating a healthy camp environment, the AAP has issued a policy statement, “Creating Healthy Camp Experiences.”
The policy statement offers the following suggestions for parents:
• Before choosing a camp, evaluate your child’s interests, skills and overall well-being to make sure your child can effectively participate in a particular camp environment.
• Prepare your child for camp medically and psychologically. Work with your child’s pediatrician, camp health providers and administrators on a pre-camp health evaluation.
• To help prevent homesickness, which is not unusual among campers, involve your child in choosing and preparing for camp; be positive about the upcoming experience, and openly discuss homesickness; arrange practice trips or sleepovers away from home with friends or relatives; and avoid making pre-arranged “pick-up” plans, which can cause a child to question his or her independence.
For camps, the AAP offers these guidelines:
• Camp administrators should follow specific health policies and procedures addressing major and minor injuries and illnesses, and train camp staff in proper storage and administration of medications.
• Camps that have an automated external defibrillator [AED] or other emergency devices such as EpiPens or inhalers should keep those devices where they are readily accessible. Medical staff should be trained to use the devices properly.
• Camps should have an emergency management plan for infectious outbreaks and encourage good hygiene and hand-washing practices among campers.
• Camps should only serve foods that follow federal guidelines for school nutrition.
• Food should not be used as a reward, and withholding food should not be used as punishment.
• The camp program should include a minimum of 30 minutes of daily physical activity.