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Little campers, big decisions

Summer camp isn’t just for older kids and teens. In fact, children of any age can reap the physical and social benefits of a camp, including preschool-aged children who are anxious to get a jumpstart on a new summer experience. Day camps allow younger kids to try the camp experience on for size without committing to a longer, overnight excursion.

If sending a preschool-aged child to camp seems premature, consider some benefits:

• Day camp can be a “dress rehearsal” for a child scheduled to begin preschool in autumn. Both experiences provide opportunities for young kids to practice being away from home, following set rules, keeping track of personal belongings and learning what it is like to have a structured day with a schedule of both learning and play.

• Some day camps offer a wide variety of games, arts and crafts, and music. Others may focus on a single skill, such as swimming or dance. Regardless, little ones learn new things and are exposed to challenges presented in ways that are age-appropriate and fun. Plus, it gives the opportunity for campers to try out new activities among peers in a similar style to a classroom environment.

• Spending time with other campers will help little ones learn valuable social skills. Campers will learn how to take turns, share and help others while simultaneously participating in games and other teambuilding activities.

While summer camps can be an experience that lasts a lifetime, there are a plethora of options for parents and kids to choose from. Here are some considerations to keep in mind while choosing a day camp: 

• What type of safety training has the camp staff received? Parents also should be aware of what procedures the camp follows in the event of an emergency.

• If the camp is held outdoors, what happens in inclement weather? While many camps are located in remote areas, make sure there is a shelter or designated safe area on the grounds in case of sudden changes in weather.

• What is the ratio of staff to campers? How many counselors are on staff to assist campers during everyday outings, or possible emergencies? While camp is a great time for kids to experience independence, make sure there are procedures in place and plenty of knowledgeable staff onsite.

• Do campers bring their own lunches, snacks and drinks, or does the camp provide them? Some campers with specific allergies may want to double-check with camp staff regarding menus and food-handling procedures.

• Is before- or after-care available? If so, what activities are offered, and who is responsible for the children? 

• Does the cost include everything, or are there additional charges for other amenities? Different camps may have different costs attached to extras like field trips, snacks, camp T-shirts, or even certain activities. 

• Are parents welcome to stop by for a visit, or is there a special visiting day? A quality day not only allows parents to see their camper in action, but also allows them to share in their child’s experience. Bonding over little campers’ big experiences can help motivate them to return again next year.

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