There is still time to find a perfect camp experience

Jun 24, 2017 by

It’s late May, and you have a nagging feeling you’ve forgotten something. But with all of the end-of-the-year school activities, it’s hard to think beyond your child’s filled backpack.

Backpack — that’s it. It suddenly hits you: You have not yet signed your child up for summer camp.

If you are not one of those parents who plans their summers by February, don’t worry. There are plenty of camp experiences still available for your child.

Find what interests your child

The main thing to keep in mind is what your child is interested in, and try those camps first.

For the budding engineer in your family, there are new programs offered by CodeREV Kids, a coding and robotics camp.

“We really focus on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math),” Founder and President Evan Boorman said. The Santa Monica-based camp is excited to be offering its inaugural year in the Bay Area at four locations — two in San Francisco, one in San Jose and one in Mountain View.

The weeklong programs for ages 6 to 16 offer age appropriate classes, from building robots and having a “battle-bot” at the end of the week to creating mobile apps and professional-level computer games.

Despite the popularity of such camps these days, he said there are plenty that still have open spaces. However, as a word of caution, don’t jump at the first one that has an opening.

“Do a little bit of research first,” Boorman said. “Find out who will actually be instructing your kids, since they will have the most interaction with them. Our instructors must have at least one year working in the tech field and one year experience working with children. I know some camps who just hire counselors if they’re over 18 with no discernible experience in the field they’re teaching.”

Another camp experience that is extremely popular these days is cooking.

Mindy Myers, director of Cooking Round the World camps, said she has openings in the East Bay, especially Pleasant Hill and Lafayette. (In fact, Pleasant Hill campers can get a 30 percent discount if they using the code VIC when they apply.)

The cooking school, which serves campers ages 6 to 13, is the “juncture where the culinary arts meet different cultures,” she said.

“We’re not just a cooking school. We teach a different culture’s cuisine each day, accompanied by information on the history, culture, language and even folklore of that country or region,” Myers said. “I’ve had notes come back from parents saying, ‘Thank you. Now my child wants to go to Thailand.’ We consider ourselves the anti-wall.”

Look local

Besides these two specific camps, there are many camps with spots open. Directors suggest calling around and finding one that has openings, but don’t break the bank or travel long distances to get that coveted last spot. Your child may be best situated closer to home.

“YMCA, faith-based and city-sponsored camps often have spaces available,” said Madi Cervantes, the former camps director for the Tri-Valley YMCA who now runs similar programs in the Sacramento region.

In fact, city-sponsored and faith-based camps often run much cheaper than specialty camps and are located closer to home. Most offer a variety of camping and teaching experiences from arts, crafts, nature, cooking, performance and even that oh-so-popular coding and game-building, Cervantes said.

But like Boorman, Cervantes cautions that parents take the time to get to know the counselors and directors. “That will ease your child’s transition into the camp experience,” she said.

Finally, if no camp captures your or your child’s attention, there is always the idea of “Backyard Camp.” This is when families in a neighborhood band together with each one hosting a different activity throughout the week.

The parents decide what they would like to offer based on their interests and skills. There can be field trips to Bay Area museums or swimming holes, a backyard pool party, a day of cooking, Lego building contests and much more.

“My Italian uncle is a great cook and he offered pasta making classes for the kids one day,” Cervantes said. “They ended the day with a big pasta feed for the families, with everyone speaking a little Italian. It was a big hit.”

There are also local swim teams and sports leagues for kids to join that can take the place of camps.

Once you’re in

As the school year draws to a close and the idea of a summer daycamp or sleep-away camp inches closer, you may notice your child getting a bit nervous. This might be the time to introduce — or re-introduce — your child to the camp’s director and meet the counselors if possible.

The American Camp Association has a host of resources on its website ( that can help prepare a child for the camp experience.

“Camps are about having fun, most of all,” Cervantes said. “Through that fun they will learn valuable skills, and not just from the focus of the camp. No matter where they end up, camp is a win-win.”

Preparing to attend summer camp

The American Camp Association has some valuable suggestions for making the transition to summer camp.

“Summer camp is more than a vacation for children,” said Bruce Muchnick, a licensed psychologist who works extensively with day and resident camps. “As a parent, there are a few things to consider to increase the opportunity for a rewarding camp experience for your child.”

Some helpful suggestions provided by Muchnick and the American Camp Association include:

Prepare for camp together

Decisions about camp — like where to go and what to pack — should be a joint venture, keeping in mind your child’s maturity. If your child feels a part of the decision-making process, his or her chances of having a positive experience will improve.

Talk about concerns

As the first day of camp nears, some children experience uneasiness. Encourage your child to talk about these feelings rather than acting on what you think his or her feelings may be. Communicate confidence in your child’s ability to handle being away from home.

Have realistic expectations

Camp, like the rest of life, has high and low points. Not every moment will be filled with wonder and excitement. Encourage your child to have a reasonable and realistic view of camp. Discuss both the ups and downs your child may experience. Your child should not feel pressured to succeed at camp, either. The main purposes of camp are to relax and have fun.

Source: There is still time to find a perfect camp experience – SFGate

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