It’s getting to be that time of year again: Gone are the days of negative degree weather, and slowly but surely, the temperature is creeping higher and higher. Warmer temperatures, combined with more sunshine throughout the day can only mean one thing: Summertime is fast approaching.
Summer can be a time to relax and unwind from the school year for some kids. For others, it’s a time to dive into the sport of their choice. However, summertime can also be a very special time to children for one reason: summer camp.
“The biggest benefits I’ve seen and heard about are kids developing confidence and independence. While the extended time away can seem scary, it also gives campers a chance to grow and learn more about themselves.” – Brian Moore, director, YMCA Camp Manitou
Brian Moore, camp director at Camp Manitou, which is operated by the Eau Claire YMCA, said time spent away at residential camp harbors numerous educational, social, and physical benefits for campers year in and year out.
“The biggest benefits I’ve seen and heard about are kids developing confidence and independence,” Moore said. “While the extended time away can seem scary, it also gives campers a chance to grow and learn more about themselves.”
For many kids, the first time they go to an overnight camp is the first time they are away from home without their parents for an extended period of time. With typical camp sessions lasting about a week, Briana Goldbeck, assistant camp director of Camp Manitou, said it’s not uncommon for fear to set in before campers even set foot on camp property.
“When parents ask us how to tell if their child is ready for camp, we typically ask them if they’ve spent time overnight, away from home with friends or other family members,” Goldbeck said. “If they’ve done it and felt good about it, that’s usually a good indicator.”
However, overnight sleepovers don’t have to be the only indicators of a child’s readiness for camp. Moore said that, ultimately, if parents feel their child is ready to come to a weeklong camp session, then that is a good indicator they can send the child to camp.
Preparing for the week ahead
Goldbeck and Moore said there are plenty of things parents and children can do leading up to the big week away.
“We’ve told parents it’s helpful to pack their child’s bags with them there so they know what they have going into the week,” Moore said, “and it’s helpful for the child because it will help them begin to understand what to expect.”
Goldbeck said other ways for parents to prepare their children for their week at overnight camp can include practicing spending more time away from home, talking about the camp environment, and giving their children chances to ask questions.
Even if parents and children are still hesitant, Moore said there are steps that can be taken prior to attending overnight camp – steps such as attending day camp.
Amy Peterson-Foss, sports center director at the L.E. Phillips YMCA Sports Center, said there are many kids who go through her program who attend both day and overnight camp, as well as many kids who are simply not ready for sleep-away camp quite yet.
Day camp offers many of the same benefits overnight camp does, such as making new friends and trying new skills. However, day camp can offer benefits that differs from overnight camp. At the end of the day, Peterson-Foss said, kids can go home and participate in their regular nighttime activities, such as sports.
“We also offer a flexible schedule for day camp, which can fit the need of multiple families,” Peterson-Foss said. “Parents have more control of what days and weeks they want to send their kids to us.”
When it comes down to it, there are many options for a child to spend outdoors in the Chippewa Valley during the summer months. There are also many ways for a child to grow, learn, play, and make new friends. Summer camp just might be the place where it all begins.
Meghan Hosely is marketing director at the Eau Claire YMCA, a community partner of Chippewa Valley Family. A recent graduate of UW-Eau Claire, she enjoys running along the Chippewa River Trail, frequenting coffee shops, and FaceTiming her dogs.