Are your kids all signed up for their summer camps? Oh, not yet? Hm...good luck!
Parenting is often this strange mental time warp. You have to think 18 years in the future when you look at your newborn and consider paying for college. You have to think about September each February, at school sign up time. And each winter, you have to think about summer camp.
This is not just mental twister because you’re trying to imagine outdoor overnights when it’s snowing. You're also trying to project what your child will want to do in July, and for how long. Good luck, again!
I find it hard to know what my daughter will be interested in five minutes from now, much less several months in the future. If I’d signed her up for summer camps when many first became available in January, I’d have been signing her up based on a kid who loved Kung Fu Panda, swimming, and Perler Beads. Now I have a child who loves The Voice, gymnastics, horses, and Legos.
My daughter doesn’t just change her mind; she rewrites history. When she decides that she no longer likes a certain type of granola bar, she declares that she never liked it.
Of course not. That’s why I bought a freaking case of them at Costco. Because you weren’t eating two a day.
So signing up for future events is a gamble. But even things she loves can go desperately wrong when experienced in week long, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. format. When we signed her up for rock climbing camp last summer, she was ecstatic. She’d been climbing every Friday for months and just loved it. We really started to believe that she’d finally found “her thing.”
Three days into 6-hours-a-day camp, and she never wanted to climb again.
Full-day camps free up parental time, and mimic school hours, so we assume that all will be well. However, a camp that focuses on a single specific thing can become very repetitive for a small one. We now make sure that our camp choices understand this and have a variety of activities planned. Whether a camp has a “mental” focus, like a writing camp, or a physical focus, like a swimming camp, good schedule planning should include both physical and mental stimulation, as well as plenty of breaks and opportunities to fuel up.
Also, timing matters. A full week of an educational camp that starts on the Tuesday after the Monday last day of school may be too much, whereas that same week in Late July might just be what your kid’s bored brain needs.
Finally, know your kid. My daughter’s is having his first overnight camp this summer. That’s fantastic. He’s totally ready for it, excited about it, and I’m sure it will be a great fit for him.
My girl is just not ready for that, even though the two are almost the same age. She’s happy at a sleepover where she knows everybody, but the idea of spending the night with a large group of people she doesn’t know is terrifying to her. She’ll let me know when she’s ready for an overnight camp, and I’m looking forward to it.
In the meantime, for us it will be a morning camp or two, a couple of all-day camps, and many, if not most, weeks unscheduled. Sure, having her underfoot will eat up my time, and make it hard to get things done, but it frees us up for the kind of summer I love. Relaxed lounging at (has there every been a more appropriately named park?). Playdates with her school friends so that she doesn’t forget their names by fall. And real tent camping with my friends who have kids that she can play with while the adults have a drink around the fire.
Now that’s my kind of overnight camp.