For years I have been a summer camp advisor helping families find great summer programs for students. I counsel parents on how to prepare their children for that perfect program that may encompass how to play sports or a multitude of other activities. Parents want to find the best summer program and be ensured that their children have the easiest transition possible. However, when their child steps off the bus after spending weeks away at a sleepover camp (or teen travel, cultural immersion, community service, language, adventure, special needs, summer learning, or homestay program), it is almost inevitable that they will have had changed. They will have experienced new opportunities, have had increased responsibilities, and faced new and exciting challenges. How can these new teachings be continued during the year?
CHORES: At a summer sleep away camp or teen program your child made beds, swept floors, bussed tables, and, yes, even cleaned the toilets! This is a golden opportunity! Parents should evaluate whether these kinds of responsibilities should be continued at home. At an overnight summer program, these chores are actually fun!
UNPLUG: Summer camp has also forced many students to “unplug” – to talk to people directly rather than in 140 character segments. They also have had the opportunity to do without certain creature comforts – little access to TV or video games. Perhaps this is a good time to encourage face-to-face communication and discourage reliance on electronic devices.
DIET: Many campers have done with less sugary snacks and unlimited access to food. Most summer camps or teen summer programs promote healthy choices (still with treats and snacks). This is something that parents may want to consider continuing during the school year.
OUTDOORS: By definition, campers spend a great amount of time outdoors learning new sports to play, hiking, swimming, playing basketball or even doing art and other summer activities. Research has shown that when kids spend a great deal of time indoors they tend to exercise less and become disconnected from nature and the environment. Being outdoors sets the stage for increased physical activity, which can result in reducing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis and other physical maladies.
It is easy to fall back to old habits. However, it may be worth trying to continue some of what a child learns at summer camp or other kind of summer program to his or her home routine. It will become obvious that a summer program provides so much more than just a vacation.