The beginning of summer, with its lazy days stretching out before your child, is the opportunity for exploration and adventure. Day camps and classes give your child the chance to explore a topic or activity in more depth.
Camps offer a shorter, more intensive experience, typically including activities, like games or field trips, to help campmates connect with each other. More than 90 percent of campers say that they met people who are different from themselves and made new friends.
Classes spread the fun out over several weeks, so kids can develop existing skills or explore new possibilities.
The enrollment period for day camp or classes can be from January through May, but some can start as early as November the year before. If you miss an opportunity, ask about a waiting list for this year; then put it on your calendar for next year. Enrollment often requires an application and deposit; later, there will be deadlines for paperwork and the balance due.
Signing up for private lessons will depend upon whether or not the teacher has a waiting list.
Think About Your Goal
What do you want your child’s takeaway to be? To commune with nature or learn about future career possibilities? To expand an existing skill or try something new? To deepen their connection with a particular community — or just have fun?
Carrie Brindza took daughter Madelyn to Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood for clay and drawing lessons, at a time when she was “trying to find where she fit,” she says.
Her daughter Grace also explored several styles of dance at Beck Center, but the lessons learned go beyond dance.
“Because she excels at dance…it helps her self-esteem,” Brindza says of Grace. “She has also learned a valuable lesson about self-discipline. As she approached the tween years, she expressed an interest in getting “on point” (into ballet pointe shoes).
Brindza encouraged Grace to ask her teachers how she could improve and took their advice and got on point. “She set that goal and achieved it.”
Private lessons are another option. Leighann Reep’s daughter Kaylee began horseback riding lessons at Lily Valley Farm in Wadsworth when she was just 5. “It teaches her responsibility; she has to learn how to take care of the horse and all of its tack [gear],” Reep says.
Kaylee also experiences weekly socialization with her trainers.
“Plus, she’s learned to be less impulsive,” Reep says. “When you’re on the horse, you need to be patient.”
Research Areas of Interest
A visit to a camp website will yield topics you’ve probably never considered, like Minecraft, video game design, Manga drawing, and culinary arts. Some focus on religious education.
Culture camps, like Ohio Hindi Camp, give kids — especially international adoptees — an intimate experience with their ethnic heritage. Case Western Reserve University offers iD Tech and Sports Broadcasting camps; Northeast Ohio Medical University hosts Medcamp; and Cleveland Clinic Akron General Visiting Nurse Service offers Camp Promise to help kids process grief.
Is your child struggling at school? Choose a camp that provides academic support — but in a fun environment. Tired of piano? Try guitar. Enrichment courses for gifted kids focus on expanding their horizons. Babysitting classes are great for older kids.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choices — but there’s always another summer. Have a meaningful conversation with your child, guiding them to see the pros and cons of each.
Ultimately, you must make the decision, weighing your child’s interests with other considerations, like finances and travel.
Search for a Camp
“Parents discover camps through a wide variety of sources,” says Aurora Smith, public relations coordinator for iD Tech, citing school flyers, online searches, camp fairs, and word-of-mouth recommendations. Search the website of a nearby facility, like a college, museum, or the zoo — which is ever popular. Join a local online parent discussion group, and network with friends on social media. Post requests for information about local camps and classes; you’ll get honest feedback about providers. Ask coaches and teachers, and cold call churches and schools, both private and public.
|Sign up for Camp — Get in your application and deposit. Also, check if the deposit is refundable and the last date to cancel. Examine the paperwork carefully for all deadlines. Camps and courses may ask for a medical history, physical, immunization record, and even a teacher or coach recommendation. Gather any additional supplies or equipment that’s required. Spend time orienting your child to the upcoming experience, and go over the rules.|
For even more information on researching, selecting and getting ready for camp, check out our Northeast Ohio Summer Camp Resource Page. It’s your complete guide to all things related to summer camp, including some great local options!