Summer Break: Camps!

Summer camps have played a huge role in my life. It’s hard to say how I would have turned out without them. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me by attending camps.

I should explain a bit of my personal history with summer camps. When I was pretty young, pre-homework helper age, my parents had me go to “daycare” at the YMCA. It was my first experience with a group that ranged in ages and diversity outside of school. This exposed me to older kids who I looked up to; they were cool and athletic which inspired me to try hard. I remember learning some really great moves for playing dodge ball at my YMCA camp and being able to take that back to the playground at school. Before the camp, I was a bit shy in new social situations. Learning how to act at camp really helped me blossom and excel. One of my best memories growing up was my summer “Travel Camp” at the YMCA. Every day the camp of around 8-12 kids would go to a different place around the county from local pools and parks to the science center and baseball games. It taught me at a young age to realize how much more was out there. When you are young it’s so easy to get into a bubble of your local town. Being exposed to things I hadn’t seen inspired me to want more and to see all that the world has to offer.

When I was around 12 years old and the Homework Helper was booming I was invited by Penn State University (Beaver County Campus) to come teach a web design course for children. My first year I was teaching a group of kids, eight hours a day, for a week on how to create websites from design to publishing. This year I’ll be continuing on with my classes there as I have every summer since. This year we’ll be doing Video Production Camp and showing kids camera and editing techniques so they can learn to make their own videos.

Teaching really changes me. For one, I have even more respect for teachers! Boy do they really work hard! It’s no walk in the park even for something I know as well as Filmmaking. It’s also a wonderful way to get back in touch with a child’s creativity. When you can let yourself go and just play with the students things get really inspiring and I always walk away changed for the better.

So without further ado…

5 Tips to Make Your Child’s Summer Break Experience Even Better with Camps

 1. Talk with your child about their passions.

This should be pretty straight forward but often at camps I see children who aren’t engaged and not for lack of the counselors trying. Some parents just sign their kids up for whichever camp might sounds good but really its just a waste of money if your child isn’t interested. They won’t get the full experience. I often would see kids from other camps wondering around to see what the other kids were doing and instantly looking excited.

2. Ask around for what’s going on during the summer!

My mom found out about travel camp by asking the front desk clerk at the YMCA what camps were going on that summer. If your child plays sports, ask the coaches what they have heard about. Your child’s teacher is also a great resource to tap into.  Here’s some quick places that normally have camps offered:

  • Local Community Centers (Like the YMCA or Boys & Girls Clubs)
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Libraries
  • Science, Art, and History Centers
  • Local Parks and Recreations Department
  • Gymnastics and Dance Studios

3. Go big! They won’t forget it!

If you can afford it, there are some real life changing camps out there for children and young adults. If your child has a strong passion for, say, Scuba Diving there are camps available that are a week long to help hone their craft at some of the best dive spots in the world. A few young adults I have met along my dive adventures even got professional level certification dives while away on dive boats for summer vacation.

I used to go to Soccer Camp every summer as an overnight week long camp and learned way more in a week than in most of my regular season conditioning. By playing with some of the most dedicated players in my area and professional level adults you are forced to learn very quickly and you carry those skills for the rest of your playing career.

4. Don’t let cost be prohibitory. There is help.

It really differs from state to state but there are TONS of programs out there for low income families to help send their children to summer camps. Almost every single camp I ever attended had children who has scholarships/grants to attend. They are treated no differently and you’d never know if they hadn’t told me on their own. Check out the American Camp Association’s Grant program page to see what’s available. Also, if your child is interested in a specific camp, just give them a call and ask what help might be available. You never know if you don’t ask.

5. Create your own camp!

If your child already has a great network of friends, maybe all the parents can split up their time and plan some great summer vacations and trips for everyone. The sharing of time will be a great relief for everyone and can be a real bonding experience with your child and their friends. Maybe all the parents pitch in equally every week to provide the costs and meals for day trips around the local area. Sometimes we just need to create our own roads.

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BJ is co-founder of BJ Pinchbeck's Homework Helper. In addition to his work on the homework helper website he is a filmmaker and photographer in Miami Beach, FL.

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