Contemplating the plethora of summer camps for our children this summer can be daunting with choices from vividly adventurous outdoor pursuits to assemblies of academic activities ranging in settings the world over from the mountains of Colorado, busy city of London, the world over is spilling out a realm of entertaining pastimes to keep our children busy and us as parents happily guilt-free. Here I will outline the benefits of camps, what to look out for and how to prepare our special needs child for camp this summer.
Why do I believe a quality camp is a brain enhancing and therefore a developmentally progressive option?
I as a parent and a camp organiser,I have seen the enormous benefits a camp can instill into children of all ages. My own children have attended various camps which have included performing arts and music camp, family oriented camp with lots of nature visits, and they have attended the A.R.R.O.W. camp which I organised and they all have fond memories of all the camps many years later expressing how they loved, loved loved them. Whilst running the A.R.R.O.W. camp in Trinidad, I could see the development of the children as the weeks progressed. My own children who attended enjoyed the social aspect. The development of the campers’ self-esteem was evident after only a short time using the A.R.R.O.W. programme and this was further developed during the various enriching activities. And many of the same children come back year after year.
It is important to remember that not all children want to go to a camp, but keeping your child’s brain active with plenty of diverse activities is the best way to go. This means not overloading on academics but especially for those who may be struggling at school, this should be scheduled into their regular day. Stimulating their brain with the learning they have been doing during the rest of the year should be a small portion compared to outdoor energetic play, imaginative play, social play, quiet reflection and free time which could include making choices between music, art,creating, reading writing and journal ling.
Some interesting research was conducted on what common pursuits high performing scientists had and here are the results :
- They were also musicians
- they were highly artistic
- they wrote exceptionally well (Barron 1969; Bachtold and Werner 1970)
Given these research results, it is clear that these are areas we should allow our children to have the opportunity to explore with pleasure and develop without judgement or pressure.
Planning a Summer Camp for your Special Needs Child
As with all children, we need to determine our child’s interests, age and personality. We also need to seriously consider what activities will support his/her learning and general development as well as for school.
Arrange a pre-visit without and then with your child to the camp to meet the staff and explore the area.
Prepare your child with discussions about the camp and you could use pictures
Ensure the caring support that your child needs are going to be met and that they know his/her likes and dislikes.
Ensure the staff are trained and experienced
Opt for a shorter day option if it means your child will retain the enthusiasm, rather than tire her out completely and the end of each day becomes too strenuous.
Help prepare your child if it is a residential camp by asking necessary questions to develop their logical frontal lobe part of the brain by fostering self-understanding. Such questions should help them to think of solutions. Following is an example of what you could say;
“Do you expect to feel homesick?”
“How do you think you will cope with this?”
“If you feel homesick, what could you do to feel better?”
What Else Should we Look out for?
I asked several friends who are teaching staff at a Primary School in the UK what their priority needs were when looking for a camp for their own children. The results were very similar with trained staff coming out on top. Also CRB checks (Police checks) completed, first-aiders, quality camp equipment and a variety of activities were among the priorities they expressed. Now these may be different to other parents’ checklists. My friends in the Caribbean may have very different wants. One friend responded by saying “Building blocks, art or any kinetic movement activities to keep my busy bees happy and engaged.” Another Canadian friend who lives in the UK said “Something fun and educational, that would appeal to children who are shy and wary of leaving home! I’d love a Robotics camp, or advanced computer camp to create an app.” Another friend mentioned peace and happiness… thank you guys, I love these.
Our diverse children in many countries of the world offer camps to suit nearly every taste and budget. Exploring camps from the green slopes of Japan to the Caribbean, USA to Europe, I am hoping to arrive with you to a place where we can pick out the best ideas from these places and find a setting for our children based on what they love and what we love for them.
Mountains of Japan
Hakuba International school project. This camp is situated in the natural alps of Northern Japan. Set in open plan classrooms, Hakuba International’s main aim is to provide a first class educational institution with overnight facilities in a stunning valley. It offers hiking, rafting, mountain biking and wake-boarding for outdoor activities while also allowing children indoor time with visual arts, digital communication and music.
Arte Al Sole is based in Florence. This camp offers international children a week long stay with session of art, culture and national science of Tuscany.
Best Summer Camps in USA (residential)
- An adventure outdoor camp offering horseback riding , hiking , archery and riflery set in the Colorado mountains.
- An outdoor camp offering sailing, singing , playing music, art , building fires and play.
- Youth conservation corps. They prepare meals, perform chores and provide environmental education with adventure programming. They call themselves sewerdship programmes as opposed to a summer camp. and have the participants work occassionally in mud surrounded by mosquitoes.
- Located near mountains this camp also offers water sports, creative arts, horseback riding and additional outdoor activities.
- The Roller Coaster Camp visits a variety of amusement parks in different cities with the campers experiencing thrills from rollers coasters and staying at top well known hotel chains while travelling in luxury buses.
A.R.R.O.W. (day camp)
This is a camp situated in the busy capital, Port of Spain, on the island of Trinidad. It offers the unique A.R.R.O.W. programme and thus caters for children who may be struggling at school with their literacy, concentration, self-esteem or listening skills. This programme is used every morning and afternoons are spent on art projects, outdoor games, music, yoga and a variety of excursions around the town, exploring both city and natural environments. Breakfast is provided and all staff are fully trained and experienced. (see http://www.arrowtt.com)
The United Kingdom (day camps)
- Best for academics. The Oxford Summer Academy which provides an academic based setting for 16-19 year old. Campers are lectured by Oxford graduates who can help them to excel in their desired field. There are cultural and historical excursions around and outside of the city.
- Best for all-round. Location: London. This offers specialized camp experiences for 3-17 year olds. Their three main focuses are sport, art and drama. Being cosy, welcoming, fun,convenient for parents and above-all, safe.
- Best for adventure (residential) Location: Scotland. Setting: The Lord of the Rings type. They offer canoeing, hiking, climbing, beach art, fashion shows, karaoke and quiz nights.
- Best for cultural experience. Location: Yorkshire. Half of the campers are from abroad and therefore the children are able to socialize from others from all over the world. They offer various outdoor activities. Safety and welfare is their main concern. Caring staff are chosen for their ability to work with children.
Alot to think about? Yes, but I hope you find the right camp for your child(ren), and if they don’t want to go, that’s fine as well. By all means, all we want for our children this summer as always is peace and happiness!