by Dottie Conigliaro
Parents have a lot of important decisions to make when choosing a summer camp for their child. It’s a decision that the child should have a say in as well.
Summer camp can be anything from a few hours a day, focusing on one particular type of interest, to full-time sleep-away with a varied schedule and lots of different activities. Camps can be held in parks, recreation centers, college campuses, in a theatre or even at a mall. Some camps cater to specific age ranges, others take care of special needs. Overall, when the summer is over, the camp experience should have been enjoyable, enriching and memorable.
Traditional camping experiences are offered by religious, cultural and non-sectarian camps and can be day or sleep-away camps. These camps offer a variety of programs and activities including swimming, arts and crafts, hiking, drama, ceramics, woodworking and computers. Traditional summer camp broadens campers’ experiences and teaches them how to live with others, share their time and friendship.
Is your child interested in a specific activity? There are camps that specialize in sports, performance, computers and even careers. Some camps provide for limited registration and, in a few cases, will select participants after an interview or audition. Other camps focus on giving children a well-rounded learning and fun experience while interweaving lessons of faith.
One such camp is offered by JCC on the Hudson. Located in Tarrytown, the Center teaches a strong sense of community by promoting mutual respect, sportsmanship, and team building. Jewish values and cultural experiences integrated into regular activities teach children of all faiths and backgrounds tolerance and understanding through Shabbat celebrations, theme days, craft projects, games and stories. Camp programs are offered for preschoolers ages 2-6 (River Friends Day Damp), and for children ages 5-16 (Camp Twelve Trails). For teens ages 13-17, tryouts are currently winding up for the 2017 Maccabi Games, where Jewish teens from all over the world compete in such Olympic-style events such as baseball, basketball, soccer and tennis.
With childhood obesity at an all-time high in the U.S., weight loss/health camps have have become more popular than ever. Campers enjoy activities such as boating and biking, non-competitive sports and group activities. They become part of a family and feel like they belong. Unlike the so-called diet camps and fat farms, weight loss camps are not focused on calories and eating, but on having fun and dietary education in a non-threatening atmosphere.
Many towns throughout Westchester and Rockland offer summer camp programs through their recreation departments. Westchester County Parks offer several options for kids of all ages. The Children’s Summer Ecology Program introduces children in grades one through six to the natural world through hands-on activities, wildlife study and everyday science.
Parents with special needs children have more options open to them than ever before. Many camps have installed facilities to enable more children to mainstream in traditional camp settings. There are also camps that specialize in specific needs such as ADD and autism and specific medical conditions.
No matter what your child’s interest, summer camps offer a memorable and meaningful experience for them. For a complete list of camps in our area and region, visit The American Camp association at www.acacamps.org.