Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Some kids are able to attend summer camps, some aren't.
There are several factors that could make traditional sleep-away summer camp a less-than-ideal choice for some families, such as the age and temperament of children and the significant financial burden that such camps can impose.
Very young children are typically excluded from sleep-away camps automatically, while older kids who do meet age requirements may balk at the idea of spending an extended period of time away from their families and friends. The anxiety and stress that often accompanies homesickness is likely to make parents consider the expense of summer camp an unwise investment, as many summer camps charge hundreds of dollars in fees, even before the added expense of buying supplies.
Here are ten great alternatives for parents who want to keep their children occupied and engaged during summer vacation without sending them to pricey and distant summer camp.
1. Volunteer Programs – Older children can learn a sense of civic responsibility and the importance of helping others by spending part of their summer participating in a local volunteer program. Animal lovers among the smaller set may be thrilled with the idea of helping at a local animal shelter, while others may enjoy working with a local charity or visiting a local retirement community.
2. Community Day Camps – Community centers in most cities offer summer day camp programs, allowing kids to enjoy all of the fun activities that are a part of a sleep-away camp without the stress of spending weeks away from the familiarity of home.
3. Religious Summer Programs – Many places of worship offer vacation workshops and other similar programs with a theme of religious instruction during summertime, which may be an ideal choice for devout families. Kids can spend the summer among peers who share their spirituality, learning about their family’s belief system through arts and crafts, story time, and other kid-friendly activities.
4. Arts Workshops – Many art museums offer programs specifically tailored to budding art aficionados; local universities may also host summer programs for children staffed by students with education or arts majors. University programs may include visual art, musical instruction, or theater programs, depending upon your area.
5. Sports Clinics – Pint-sized athletes are sure to love spending the summer honing their skills, which makes a local sports clinic the ideal choice. These programs keep kids physically active, which is a huge plus for parents who are concerned about the sedentary lifestyle that many children adopt when school ends. Rather than spending hours in front of the television or the computer, kids who participate in a sports clinic can enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and exercise while becoming stronger and more skilled athletes.
6. Academic Programs – During summer vacation many school systems still offer programs for academically gifted children. Some programs even focus on peer-tutoring, allowing more advanced students to offer assistance to classmates who struggle in some areas, which can build a sense of social consciousness. Alternatively, many programs feature an emphasis on building and expanding gifted kids’ already-impressive knowledge base.
7. Scouting – While the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America do have summer camps for their troop members scattered across the country, plenty of troops stay home during summer vacation to participate in locally-based scouting activities. School vacations provide active scouts with the opportunity to earn merit badges and other achievements, which can be difficult to do during the hectic school year.
8. Family Day Trips – Families can spend their summer vacation taking a series of fun and exciting day trips. Visiting the zoo, the park, or a children’s center during the dog days of summer are surefire cures for the boredom and inertia that often sets in around mid-July.
9. Visiting Extended Family – Today’s families tend to be more spread out than in previous generations, so kids might not get to spend as much time with members of their extended family as they would like. While spending a few weeks at summer camp might be daunting for some kids, visiting a favorite family member during summer vacation might not be as stressful.
10. Family Camping Trips – Skipping a sleep-away summer camp doesn’t mean that kids have to forgo the camping experience altogether; outdoorsy families can plan a camping trip that keeps everyone together and costs far less than sleep-away camp fees.
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