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Ask a Camp Director: Learn from Frederick Area Summer Camps

24-7 Dance Studio (Photos courtesy of camps)

Camp season is quickly approaching and as parents, you want to do everything you can to make sure your child has a fun, safe and educational experience.

So, we saved you the leg work and got in touch with local camp directors, asking essential questions so you can send your child to camp with peace of mind. Find out how you can protect your child with allergies, encourage your shy child and help them develop skills they’ll use the rest of their lives.

What can parents and camps do to make sure their shy kid has fun at camp?

Hana Malone, The Delaplaine Arts Center: Having a shy child can be challenging when encouraging them to get involved in activities and hobbies. Parents could suggest that the child invites their friend to attend the camp with them so that the child has familiarity in the classroom and something special to look forward to.

Camps, instructors and staff can promote a comfortable environment by communicating effectively. Staff can also check in with the student [in] subtle ways to make sure they feel supported and have what they need. Open communication between camp staff and parents [is]important, too, as far as what a shy child may need during camp or what the student may verbalize at home about the camp. Shy children have a greater chance of inching out of their shell if the space is safe and inviting by all.

Susan DesRoches, 24/7 Dance Studio: The best thing to do is talk to your kids and let them know there will be other children that feel the same way. For the youngest campers (ages 3-5), it is not unusual for them to cry a little the first day. The beauty of watching them in camp is by the end of the week, they have made friends and are excited to perform for their loved ones by the end of camp. It is important to find a place that is nurturing and knows how to handle the kids that are unsure.

What are ways camps can support social/emotional health?

Jonnell Landsman, Glenelg Country School: We have well-trained and highly educated GCS teachers that mostly work in our summer program. Their teaching background provides an environment that is age-appropriate and allows each child to develop their social and emotional skills. We also have counselors that help children navigate through peer conflicts and moments of uncertainty.

Delaplaine: Camps can support social health by creating a welcoming place for discussions. Also not necessarily having an ice breaker that puts students on the spot but giving them other topics or activities that unify the students and promote discussion among themselves. Relating to students is important as well. It shows them that you may have similar interests as a staff and invites them to share what they enjoy.

What relational, academic or other skills will my child take away from camp?

Delaplaine Arts Center (Photos courtesy of camps)

Peter Kallin, Mercersburg Academy Summer Programs: We love the friendships that participants build at our camps! We are technology free for most programs, which allows everyone to authentically connect in person and build friendships that last for years to come. Depending on the program, participants will learn sport-specific skills, musical theater techniques, or educational skills in such areas as writing, robotics and STEAM.

Donna Grim, Dance Unlimited: Enrolling children in a half-day dance or acting camp is the perfect way to introduce budding young dancers and actors to the performing arts. Our Mini camps are three hours in the morning with a mix of skill-building and related crafts. These weeklong camps are popular because they are stress-free and low-key. The children are always eager to share what they have learned and an informal end-of-the-week performance for
parents is the highlight of the week.

What age should my child start thinking about camp leadership?

24/7: At 24/7 Dance Studio, we have student teachers and camp helpers that are 12 years of age or older, and it is required that they take training from the studio so they know how to handle medical, emotional and other needs of children. These leadership roles help FCPS students earn volunteer hours… which is so important for college-bound children.

Mercersburg: We are able to hire junior counselors at 16 years of age. It is a great learning experience, as each staff member gets to learn about time management, conflict resolution and more. Hard work can be fun, too!

How can camps accommodate kids who aren’t athletic or have no interest in sports?

24/7: The beauty about the arts is that you can dance no matter what activity level you are. So much of it is based on what you feel inside. For those kids that are not interested in dance, theater is a wonderful outlet to act and sing and express themselves.

Glenelg: We offer a variety of summer camp programs including adventure camps, traditional camps (PreK-eighth grade), specialty camps, STEM, art, writing, and sports camps. With a
wide variety of camps to choose from, students get a well-rounded experience and offerings for camps each week.

What’s the biggest struggle kids have at camp?

24/7: I think the biggest challenge our youth [face] is a lack of confidence and thinking they cannot do it. When children see there are others who feel the same way, there is a level of “I can do this” that happens. They can make friends, they can contribute and they can have fun!

How can families be sure their kids are covered for food allergies? Do they need to pack a special lunch?

Delaplaine: Camps should provide…documentation that relays anything health-related so that the parents can inform the camp of accommodations, allergies or diagnoses. Parents should also verbally express any needs or concerns so there are not any assumptions. Therefore, the staff can plan accordingly for the student to have an easy and seamless experience. If the camp does not provide a variety of meal options, the parent may need to supply the child’s lunch. However, gluten-free, nut-free and milk-free options are readily available and should be a part of the camp’s research to deliver a safe lunch for all.