Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Making your kids happy campers
While it seems like we have barely begun to enjoy spring, in truth summer, or at least summer break, is just around the corner.
For many parents, this begs the question of what to do with their children until the new school year begins.
While young ones may continue with their regular day care, it can be a bit trickier with pre-teens and most definitely tricky when it comes to young teens. (Those who think they are too old for a babysitter, but are still a bit too young to be left to their own devices for 8-10 hours a day.)
One healthy possibility that works for both parent and child is camp. Be it day camps or overnight camps, at least some part of the seasonal break can be accounted for in an often entertaining and sometimes educational way.
SETTING SCREENS ASIDE
Prying kids away from screens and computer games will not be as much of a challenge, if you can find an activity that peaks their interests. There are day camps for just about every type of the child — from the shy to the extroverted — a few hours learning a new skill and meeting new peers may be exactly what is needed to not only keep them out of trouble, but to help them see new possibilities as well.
Finding the right camp situation and funding it can be a challenge but there are many viable options available that just might turn out to be a great memory for your child. Many churches offer Vacation Bible School, which is often craft-activity filled. If that is not your cup of tea, a quick search on the internet reveals camps for just about every genre one can imagine. There are theater camps, writing camps, fiddler camps, and tennis camps — camps to enhance about every sport, in fact, and camps that, on the surface, are simply about keeping the kids occupied. There are day camps and several sleep-away options.
Sure, there may be tears those first few days, but as parents it is our job to keep it together. Wipe your eyes and go take a class of your own, Mama! A little time away is good for everyone!
MAKING MEMORIES & FRIENDS
Some of my fondest summer memories as a teen are associated with time spent at the only camp I ever attended, without family in tow. I do not quite remember how I managed to convince my parents to allow it or how they managed to pay for it, but I do fondly remember time at a scout camp with girls I am friends with to this day.
It seems there were teams assigned different duties and the time leading up to the outing was as much fun as the actual week away. We planned menus, were given a list of items to bring — from sleeping bags to swimwear — and spent a bit of time shopping as a group with a list and budget. It was during these days away that I first exercised a bit of independence while learning some practical skills and making life long memories.
I learned to sail, learned to flip a canoe and right it again, experienced the thrill of swimming in a lake under the stars, performed skits, gathered wood and water, started campfires, made braided lanyard keychains, learned camp songs and mastered the art of toasting the perfect marshmallow on a stick I sharpened myself.
Beyond the basics of camping, great friendships were developed. Occasionally, I got into a bit of trouble here and there — once for taking an unscheduled hike with some fellow scouts and getting a little lost; another time when a few members of our troop decided to raid another campsite and accidentally took out a few junior scouts as we rampaged through the grounds. It was all innocent fun with much more laughter than tears and bigger life lessons than any of us realized we were learning.
When I raised my children, I did send them to some day camps and a week-long overnight camp was a disaster for one, while another flourished. That is the thing about the many options available. It is important to do a little bit of research to make sure at least some aspect of the focus is something your child has at least a little bit of interest in — even if begrudgingly at the onset.
Sending your bookworm to aerial camp may not be a great idea (although one might be surprised), but sending your budding actor to circus camp might turn out to be the best decision you could make.
I remember begging my parents to let me go. I do not really think it would have mattered if we were weaving baskets or on an archeological dig. I was starving for a bit of independence and even then, had a horrific “fear of missing out” (also known as FOMO which, according to my kids, is hereditary.)
Whether you work full time or have the luxury of being a stay at home parent, giving your children the gift of summer camp is one that will benefit the entire family. Over four decades have passed since those brief camp experiences, yet I still smile fondly remembering. I even remember the camp song!
From mosquito bites and sun burns and scavenger hunts and basic sailing skills, I remember it all.
Mostly, I remember forging lifelong friendships.
Kids today may balk at the notion of going without cell phones and video games for more than a few hours, but they will not only survive, they just may discover what will become a lifelong interest and find the entire experience, unforgettable.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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