No One Said It Would Be Easy: The First Camp Experience
You would think that since I encourage parents to put their children in camp at an early age, that I would feel totally comfortable with my own kids attending camp too. Well I tried that and it didn’t work out so well. Every parent worries when they are leaving their child in the hands of someone else.
Logan really wanted to go to a skate boarding camp with his friends - like really wanted to go. So I did what I thought was right and called some parents of kids that had attended the camp. Everything seemed to be fine, so I registered him.
This camp offered a lunch and snack program and had lots of kids registered, and it was also a non-profit organization so I thought ok, all seems right. Everything should be fine, the government has standards these guys need to work with. I tried to push my over-thinking mommy brain aside and took him in.
When I dropped Logan off in the morning, I waited until I could speak with someone. I assumed I had some papers to fill out since Logan had never been there before; you know the regular safety stuff like allergies, emergency contact information, who was going to pick him up... Well clearly not. They simply told me he was fine and they would see me at 4:30. Ok sure, no problem. Maybe I’m not used to this level of relaxation when caring for children I have never met before. Wait no! I’m not! So I left my contact information and watched as the women at the front desk noted on his file that he has an acetaminophen allergy.
Later that day when I picked him up, I walked right through the front door and to the back. It was a mad house. There was no one older then 14 years old in the room where the children were watching a movie and jumping around on couches. I found Logan eating a slice of pizza (they have a snack bar). Apparently he didn’t eat anything for lunch. After looking for his stuff for 20 minutes I left the building with both Logan and one of his friends. Do you think anyone asked who I was when I entered the room? Or why I was taking another kid that wasn’t mine? No, nope, nothing, nada. So I called the next morning and asked what was going on. They didn’t have good reason, and apparently the 14 year olds are the "counselors"... Right!
Well in my mom’s opinion, this was a horrible experience. Logan was just 6 at the time. Some may say he was to young. I would say that if they had some adult supervision, there wouldn’t be an issue. So I sat myself down and calmed my crazy first time mom experience and put my ECE brain to work. The reasons I was so stressed were clearly justified. BUT, Logan had such a good time. So what do we do? Let them continue to attend these camps where they can run wild? Or do we make an effort to really investigate where our children are spending the day? So I have come up with a few things to look at before registering a child in any program, to help settle the frightened parent inside all of us.
1) Registration. This is simple common sense. These people are spending the day with your kid! They need to know some information about them. Not to mention, there are permission forms for literally everything these days. So if you expect your child to sit on a chair the whole day, your going to need to sign more then the "sitting on a chair" permission form.
2) Instructors. Who are they? Think about the activities your child will be doing that day. Are the people who are taking care of your child QUALIFIED to teach, observe, or take care of your child if anything goes wrong in that activity?
3) Organization. The camp should have a planned program, attendance sheet, and a time-table for the day. The more activities and structure the camp has planned, the better time they will have.
Lastly a final tip from an Early Childhood Educator (ECE): "I know everyone hears this, and every child is different, but what I like to say is every child is human. Camp is a new experience, not only for parents but for the kids too. So a good thing to remember is not only will their bodies be tired from all the fun, but their brains are going to be very tired from all the new! So when you pick up or drop off your child and you see crying, screaming children, or even a kid with a bleeding nose in the corner, don’t jump to ”disaster conclusion” right away. Just like when you take your own child out and they have a meltdown at the end of the day, the same thing can happen at Camp."
About the Author: Shannon Perry is an Early Childhood Educator as well as a certified coach in Run, Jump & Throw, who has been working in the childcare industry for over ten years. Shannon founded Kidz360 in 2010 and is a proud mother of her 8 year old son. Find out more about Kidz360 at www.kidz360.ca.