By Ali Robertson
Long gone are the days of the typical summer camp experience. In some cases, computers are the new campfires and college dormitories are the cabins. Adventure, academic, sports, performing arts – the list of summer camp categories to choose from seems endless. And while the kids are the ones who actually participate in the activities, parents are still responsible for selecting a camp to best suit the needs and interests of their children.
One of the most popular summer trends for youth in recent years has been the rise of education and technology camps. With the support of the digital age, camp directors have developed engineering, computer science and other technology programs for elementary to high school students. These programs offer campers the chance to create their own iPhone apps, design video games, practice web design and build robotics.
While these experiences may stray from the traditional summer camp (think gigabytes, not ghost stories), educators and parents can now worry less about the perils of “summer-learning loss.” However, this unique summer camp experience is often available at a heftier price due to the advanced technology needed for daily activities.
Some kids still want the classic summer camp experience, and a chance to do what generations before them have done: sweat in the summer sun. Sports and recreation camps encourage athleticism, and frequently serve as performance-enhancing workshops. Experienced coaches and trained staff provide direction and tips for the future stars of the sports world.
The biggest change in sports camps has been the development of more specialized programs. Rather than offering a wide selection of sports, some camps target one specific activity. Whether a child wants to practice archery in the wilderness or shoot hoops on the New York City basketball courts, parents are likely to find a number of camp options.
For the young Picasso, Hemingway, or Shakespeare, arts camps are a prime choice for summer. Instructors encourage creativity in song, dance, acting, painting and more. Many of these camps have also recently added a focus on film production.
These camps can often inspire a child’s career path. As competition in the arts and entertainment industry continues to heat up, program directors have turned to a more professional approach. At some arts programs, campers create portfolios. Later, coaches and counselors offer critique, providing real-world experience.
Travel camps are another favorite. Both day trips and overnight trips offer campers a chance to explore museums, water parks or historical cities. Through travel camps, children with working parents do not have to wait until the weekend to visit landmarks in the area.
As travel camps rise in popularity, so do many of the camps’ safety measures. Camp websites will usually post information such as the staff-to-camper ratio, and the certifications the counselors hold.
As much as camps have changed, many aspects still remain true. Camps are a way to keep youth engaged and active – both mentally and physically – while not in school. And most of all, they can help both parents and their children have enjoyable, stress-free summers.