This last year of pandemic-living erased all sense of routine. Now that summer is approaching, both parents and kids are craving some normalcy—especially more interaction with their peers, which is where summer camp can come to the rescue.
While some parents may be concerned about COVID safety at camp, many are reassured by last summer’s study conducted by the American Camp Association, which showed that out of 90,000 kids at 486 camps, less than 1 percent of campers and staffers contracted COVID-19. “This summer is looking hopeful! Registration has already opened for many camps, and spots are filling up fast,” says Gregg Morrow, who manages clients at UltraCamp, a summer camp registration and management tool.
So, for parents who are jumping on the camp bandwagon, the only question that remains is: Which camp? Will you choose a day camp that offers a varied program of outdoorsy fun like swimming, sports, hiking, games, and arts and crafts or a sleepaway camp? Or is this the summer for a specialty camp or two?
What are specialty camps?
Some specialty camps are intended for a specific group of kids—such as those with rare skin conditions, campers with cancer, gifted and talented children, at-risk youth, kids with certain health conditions, or individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities. There are also specialty camps for children who want to focus on a particular interest and learn to master a skill—like a specific sport (tennis, soccer, baseball, and more), STEAM, dance, art, academics, and pretty much anything your child shows an interest in.
There are also specialty camps for kids who want to travel—either to experience different cultures or to pursue a passion. For example, there are camps in Costa Rica where campers help save sea turtles.
No matter what your children’s interests are, there is likely a specialty camp out there for them.
The Benefits of a Specialty Camp
Specialty camps allow children (and their parents) to come together around a mutual interest—and gives kids the chance to meet others with the same passion. These relationships foster a sense of community and encourage growth and confidence in kids.
“There is a lot of power bringing people together who share a common love of something and the community that love fosters,” says Mike Samer, co-founder of Everyday California—a San Diego, CA-based surfing camp.
“Specialty camps are a great way for students to hone-in and focus on one thing and one thing only for a short period of time,” says Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of Command Education Group, which hosts a week-long College Application Booster Camp. “Specialty camps allow kids the opportunity to build out and focus on one endeavor and make a lot of progress in a short amount of time.”
These camps are also often shorter (one week as opposed to several), which means they can fill in the gaps between other summer plans like traditional day camp, sleepaway camp, or a family vacation.
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So, if you’re trying to decide between specialty, day, and sleepaway camp for your child, consider choosing two or all three options—if it’s feasible for your family—and line them up to fully engage your kid. After a year of reduced social-emotional learning, it’s the ideal summer for this, according to Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of ACA. “After such an isolating and traumatic year of disruption and loss, the SEL outcomes that result from camp experiences will help young people prepare to thrive in school this fall,” he says.