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First Time at Camp: 5 Tips for a Successful Summer

Your kids can spend their summer painting masterpieces, designing apps, learning languages, singing on stage, conducting experiments or trying new sports. With so many options, is it any wonder you are overwhelmed when trying to select a summer camp? Parents have many factors to consider when choosing a summer camp, and the planning and registration process can seem especially complicated to families who are new to the camp scene. Here are some tips to make your children’s first time at camp so fun that you’ll look forward to signing them up again next year.

Think about the kind of summer camp experience you want. Are you looking for academic challenges or does your student need physical activity to balance out screen time? Do you have a little one you want to prepare for prekindergarten or kindergarten? Is your child considering a sport but unsure about committing to a team?

Once you know the type of camp you need, you can begin researching what is available. You may prefer a half-day option that gives families more variety. At CAMP IDS, parents can mix and match morning and afternoon camps to design a day that suits their children. You can choose a reading camp in the morning and pair it with archery in the afternoon, for instance, to satisfy a need for academic review and outdoor activity. CAMP IDS offers more than 100 camps during seven weeks of sessions.

Full-day camps also have advantages. Field trip camps for all ages span a full day, allowing time to visit fun locations throughout the Tampa Bay area. Other camps choose the full-day format to give students time to pursue their interests in depth. CAMP IDS musical theatre camps for third through 12th graders require a two-week commitment because the students need the time to rehearse a play they perform when the camp ends.

Be aware when you look at camp descriptions that the grade level often refers to the grade the child will enter in the fall. Check with your camp to confirm.

Examine your hours. Many parents rely on summer camp for child care when school is out. Make sure camp hours align with your work schedule. CAMP IDS offers free morning care before sessions begin from 7:15-8:30 a.m. to make dropoff less stressful. Extended care from

3-6 p.m. is available at a small cost. Bus transportation is an option in several neighborhoods to help save parents a trip.

Take a tour. If your child is going to spend the better part of a summer somewhere, it only makes sense that you’d want to learn a little about the facility and its programs. Ask the camp directors if you can visit for a tour.

It’s especially nice for parents of preschool-aged children who may be new to a school setting entirely. Camp directors can show families the classrooms children will use, the playground, the lunch area and more.

Seeing first hand where you check in, where you drop off your child and where you pick them up also helps soothe first-day jitters for parents and kids at a new camp. You can have your questions about lunches, supervision, dress codes and the daily routine answered in person.

Coordinate with a friend. Campers at CAMP IDS come from many different schools, making it an easy environment for meeting new friends. But some kids need the security of exploring a new camp with a buddy. Share your camp plans with other parents and try to coordinate weeks or activities that will make the transition to a new setting a little easier.

Pack a bag. The night before camp starts, pack a small backpack for camp essentials. A refillable water bottle is a necessity in the hot summer. You may also need sunscreen and mosquito repellent as well as snacks and a packed lunch or cash to buy food. Certain camps, such as sports or dance, may require special shoes. Art camps suggest bringing oversized paint shirts.

The backpack is also nice for students to have to bring home all their treasures – science experiments, crafts, worksheets and other projects.

Enrolling students in summer camp provides them with opportunities to pursue their interests, make new friends and prepare for the upcoming school year in a relaxed but engaging environment. With a little planning, it can be a successful experience for parents as well.

Courtney Cairns-Pastor
Courtney Cairns-Pastor
Courtney Cairns-Pastor is the Content Creator and Social Media Coordinator at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. After 15 years as a newspaper reporter covering education, parenting, health and local issues, Courtney changed careers and now tells the story of Corbett Prep. During the week, she’s busy creating content about the private school and managing its social media. On the weekends, you’ll find her running on Bayshore, reading obsessively and cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning. She lives in Seminole Heights with her husband and son.

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