There is something a bit mind-boggling about the idea of "summer camp" for our wee preschoolers. The parental mind leaps ahead to sleep-away camp and care packages and hoping for a phone call, but we're really not ready to think about our kids growing up so fast!
That mental hurdle may be why some have yet to face the question of what in the world we're going to do with these little ones once preschool is out for the summer (and that's soon, very soon!). It's an urgent issue to say the least, so if camp is the answer, then we're all for camp. Luckily, in many places there are all manner of wonderful day camps for preschool age kids, and The Savvy Source's camp directory can help you get started with your search.
As with preschools or classes, the question becomes how to choose the right camp for our kiddos. We want them to enjoy these precious summer months as much as possible! So here's our best advice on what to look for:
As we all know, our darlings thrive on routine, and familiar settings allow them to feel comfortable exploring the bounds of their own capacities. So if you can find a camp that has some element of familiarity for your child, the summer is likely to get off to a great start. Your child's preschool may offer a summer program, for example. Or, a place where your child regularly takes a class or visits (i.e. a gymnastics place or your local children's museum) might offer weekly camps that your child can adapt to easily. If the place is unfamiliar, consider signing up with a friend or two from school in order to ease the transition.
On the other hand, summer is special and we do hope to give our kids a sense of its unique freedoms. Summer is a time to try new things, to take adventures, and preschoolers love adventure as much as they love coming home to what they know. So do also keep in mind the idea of trying something new when looking at camps for your little one. Maybe she's been asking about soccer - why not try a week of soccer camp? Or maybe he's had a hankering to explore the forest - a nature camp of some sort might be a magical experience, a complete change of pace from the usual school routine. At this age, brand new activities and environments are best enjoyed in small doses at first. Camps that you can sign up for on a week-by-week basis are the perfect way to give your preschooler the chance to experiment and have a new adventure this summer.
Whatever sort of camp you think may work well for your child and family schedule this summer, we hope you'll find one that will give your little one plenty of time outside. Playing in the open air, in nature, and with water and sand—these are the things that make summer so special and uniquely enriching for young children. Make sure they get plenty at camp and elsewhere!
Happy "camping" and happy summer, everyone!
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