With an overwhelming landscape of summer day camp opportunities for kids in New York City, it can feel impossible to select the right one for your child. As a camp director for more than seven years, I have learned what components are key to an engaging, safe, and fun experience. Here are some tips on what to look for when choosing a summer day camp:
You want to be sure the environment is right for your child, and much of that comes down to who is in charge. Ask leaders if the camp has been accredited by the American Camp Association — those with accreditation must meet rigorous guidelines regarding program quality and the health and safety of campers.
Find out counselors’ experience level and training procedures, and if their goals for the summer align with your own. Research shows that kids with positive adult role models develop better self-esteem, so strong leadership is of the utmost importance.
It’s important to consider where your child will spend his time. Think about the commute, and ask if camp buses are available. Visit the campus and assess safety and privacy measures as you walk around. It’s a bonus if your camper has the opportunity to meet new friends right in his own neighborhood.
Strong social-emotional skills have benefits both in the classroom and in life, and a national study from The American Camp Association demonstrates that camp is a unique setting for this type of development. Camp is a great opportunity for your child to build skills like self-awareness and responsible decision-making, especially if it offers the right mix of activities. Which leads us to…
Team sports, dance, cultural activities, creative writing, and gardening offer opportunities for growth and provide children with the chance to shine outside of a formal classroom setting. Group activities also provide kids with a common purpose and a sense of belonging, which helps kids develop resilience — another critical life skill.
Kathleen Duffy has been director at Asphalt Green for seven years. Asphalt Green offers summer day camps for kids at its Upper East Side and Battery Park City campuses.