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6 benefits to sending your child to summer camp

The Hudson Valley has an abundance of summer camps for kids and by the time spring rolls around, many of them will be booked solid. Many popular programs have already begun accepting applications. Hudson Valley Parent interviewed local children and parents from Dutchess, Ulster, and Orange county on what they feel are the best parts of attending camp.

Find a camp you can afford!

Whether your child likes to run or ride horses, the area’s camps offer something for everyone. There are a variety of price ranges to choose from. While it’s true that these programs can keep kids busy, studies have shown that the camp experience can be enriching too. It helps them to build skills that they can benefit from for the rest of their lives.

Make new friends

Hudson Valley Parent randomly surveyed a group of about 20 campers and their parents about the benefits of camp. Topping everyone’s list was the fact that it  taught them how to make new friends. 7-year-old Melissa Conti of Poughkeepsie is a perfect example. She’s attended Camp Hillcroft, a day camp in LaGrangeville, for the past 2 summers. “I didn’t know a lot of people there,” Melissa says, “but I made a lot of friends. I learned to be nice to each other.”

Learn diversity

Campers and their parents also say that camps teach diversity, since they are introduced to people who are different from themselves.

“Camp is the high point of my summer,” says 12-year-old Allison Noble of LaGrangeville, who has been attending Camp Hillcroft for the past 9 summers. “It’s a fun environment with really nice people. We actually have staff from all over the world. I really love it.” Many of the 20 something counselors at Camp Hillcroft are in fact, visitors from other countries. They stay just for summer.

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Try new things

A number of campers say they tried new things at camp and felt a sense of achievement. “The counselors were like big sisters,” says 9-year-old Maya Greco of Marlboro. She went to the Town of Gardiner day camp. “They taught me how to French braid my hair, play on my iPod, some new cheerleading moves and lots more.” 12-year-old Rachel Fendt of Wallkill went to the Town of Newburgh day camp and has similar memories. “We all learned a dance number to the song, ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ by Cindy Lauper,” says Rachel. “We marched around the pavilion throwing our batons in the air and dancing around. I had a blast.” 10-year-old John Conti of Poughkeepsie went to Camp Hillcroft last summer and gave yoga a try. He liked it well enough to go for a few more sessions, but his favorite activity is something called Puffy. “It’s cool, that Puffy,” says John. “You get to climb trees, and go down water slides. Every summer, I’m anxious to get there.”

Build confidence

Parents say their children gain self-confidence at camp through new friendships and new activities. “They are just mixing it up with different kids from different communities,” says Doris Conti of Poughkeepsie, whose three children attend Camp Hillcroft. “It gives them a chance to just be themselves without preconceived notions. They love the variety of it.”

Lasting impressions

Many parents find that their children come away from camp with memories that will last a lifetime. Tom Knieser sent his two children, Josh and Kate to Camp Chadwick in Newburgh. They grew up to become teachers and he credits camping with inspiring their career choices. “The standard values of responsibility, cooperation and contribution were imparted,” he says, “and they had fun doing it.”

Stay in touch

Thanks to social networking sites like Facebook, campers have been able to stay in touch with one another well after summer is over.  Most camps also have their own Facebook sites, where campers and administrators can put up posts. Even though one of Camp Hillcroft’s counselors lives in Holland, campers have been able to remain in contact with their favorite counselor courtesy of social media.

Stay active

Of course, physical fitness is one of the obvious benefits of sending a child to camp. There are plenty of sports camps for soccer, football, baseball, basketball, and tennis, if your child wishes to focus on a specialty. Many parents and campers alike seem to enjoy the variety that some programs offer. “The kids were always kept busy with their peers and had something more to do than sit home and play video games,” says Debbie Fendt of Wallkill, who sent her kids to the Town of Newburgh day camp. “It gave the kids a social life of their own, along with keeping them busy and active; both physically and mentally.”

Some camps charge thousands of dollars for 4 weeks, while others charge a few hundred. Since there’s a huge price range, as well as a variety of programs, parents may need to do some research before registering their child. Municipally run day camps are generally excellent bargains, offering day trips, crafts, swimming and sports.

Contact your local Parks and Recreation Department for more information. Many camps offer early bird rates for those who register by January or February.

4 things parents should know about camps

  1. As parents prepare to register their children for programs, here are some things to consider:
    “The great thing about camps is that the kids interact. They socialize, so they have to get off of their computers!,” says  Tom Quinlisk, recreation supervisor for the Orange County Parks Department. He’s also been running the county’s summer day camp for the past 25 years. What makes this particular camp unusual is that the counselors are all adults. Most of them work as local school teachers during the school year.
  2. Municipal camps remain the best bargain.                                 
    Orange County’s camp program may be the most affordable in the region. 
  3. Most municipal camps begin their registration in the Spring.            
    While private camps are taking applications now, Orange County will begin making its camp applications available in May. Next month, Quinlisk and his staff will begin putting together their camp mailing list. If you wish to be placed on that list, you’re welcome to contact him at 845-457-4910 or tquinlisk@co.orange.ny.us.
  4. Camps are regulated by the health department.                   
    All camps in New York fall under State Health Department regulations. Kitchens must pass inspection and each camp must submit an acceptable safety plan.