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Camp Scene for Tweens

What does a tween summer getaway look like?

Tips to find the best camp for your preteen

Tweens are caught in the middle. They’ve hit double digits in terms of age or are close to hitting them and no longer want to be considered a child, yet they’re not quite a teenager. Once kids hit the pre-teen years, going to summer camp can lose its “cool” factor. With this mindset, keeping a pre-teen interested in summer camp can be a challenge.

Let kids have some control of their destiny and choices, suggests Patrice Macauley, program coordinator for Camp Ulster at SUNY Ulster Community College. Give them the options: a camp of their choice, a babysitter job or a visit to grandmas. “You will find most kids will choose a camp, especially if it is on a topic or theme they want to experience,” says Macauley. 

Connect with their interests
The key to getting kids excited about camp is finding out what topic excites your child, then finding a camp related to that activity, says Dennis Mucenski, an educational leader at SUNY CSI Camp.

“If they are interested in video games, look for a camp about computer graphics and making basic video games. If they are interested in television shows like CSI, Criminal Minds or Law and Order, my forensics camp would be a great match,” continues Mucenski.

For gamers, the iD Tech Computer camps at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie are perfect. They offer a variety of camps specifically for tweens and teens interested in web design and video games, such as 3D Game Design, Game Modeling, Programming and Graphic Arts. These camps will be virtual for 2021.

The Art Effect, also in Poughkeepsie, offers a Junior Art Institute for kids ages 11-14 and an Art Institute for teens ages 14-19. Kids explore the classical elements of design, composition, value, color, expression, and more.

“Art Effect instructors, who are all professional artists, work with students who are career-minded in the arts. They’ll learn color schemes, conceptual skills and assessment skills,” says Todd Poteet, director of the Art Institute.

Find all these camps and more at HVP's Camp Guide  

“Students in the Junior Art Institute will gain more experience, work in different artistic mediums and build on higher levels of visual and thinking skills,” Poteet adds.

“There are camps on just about everything imaginable,” Mucenski says. However, the first step is finding out what subject catches your child’s interest. That specialized focus has been instrumental in camp success for Kathleen Cuneo, a Rockland County mother of three daughters. Although a camp with a broad focus works well for her seven-year-old, Cuneo now seeks programs that concentrate on a specific topic, which allow her pre-teen and teenager to explore their interests and develop their talents.

Cuneo’s thirteen-year-old daughter, Jackie, enjoys music, theater and writing. Last year, Jackie, who plays the trumpet, attended her first overnight camp at Luzerne Music Center in Lake Luzerne, NY. This year, Jackie will register for a creative writing camp that supports her passion for writing.

Who makes the decision?
To stir excitement in your tween, give your child the camp catalog or encourage your child to search the Internet and locate a camp of his choice.  Before the search begins, be sure to set some guidelines, such as maximum cost, length of program and distance away from home.

Become a camp counselor
Registering as a camper isn’t the only camp choice for pre-teens. “Girls at the age of 12 with some training can become day camp aides (DCA) where they assist the adult counselors with the younger girls,” suggests Kathie Cayton, membership specialist for Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson. “They have the opportunity to plan activities and facilitate them, as a group, with the same younger girls they are with all week.”

At the same time, the DCAs have activities geared for girls of their own age so they get the best of both worlds, being a day camp aide and a camper, says Cayton. By being a facilitator and participant, the DCAs instill the spirit of service to others, while forming positive relationships with caring adults. 

As with the Girl Scouts, Hudson Valley Council Boy Scouts of America offers a counselor in training (CIT) program for young teens. 

During the Cub Scout camp, a daily program for boys ages six through ten, older scouts can participate as CITs, according to Diego Aviles of Hudson Valley Council. Many local YMCAs or school districts also have summer camps that offer junior counselor positions for tweens if they’d like to stay closer to home.

Benefit of camp
Camp provides both intangible and tangible benefits by offering kids the opportunity to grow as a person and in life experiences.  During a camp program, kids will socialize with different people, whereas during the school year, kids tend to interact with the same people, says Dennis Mucenski. 
Also, Mucenski believes camps allow kids to explore their interests more in depth. By doing this, they might focus on what fascinates them and will have the freedom to see what careers they may or may not be interested in. Kids who find the CSI camp exciting could explore careers in law enforcement, science research, problem solving or forensics as a scientist or technician. 

Add to that, campers, DCAs or CITs are in secure environment, involved in safe activities and engaged in physical activities. More importantly, they are busy during the summer season that offers much free time, a time when many youths get into trouble, advises Kathie Cayton. 

Another thought to keep in mind: In today’s society, kids spend more time indoors being “plugged in” to video games and computers with little physical activity compared to a decade or so ago.  “Camping gets kids unplugged inside and plugged in outside,” suggests Diego Aviles. He likes to ask kids and parents, “Would a kid like to play a video white water rafting game or would he rather
do it?”

Learn for learning’s sake
As kids move from middle school to high school, they are moving from being concrete thinkers to being abstract thinkers, says Mucenski. This allows them to learn at a much higher level. Summer camps that do not have grade levels attached to them allow students to learn for learning sake and not be afraid of getting the “wrong” answer. Kids explore, discover and transform their thinking. Best of all, they have fun
doing so.

Mary Jo Rulnick is the author of "The Frantic Woman’s Guide to Feeding Family". She is the mom of two former campers, now camp counselors.