Are you planning on sending your children to a summer camp this holiday? It's worth considering - an evening around a campfire after a day of climbing trees, water sports and making new friends is the stuff of childhood dreams.
Summer camps are a great way for children to create meaningful friendships and memories. Here is some simple advice to ensure your child is safe on camp seeing as you will be entrusting your precious little ones (or, actually rather big ones) to someone else for a night or three.
Chose a camp to suit your child’s interests
This is less about safety, and more about making sure your child has a good time and will be keen to try out other camps and new experiences in the future. It is vital to choose a camp that matches your child’s interests and passions. Camps can focus on a specific hobby or sport: activities can include rowing, tennis, trekking, horse riding, arts and crafts. Optional activities in camps can include karting, video game workshops and street sports. There are even camps that give children the opportunity to try being a chef or learn to surf. STEM camps – which focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are also becoming incredibly popular to help children improve their grades once they go back to school.
Jade Forbes-Wattley, the camp wilderness manager at The Bushcraft Company, helps run their camps which are designed for children to get out of the house and technology and connect to nature for a few days during the holidays. “We do the outdoor, back to nature element of it. Because it’s just getting children away from their technology and those kinds of things”, says Forbes-Wattley. The Bushcraft includes activities such as shelter-building with natural materials as well as lake swimming and cooking in a bonfire, which is very popular with children. “We have plenty of adults that wish they could come,” she adds.
Safety concerns around summer camps
Forbes-Wattley says that it is important that children are safe while also having the freedom to have fun. “You want to make sure they are in a relatively controlled environment. What we do, I think, really well is providing that kind of safety while children can learn new activities,” she says. It is important to ensure that the camp you choose is safe and well-run. After all, you will be giving the leaders full trust over your child’s welfare. The Bushcraft runs camp activities in three locations including Cornbury Park, in Oxfordshire. They usually last from between two to five days.
Richard Bernstein, the co-director of XUK camp recommends looking out for camps that are registered with Ofsted. This means the camps have been checked independently. The ratings of Outstanding or Good mean that the camp is safe and well-run. Another regulating body is the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA). This government body provides licenses for companies providing adventurous activities such as caving or climbing for children under 18 years.
Staff and pastoral care
It is important to ask about pastoral care for the children. Make sure that someone will be there to make sure your child is eating, sleeping, washing, making friends and phoning home regularly. Homesickness can be a problem, especially for younger children. An ideal camp should also have an onsite nurse available to deal with any medical problems that could arise.
The staff should also be CRB checked. Make sure they have been interviewed in person before being employed and that they are fully trained in first aid, pastoral care and safety procedures in case of an emergency or an accident.
Special needs and activities
It is important to check what the atmosphere of the camp is like. Some camps are specialised in teens or in smaller children – they are often run for six to 17 year olds. Some camps may even last for a month and a half, as in the American style. Most usually operate from Mid July to towards the end of August. However, many camps offer mini breaks for any length of time during the school holiday periods. Camps can be located in the UK, but may also have facilities abroad.
Get advice from other parents
Finally, it is always best to ask for recommendations from other parents and their children. It’s the ideal way to find out if a camp will provide a good experience for your child or not.
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