Joy of Summer Camp

Summer camp is a great time for kids, a time parents worry about the most until their kids return home - safe and sound

Summer campWhether it's a day-camp or a weekend-away, adventure sports or robotic workshops, miles away or around the corner, camping gives students a fun outlet to learn and grow.

But, as thousands of parents load their kids on the camp bus and wish them goodbye, many quietly worry about entrusting their childrens' health and safety to camp supervisors.

Sports and adventure camps are physically demanding, especially in the heat of summer. As more campers than ever have health conditions like asthma, and diabetes, this raises special concern at camps. Add to this, food allergies and dietary restrictions, parents would do well to check if a camp can "tailor" meals to meet special diet needs.

Health and safety

Parents can do a lot to keep their kids safe and healthy at the summer camp, says paediatrician Dr Sanjeev Ahuja, who specialises treating children who suffer from environmental health hazards. "Summer camp is great, and there's a summer camp for every kid," says Ahuja. "But, parents need to be honest about their children. What are their likes and dislikes? What is their health status? Parents need to ask a lot of questions about the camp staff before the camp starts - to make sure the camp is able to protect their safety and respond to health emergencies." Parents should also ask about the emergency medical training levels of the aquatic staff and inquire about medical facilities, advises Ahuja.

Summer time is for "all-around development," so what constitutes an ideal camp?

All parents should find out about the camp's philosophy. Is it a general camp or specialised? Says Gool Ghadiali, Principal of Gopal Sharma International School, Mumbai: "We are sending our students to Turkey on a 'World Children's Meet' on 'Global Warming.' Our children will not only be representing the school but our country; so, we will be training our staff and kids as well."

Remember, psychological wellbeing is just as important as physical health, so parents must find out whether their child would be allowed to call home if s/he is feeling homesick.

Type of activity

How much physical activity do campers have, and what's the potential for injury during such activities? If it's a sports camp, you'd do well to know whether trainers and coaches are prepared to handle sprains, strains, heat stroke and other emergencies.

"It can be very difficult for camps to get healthcare providers, so parents need to ask what training the staff have gone through," says Babita Sharma, who religiously sends her kids for camping every summer. She advises: "Ask the camp director how long it takes for an ambulance to get to the camp, and which hospital would someone, who is sick or injured, be sent to."

Safety is an important factor while choosing a camp, voices Commodore Shirke, Chief of Go-Karting Centre at Powai, Mumbai. "Stringent counsellor-to-camper ratio and staff qualifications are mandatory for supervision. This includes rock-climbing, swimming, archery, and camp trip activities."

A great deal can be done to address wistfulness before a camp begins, starting with a realistic assessment of whether a child is ready to go to a sleep-away camp. "It's always good to first try 'play-at-camp' a little bit, and sleepovers are great for that," says Babita. Parents should also talk frankly with children weeks before they leave about how it's all right to miss home, while emphasising on the fun and new experiences that the camp will bring for them.

Do your homework

  • Go beyond what's in the brochure
  • Go for parent-teacher pre-camp meeting/s. Get the contact mobile numbers of supervisors on the camp
  • Inquire about new staff credentials and qualifications
  • Ask about the qualifications of the camp's staff and supervision procedures, including discipline/policies. Do they meet your expectations?
  • Any written plan must include, among other things, provisions for medical, nursing and first-aid services. Injuries and illnesses must be reported to parents
  • Does the camp require medical records for campers?
  • Are camp facilities and activities safe?
  • Is lifeguard or water safety instructor qualified? Are campers required to wear life-jackets when boating or canoeing?
  • Are flammable materials stored away from activity centres and kept under lock and key?
  • Are functioning smoke detectors located in every sleeping room?
  • Are good health practices observed in camp kitchens, dining areas, and food services? Does the camp serve food your child likes?
  • Be informed by the camp director, or his or her designee, of any incident involving your child, including serious injury, illness or abuse.

The time and effort spent in selecting a camp your youngster will attend is important. Keep in touch, if it is your child's first camp experience. And, most of all, stop worrying, and give your kid a good, happy send-off!

Where to Go?

  • Amazing Adventures Summer Camp at Matheran. The camp focuses on confidence-building, team-building exercises, adventure sports, obstacle drills, games, tackling stressful situations, perceptive abilities, and positive attitude. Contact: Sachin and Nehal Chavan. Tel: 022-6452 6869.
  • Raell Padamsee's Academy for Creative Expression [ACE]. Reach for the Stars 2007! The Workshop will focus on performance-oriented skills for little actors and budding divas! Contact: Tel: 022-2284 2845/6/7/8.
  • Get ready to hit the dance floor this summer! Try Quickstep Salsa classes. Call Rupali. Tel: 022-2496 8339/2493 0950/2494 2517.
  • Free Cricket Umpiring Coaching Camp, Thane. May-June; every Sunday. Contact: Dr Prakash Vaze. Tel: 022-2568 5044.
  • Summer Chess Coaching Camp, Thane. Open till June 10. Contact: Tel: 022-2568 5044.
  • Elementary Diver Programme. Kochi, Kerala. Minimum age requirement: 13 years. Basic swimming skills required. Kids are led through snorkelling/diving skills in batches, their evenings filled with educational films, quiz programme on marine life, identification of fish, night walks on the beach and watching turtles laying eggs! For details: Tel: 022-6662 7381/82.

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