Select Page

PARENTS WANT TO KNOW: How to Choose a Safe and Fun-Filled Summer Camp for your Child

Gulf and Franklin County campers shooting rockets at Camp Timpoochee in June 2017.

As the school year wraps up, you’re likely trying to fill up your child’s summer with fun and educational programs.  Fortunately, you’ll find a variety of day and residential summer camps out there.  Does the thought of  sending your child to camp cause anxiety for your or your child?  If so, let’ me give you some tips to eliminate those concerns.

First, summer day camps and residential camps can be some of the most memorable events in a child’s life.  Some children make memories and friends that last a lifetime. But  as a parent, you need to feel comfortable about the camp you send your child to.

When starting the camp selection process, begin with your child’s interests. Make sure you know the camp will provide activities that will enhance your child’s personality and maturity level.  Including your child in the process will help them feel more secure and excited about what camp will offer them.  This will also help get rid of some of their anxiety because they’ll know what to expect (especially if they have never attended camp before).

Here are questions recommended by the American Camping Association (ACA) to help you make the best summer camp decision.

Questions to Consider in Selecting a Residential Camp:

  1. What locale do I want to consider? (mountains, oceanfront, distance from home, etc)
  2. Do I want a traditional camp that gives my child a wide variety of experiences, or do I want to select a specialty camp that focuses on a particular activity or set of skills?
  3. What size enrollment will make my child feel comfortable?
  4. How rustic do I want the camp to be?
  5. How structured do I want the program to be? Does my child like to have lots of choice in the activity schedule?
  6. Is my child ready to sleep away from home for an extended stay? (This will help you to select either a resident or day camp setting.)
  7. What session length will appeal to my child and to our family plans for the summer? (One week? Eight weeks? Length of day?)
  8. How can I stay in touch with my child during camp? Does the camp allow mail, phone calls or e-mail? Does the camp have parent visitation days?
  9. How will the camp meet my child’s special dietary or physical needs?
  10. What is my budget for camp tuition? (Remember, many camps offer financial aid.)

Questions to Consider in Selecting a Day Camp:

Day camps offer experiences unique from residential camps. Because of this, there are specific points to consider when choosing a day camp – transportation, overnights, swimming lessons, food service, horseback riding, group pictures, t-shirts, extended care, field trips, etc.

  1. Does the American Camp Association accredit the camp? (ACA has specific standards applicable only for day camps.)
  2. What training does the staff receive on safety, supervision, counseling, problem solving and other issues unique to working with young children?
  3. Is the price all-inclusive or are there extra charges?
  4. If transportation is offered, where is the closest pick-up location?
  5. Does the camp have an “express bus” which transports children quickly?
  6. If before and after-camp extended care is offered, who is with the children and what activities take place?
  7. Is lunch served, or do campers bring their own sack lunch? Are snacks and drinks provided?
  8. If the camp offers swimming, are there swimming lessons, or is it simply recreational swimming?
  9. Are campers in a group with a counselor all day? Or, are campers free to go from one activity to another with appropriate supervision? In this case, who would you talk to if you had a question or concern about your child?
  10. Is an open house offered before camp starts where you can meet your child’s counselor and van/bus driver?
  11. Are parents allowed to drop by for visits or is there a special parent visitation day?

Along with the above questions, you should also know that in the state of Florida, summer camps are not inspected or regulated by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  This makes it even more important for parents to gather information about the quality and safety of the program on their own. Parents should check to see if they are welcome to visit and observe the camp in action or attend activities with their child at any given time including water activities.

DCF suggests you ask these questions:

  1. What the programs health, safety and nutrition policies and procedures?
  2. Is the staff screened?
  3. What are the staff/child ratios and group sizes of the program?
  4. Is the staff well-trained?
  5. Is the program licensed or accredited?
  6. Are parents welcome to visit? Are family activities offered?
  7. Is there a daily lesson plan?
  8. Is the facility adequate for the number of children enrolled?
  9. What are the hours of operation, fees and payment procedures?

Download the Selecting Summer Care for School-Age Children: A Quality Checklist at http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/programs/childcare/docs/SummerChecklist.pdf.

Because you should know – Florida law does require summer camps to conduct background screenings of all camp personnel, including owners, operators, employees and volunteers. Volunteers providing less than 10 hours of service per month do not need to be screened as long as they are always within sight of a person who meets the screening requirement.  In the state of Florida, the camps supported by UF/IFAS Extension meet each of the standards above.

The above questions and items to consider should help you in the camp selection process.  Always feel confident in asking any questions – as the parent, you have the right to feel confident in your child’s camp selection.

As you begin your summer camp search, remember to check out the day and residential camping programs offered by your local 4-H program.    We are confident in our volunteers and staff competency and would love to have your child participate in our safe and fun-filled summer camps.  Contact your local Extension Office for more details.

Resources for this article may be found at:  www.acacamps.org and www.myflfamilies.com.

2017 National Youth Science Day

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4. The 2017 4‑H National Youth Science Day Challenge is called Incredible Wearables!  This year’s challenge was developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln and incorporates the fast-evolving field of wearable technology, teaching kids to not only use technology but to create it and understand how it works.

From watches and eyewear to fashion and virtual reality headsets, wearable technologies are fast becoming the must-have accessory for forward-thinking people around the world. Wearable technologies didn’t start out as trendy however – one of the world’s first wearable technologies was the hearing aid! Wearable technologies are now used in industries around the globe, from education and sports, to health, fashion, entertainment, transportation and communication. In this year’s challenge, youth use the engineering design process to build a prototype wearable technology that will gather data to help solve a real-world problem. They will design and build their own low-cost wearable health monitor following the engineering design process. This process includes defining the problem, designing and building prototypes (solutions) then systematically testing and evaluating enabling them to redesign for optimization of wearability and functionality.

During the innovative, hands-on project, these future engineers must work together to design, build and refine a wearable health-tracking device that is easy-to-use and aesthetically appealing. In fact, youth from Bay County have been training with their adult leaders to teach this challenge to other youth in their community on National Youth Science Day. Jason Scott, from Scott Innovative Solutions and an engineer at NSA PC, teamed up with the Bay County 4-H Agent to teach youth and adult partner teams about this project enabling them to be able to share their knowledge with others on October 4. When participants will attempt to solve the problem of people not staying active enough to lead healthy lives. In fact, youth will build a prototype fitness tracking device that could ultimately be marketed and sold to consumers to positively affect fitness behaviors.

After completing the challenge youth will have had an experience of using the engineering design process to build a device to help them monitor their health so they can gather data to make better decisions. They will understand more about how wearable technologies like FitBits, Smartwatches and other wearable devices are made.

The field of wearable technologies continues to grow in both quantity and quality. New technologies are being developed and put on the market on a regular basis, including virtual reality and augmented reality devices, clothing and accessories, as well as health monitoring devices. The future of wearable technologies is limited only by the imaginations of those designing them. By studying STEM and participating in this National Youth Science Day Experiment, youth could use technologies to develop products and mechanisms we haven’t even thought of, but definitely desire! To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Comparing device to prototype

 

4-H in October

October is an exciting month for 4-H – we have some great things happening. First, it includes National 4 H Week, October 1-7. This year during National 4-H Week, The Northwest district is proud to celebrate the #TrueLeaders that make our community great. Every child deserves to be recognized for the great things they are doing. Help us celebrate #TrueLeaders during National 4-H Week by shouting out your favorite 4-H’er. #TrueLeaders lead by example, empowering their peers and inspiring communities. 4-H’ers, show your pride this National 4-H Week! Share photos of how youth are stepping up as #TrueLeaders in your county.

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4.

Our local Tractor Supply Company will be supporting 4-H clubs October 4-15 with their Paper Clover Campaign, this is a national in-store fundraiser that benefits state and local 4-H programs. Tractor Supply invites friends and family to support 4-H by donating $1 at store checkouts for scholarships that send local kids to 4-H camp and other 4-H leadership experiences.

October also represent a time when our local tailgating youth will advance to the state finals. The northwest district will have 8 youth advancing to the state competition October 14.

October also means that it is fair time! You will be able to view our 2017 4-H youth exhibits across the Panhandle at local fairs and rodeos!

Central Panhandle Fair – October 2 -7
Art in the Garden Festival at the UF IFAS Research Center in Quincy- October 7th
Bonifay Rodeo – October 5-7
Walton County Fair – October 9-14
Panhandle Youth Expo– October 11th-14th
Pensacola Interstate Fair – October 19-24
North Florida Fair – November 2-12

Local 4-H youth will exhibit their artwork, plants and animals that they have been caring for this past year. Youth exhibits and plants are judged. Youth receive ribbon awards using the Danish judging system at county and regional fairs. This means that exhibits are judged against a “standard” rather than against other exhibits. For example, a painting that has been created by a 4-H’er is not compared to other paintings. Rather, it is judged according to the criteria of standards for paintings. A blue ribbon means that the exhibit meets high standards and good quality work is shown.

October and November are busy months in 4-H. To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Plan to Purple Up on April 21st

April is the Month of The Military Child! When we think of honoring our military, we often think of Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Did you know there is also a time identified to honor our youngest heroes, military children? Since 1986, April has been designated Month of the Military Child. This allows us to honor military children and their families for their commitment and sacrifice. In Florida, we have over 94K active and reserve military members whose families worry that they are in harm’s way when they deploy. Most people think of the color green when they think of 4-H, but on April 21st, 4-H youth and volunteers in Florida and Nationally will be sporting the color purple to show support for our military families.
Here locally we want you to join us in showing your support and to celebrate our young heroes! Participate in the 7th annual Purple Up! For Military Kids. Wear purple on Friday, April 21st, as a visible way to show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices. Why purple? Purple is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue.
The goal is for our military youth to see the support of their community. Please join us in honoring these young heroes as we Purple Up! For Military Kids on April 21st! Be creative….the goal is for military youth to see the support in their school, youth groups, and the community! If you don’t have or own a purple shirt wear a purple ribbon, tie, headband etc. Just show your support and let our youth know we care about them! Can’t make the 21st ? Then do something another day in April. We would like to encourage you to take pictures of your group wearing purple and share them on social media using #fl4h, #purpleup.