Summer camp has long been a very American tradition. Exploring the outdoors, making lifelong friends and roasting s’mores are what many parents associate with summer camp. And while many of those experiences continue to be part of summer camp lore, today’s summer camps are more abundant, accessible and diverse than ever, especially in Miami-Dade County.
For one thing, day summer camps are a lot more popular than in decades past. While sleepover camps are still popular among some segments, the cost is spiking on what was already an expensive option for most parents. Luckily, day summer camp options have become more practical, affordable and even necessary for working parents.
As important as it is for kids to experience the benefits of summer camp, it is also necessary for parents to have a safe and secure place for their children to spend their months out of school while they continue to work. Participation in day summer camps was increasing for minorities, including African American and Hispanic children, before COVID-19 hit, and now that we know it’s even more essential to keep our children active and learning in the summer, parents have more options than ever to get their children in low or no-cost summer camp programs in Miami-Dade County this summer.
Key to keeping learning in summer
Because research has shown that kids tend to regress educationally during what has been termed the summer slide, most summer camps now have an educational component to help children remain sharp academically, with reading and math most often part of the planned activities.
The Children’s Trust is the largest funder of summer camps in Miami-Dade County with more than 270 camps supported and as part of its agreement with summer camp providers, The Trust requires each camp to provide literacy instruction in addition to physical fitness as well as other enriching activities. To make sure that instruction comes from professionals and helps kids keep learning, for a third consecutive year, The Trust and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) are teaming up on Summer 305 to bring M-DCPS teachers into the Trust camps to teach reading and math to combat summer learning loss.
Other educational pursuits, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are also increasingly popular focuses in summer camps. Unlike many school science classes, Superscienceforkids.com explains that STEM science summer camp programming is more focused on practical experiences with students able to conduct real experiments to see how things work in real life rather than in a textbook. That also helps young people see what they are good at and focuses their interests to help direct future efforts. Summer camps with technology and coding components (including for video games!) are also increasingly popular with children and also get them started in an industry which is increasingly important in the future.
Getting healthy: physically, socially and mentally
Although the importance and focus on continued learning during summer is now widespread, summer camps have always been places for children to increase their physical and mental health. When the pandemic temporarily shut down in-person summer camps (as well as practically everything else), it had dangerous effects on our children’s physical, social and mental health.
The physical activities that are part of most summer camps, including playing sports or dancing, among others, help keep our kids in shape and growing as they should. The social and mental aspects are just as important, according to the Mayo Health Clinic. Psychologist Dr. David Swanson told Spectrum News in Chicago that the benefits of summer camp are critical for children still suffering from the aftereffects of the pandemic. “As a psychologist, if I have a kid who is struggling with anxiety or depression. I want him playing with his friends. I want him out of the house. I want him getting out and having a good time. In addition to that, they are able to exercise, it helps regulate brain chemicals and helps them sleep at night,” said Dr. Swanson.
Picking the right camp for your children
While parents in Miami-Dade have the benefit of more options to choose from for their children’s summer camp, making those decisions has also become more complicated. Parents should go through a checklist before making any decision and determine whether the location, hours, staff make-up, safety protocols and activity focus suits their and their children’s needs and interests.
To help parents along their way, The Children’s Trust formed a new partnership with Miami-Dade County and Miami-Dade County Public Schools in the More Summer Camp Choices initiative means that The Trust’s 270+funded summer camps and the county and school systems more than 160 camps are now all listed together on the JCS 211 Miami Helpline, available by calling 2-1-1 or visiting 211miami.org/summercamps. That means parents can find the summer camp that works best for their children, with the focus and activities that most suits their needs and interests, more easily than ever.