While it’s still too early to pack your kids’ sunblock and swimsuits for a day outdoors, it’s not too early to start planning ahead for summer day camp.
Staten Island parents who choose to enroll their children in camp during the summer hiatus from school say they have no regrets and highly recommend summer camp as a means of curing summer boredom, keeping their kids healthy, active, and occupied — and unplugged from their world of technology.
Working moms, like Christine LoPorto of New Springville, with kids who thrive on learning new experiences in a fun, diverse, and educational setting, said the decision to send them to camp was a no-brainer. She and her husband, Anthony, enrolled son, Anthony, 11, and daughter, Christie, 9, in Staten Island Academy summer camp when they each turned four years old.
She continues to send them as an alternative to whiling time away at home for the two month break from school with a nanny, their heads buried in digital devices. “My children do well with scheduled daily activities and instead of staying home and watching TV and playing video games, my children are in a fun, social environment that includes sports, arts and crafts, swimming, science lab and more,” she explained.
Recalling fond memories of attending summer camp as a youngster herself, Audrey Giambrone of Westerleigh is an advocate of what she feels is a childhood rite of passage. “Camp for me was some of the best summers I have in memory,” she said.
Mrs. Giambrone, who remembers going on trips and making lifelong friends, registered her 6-year-old daughter, Amelia, a year ago for her first summer camp experience at Staten Island Day Camp on the grounds of The College of Staten Island. Besides the fun educational and sports activities, Mrs. Giambrone feels summer camp provides strong social and life skills, like swimming, good manners, and interacting and working with others in a group.
“I feel like that’s important and socializing is huge for kids,” she said.
Even if she and her husband, Michael, weren’t full-time working parents, they would want to have their daughter occupied over the summer. “We have a pool, but there is only so much you can do,” she said. The camp offers door-to-door service, is conveniently located close to their home, has an onsite swimming pool, lots of activities — including bringing in live demonstrations and presentations — and has a good reputation and long history, according to Mrs. Giambone. Plus, its program coordinates with their full-time work schedules, according to Mrs. Giambrone, who made their decision after attending an open house.
“This camp had a lot of happy parents and a lot of happy kids — you usually find one or the other,” she said.
Socialization was also a big draw for Gina Vitale of Richmondtown, who wanted her son, Demarcus, to interact with other children at a young age. She thought summer camp was the perfect solution — especially since he was only 5 years old.
She decided on summer camp located at P.S. 53 where he has made close friends and had unique experiences over the last six years. Ms. Vitale believes camp is a productive way to ensure children remain active — especially in the summer when they are not in school full time. “I feel it is not healthy for a child to sit in all day,” she said, noting that the camp has a wide range of activities, like singing and dancing, and day trips.
Ms. Vitale, also full-time working mother, said the summer camp experience has been remarkable for both her and her son. “They know my son by name and the fact that he looks forward to it makes me even happier,” she said.
Do your homework
Parents considering summer camp should research a provider’s criteria, identifying a safe facility that has a well-trained, qualified, and professional staff, according to Mrs. LoPorto. She said a range of activities that were both fun and diverse — such as dance and arts and crafts to sports and science lab — was second on her checklist. “Lastly, was the schedule — we needed something flexible from June through August,” she said.
Mrs. Giambrone recommends attending open house tours of prospective camps, and viewing their websites for research on the facility, staff qualifications, safety criteria, and overall suitability.
Meanwhile, safety was the most important selling point for Ms. Vitale, especially since her son was so young. “I looked for a camp that would pay attention to my son and not their cell phones,” she said.
As far as the financial cost, parents like Mrs. LoPorto and Mrs. Giambrone said the rewards far outweigh the financial commitments in the long run. “When we calculate what the nanny service would cost us for 12 weeks, Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with hot lunch, the price was no longer a deterrent,” Mrs. LoPorto said.
Mrs. Giambrone agreed, saying the program’s wide variety of activities and content — as well as the availability of a lengthy summer camp schedule that begins July 1 and ends Aug. 23 — offset the price tag. “The experience is priceless and outweighs the cost,” she said, adding that her older daughter still talks about her summer camp memories.
Some camps do have a waiting period and some offer early sign ups — with discounts for previous camp families, which Mrs. Giambrone takes advantage of by signing up in February, she said.
While none of the parents interviewed have sent their children to the more expensive and comprehensive sleep away camp option, that is another alternative for those who want to enhance and expand their older children’s home away from home experience. Some sleep away facilities offer mini camps on a trial basis to help amateur campers — and worried parents — decrease their separation anxiety over a shorter time span.
Lasting memories — and slime, ice cream, and rockets
Mrs. LoPorto said her children also look forward to summer day camp every year for its familiarity and friendship; lessons on life skills, as well as special events, like theme days, and end of summer show.
Both Anthony and Christie learned how to swim and improve their water skills with the aid of lifeguards, and excelled at activities like dance, basketball, soccer, and baseball — and even learned an Israeli dodgeball-like game called, “Gaga.” They especially love making slime and ice cream in the science lab and participating in special projects, like constructing rockets.
“With so much technology and screen time, camp is a great way for the kids to unplug and be kids and out in the sun,” Mrs. LoPorto said. “They make great new friends, new experiences, and burn off energy running around all day long,” she added. “SIA has continuously provided nothing but a safe, fun, and memorable summer camp experience for our children,” she added.
Mrs. Giambrone said her daughter came home happy every day last summer — and is already getting anxious to attend this summer’s season to do arts and crafts, play basketball, see her friends, and play games — her favorite part of camp.
She said even if moms or dads are stay at home parents — or are off during the summers with their children — it can be increasingly expensive and difficult to plan activities to curtail their boredom every day.
“Camp is somewhere to go that has a lot of activities, and it’s a good outlet for them,” she added.
By Christine Albano