The questions start coming in January. You barely have the holiday decorations down when other parents ask what your kids are doing for summer. Their kids have the most fabulous plans imaginable -- enriching, exotic and expensive. And your kids? You might take them to the town pool or sign them up for camp at the local Y. Remember when summer meant long, delicious afternoons with nothing to do and no responsibilities?
“I hate fancy camps! And I hate parents who think their kids should go to fancy camps!” says Dana Linett Silber, a mother of three in Manhattan. “I know parents who pride themselves on sending their kids to luxe camps or overthink it, trying to find the exact right fit for their kid. I send my kids to Y camps for a good ol' retro summer. The food sucks and the pool is too cold and that's the way it should be!”
The top-of-the-line camp phenomenon is not restricted to Manhattan. In Seattle, it’s been observed by Nancy Hawkes, mother of 11-year-old Isabel. “Probably the most far-out camps I hear about are the wilderness survival camps that are popular out here,” she wrote in an email. “Send your 8 year-old out into the woods with a granola bar and a compass and see if he can find his way down the mountain before he dies of exposure! Then there are the 'find your Spirit Bear' or 'connect with your inner totem' experiences for kids. Seriously. I think my favorite is the circus camp where they learn to juggle and walk the high wire!”
But what kids need in the summer is to relax, says Michele Borba, parenting expert and TODAY contributor. “They’ve just been through nine months of stress,” she points out. “They don’t need a tiger mom in the summer.”
Yet many working parents rely on camps for summer child care. Kathy Kinney, of Mexico, N.Y., the mother of two boys in college, makes a good point about keeping children busy over the summer. “Kids left to their own devices these days don’t come back with skinned knees and sunburn,” she says, “but are more likely to be in a chat room with a 50-year-old pervert.”
Borba suggests that parents enroll kids in camps that tie into their non-competitive hobbies, such as knitting, cooking or art. “Hobbies are strong resilience builders,” she says. “Swimming could be a hobby, but not if you have them going for a Gold Medal.” She also recommends parent-child book groups, as well as buying a yoga DVD, or finding a kids' yoga camp or class. “Yoga helps them stay in shape, and the deep breathing helps them relax.”
It’s not so bad for the parents, either.
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