What’s in an Age? Dissecting the Science of Camp Age Requirements.
Camp Organizers have a tough job. They are trying to coordinate camps that can keep children of wide age ranges, backgrounds, maturity levels and attention spans engaged for the day. Coming up with curriculum can be a challenge, and even more so, there’s the daunting task of firming up the appropriate age groups to actually thrive in their camp environment. They have done their best to design parameters for their programs and hope that all is harmonious once camp starts.
Now, fast forward to Springtime. Parents are trying desperately to find interesting and fun camp activities for their kids. There is nothing worse than sitting down and thumbing through your favorite activity guide, only to find the perfect camp (you think) and have your child be just shy of the minimum age requirement.
What happens next? You ask WHY? Why, Why WHY? You feel your child is fully capable of launching a rocket, playing golf or has a real proficiency building (or deconstructing) their sibling’s Ninjago Lego™ sets. You pick up the phone to voice your concerns. Some common parent comments are: My child is very mature for his age, He loves older kids, I need a longer day for them, can’t you just add her in? Yes, we are camp providers, but many of us are also parents. We feel your pain. We hear your words. We understand your needs (is this helping?), but we have guidelines for a reason. Let me add some perspective.
Let’s say you have a 10 year old that is very excited to come to science camp this summer. The chosen week listed is for children ages 5-12. Let ‘s also throw in the variable that registration of the ages will vary. We could have three 12 year olds, ten 9 year olds, a couple of 6 year olds and then someone has requested their 4 1/2 year old join in. From the older child’s perspective, the camp may feel like it is going too slowly, since they are waiting for the youngest child to finish their project. The older child may also be needing assistance but the younger child requires far more attention than the staff ratios can bear. Now the camp is revolving around making sure the little one is having their needs met as opposed to the general group. From our 4 year old’s perspective, it may be hard to build relationships with their peers, have fun during free time, or they may just be intimidated by the sheer size and energy of an older group of children.
Minimum and maximum age requirements are set by our camp providers after years of experience and evaluation of curriculum for their camps. Sometimes overrides are allowed, but many times, those overrides end in the child not staying for the entire session. This could be based on reasons of their own, or by the needs of the camp and the ratios that just won’t support the requirements of someone younger. Now, I bet your next response is. “What about children with different learning styles, energy or focus?” My short answer to you is that by limiting the age range, providers have a smaller sample to work with. It’s camp. It’s not school, but there are still expectations of listening and attentiveness for not only learning, but safety and cohesiveness.
Another reason why some providers won’t bend their requirements is based on maturity and skill level. Children not of the minimum age value may not have the gross motor skills or strength to be able to support the equipment provided for the camp. They may not have the fine motor skills to build or take apart their creation without excessive assistance. They may lack the experience of a classroom setting that makes it very difficult for them to sit for long periods of time.
At the end of the day, camp is supposed to be fun! Kids can learn and grow, make new friends, surround themselves with new experiences, and build memories to last a lifetime *sniff*. Camps are designed with your child in mind. Providers want to create the most predictable atmosphere to best deliver their curriculum as well as to build a positive and supportive peer environment. By selecting age ranges that best allow them to do this, is the easiest way to control the population of their camp and create harmony.
We know every child is different, but we need to hold to some standards in order to ensure a smooth ride. We know there are exceptionally talented kids in our midst as well as athletically gifted children than can outrun, outplay and outlast a child twice their size. We are serving the masses. We need to have some sort of benchmark to organize these activities or we would be holding interviews and auditions for campers to give them preferred placement.
We hope we have shed some light on the camp provider perspective. Before choosing to ask for special allowances, make sure that you take all aspects of your child’s Summer happiness into consideration.
That being said… SIGN UP TODAY!!!! YAY!