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It’s Time to Think Camp

Summer is just around the corner, which means it’s time for parents to find something to keep the kids occupied until the school bell rings in August.

Thankfully, Tampa Bay is chock-full of camp options that meet both the interests of children and the scheduling needs of parents. While the options are plentiful, there is much to take in consideration when finding the right camp experience for your child. 

Knowing the Benefits of Camp

Before beginning the camp search, it’s important to understand the importance of camp. While parents often look to summer camp to keep kids supervised during the school-free days, camp is much more than just another childcare option. Experts agree that camp is essential to the education of the whole child, offering fundamental life lessons such as leadership, teamwork, empathy and problem solving. “Camp is just one of the many components of youth development. Camp is like a classroom without walls where kids learn in a different way than they do in the more structured settings of school and daycare,” said Katie Johnson, southeastern field office executive director with the American Camp Association.

The benefits of camp are many. Below are just a few of the reasons camp is good for kids:

Camp keeps kids active. According to surveys by both the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an American child is six times more likely to play a videogame on any given day than to ride a bike. The variety of activity that fills the camp day keeps kids away from the screen and on the move.

Camp fosters independence. Camp offers the perfect opportunity for kids to manage their daily choices in a nurturing environment without parents and teachers guiding every move.

Camp helps prevent summer brain drain. Research indicates that participation in intentional programs, like camp, helps reduce summer learning losses. The experiences at camp foster problem-solving skills that will carry over into the school year.

Camp lets kids try out new skills. Camp gives children the chance to break free from everyday expectations and try new skills in an environment that has no grading scale. The laid-back atmosphere at camp offers the ideal setting for kids to discover and develop the things they truly enjoy.

Camp reinforces the art of communication. In our technology-laden society, kids tend to communicate more through texts and tweets than through social interaction. Camp encourages kids to put down the gadgets and rely on communication that is based on teamwork and cooperative play.

Understanding Different Types of Camps

Camp offerings are as varied as the millions of children who attend camp each summer. Summer camps generally fall into three categories: traditional day camp, specialty day camp and resident camp.

Traditional day camps offer an affordable and well-rounded option for parents looking to sign their child up for a full summer or just a week here and there. Traditional day camps offer a wide variety of activities throughout the day and often incorporate field trips. We are fortunate to have three wonderful traditional day camp programs right in our own back yard: The Westchase Swim and Tennis Center Camp tennis and activity camps and the summer camp offered through the Westchase Recreation Center.

The Westchase Swim and Tennis Center’s two camps offer weekly full-day and half-day options. The days are jam-packed with swimming, arts and crafts, traditional camp games, as well as a weekly field trip. Discounts are offered to Westchase residents. The Westchase Recreation Center summer camp is offered in two-week sessions and the days are filled with activities including nature exploration, fitness, sports, crafts, reading and field trips.

Specialty day camps are those that focus on a specific activity with the intent of allowing campers to increase their knowledge and proficiency in it. Specialty camps are on the rise and there is a camp for practically every interest imaginable – from musical theater to flag football and everything in between. Many specialty camps will also include more traditional camp activities, but the main focus is on the activity at hand. 

Resident camps (or what used to be known as sleep away camps) are designed for campers staying at camp from several days up to eight weeks. Campers sleep overnight in cabins, tents or dorms and participate in a variety of supervised activities. For children who fair well away from home, resident camps offer the ultimate lesson in building independence and autonomy. Like their day-camp counterparts, resident-camp themes run the gamut from dedicated sports camps to music camps to the more traditional rustic camp experience. Choosing to send a child away for a week, or even an entire summer, can be overwhelming, and the American Camp Association’s Find a Camp feature (http://www.acacamps.org/findacamp) is a great place to start. Because camps accredited through the ACA meet up to 300 standards for health, safety, and program quality, you can rest assured your child will be in good hands. 

Finding the Right Camp

While budget and proximity to work and home are important factors to consider during the decision-making process, the interests and personality of the child must also be taken into consideration. “Camp is so much more successful when the child has a say in the decision,” Johnson said. 

Of course, safety is always at the top of every parent’s list of priorities when turning their child over to someone else’s care. “The core elements of the health and safety of the kids always need to be a part of the camp experience,” Johnson added.

A well-run camp should be readily able to answer questions regarding its staff-to-camper ratio, procedures that are in place should a child become sick and what background checks are required for camp staff. A quality camp should also be able to supply a list of camp parents who are willing to share their experiences with the camp. For a complete list of questions to ask when researching new camps, visit http://www.acacamps.org/campers-families

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Making Camp More Affordable

A great camp experience does not come cheap, but there are ways to make camp more affordable.

Assistance offered from camps: Check with the camp of your choice to find out if they offer special discounts – for everything from early registration, multiple weeks or multiple enrollments from one family. Parents should also investigate scholarships or “camperships” offered by many camps and not simply assume their income doesn't qualify.

Assistance offered from the U.S. government: A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account offers tax savings by allowing parents to pay for childcare or adult dependent care expenses that are necessary to allow them to work, look for work or attend school full-time with pre-tax money. Visit http://www.fsafeds.com for more information.

Furthermore, through the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, the IRS allows an income tax credit on dependent care expenses. The amount of the credit is based on adjusted gross income and applies only to your federal taxes. This can apply to qualifying day camp expenses as well. Visit http://www.irs.gov/ for more information.

With the right amount of research and planning, summer camp can be a wonderful experience that will provide your child with memories and skills that will last a lifetime. Happy camping!

By Karen Ring

Summer Camp Summaries 2018

WOW thanks the following summer camps for helping to bring you the Summer Camp Special.

Adventures in Engineering
(813) 454-3115
Each week AIE campers will gain a hands-on STEM education! While practicing teamwork and innovative thinking, they will perform exciting engineering design and technology challenges.

AGA Westchase
813-551-2144
Full and half-day summer camps and enrichments offered. Check our website for programs and registration! Visit http://www.agawestchase.org or email frbolanos@agabroward.org.

Berkeley Summer Programs
(813) 885-1673
With over 100 unique camps and classes, Berkeley has something for everyone: sports, fine arts, enrichment, and academic credit courses. Many new tech offerings! June 4-July 27. Visit http://www.berkeleyprep.org/summer

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CAMP IDS at Corbett Prep
(813) 961-3087
Over 100 full- and half-day camps. PreK3-high school. June 11-July 27. Before- and after-care. Bus service. Fine arts, engineering, academics, technology, languages, cooking and more. Visit http://www.corbettprep.com

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Carrollwood Cultural Center
(813) 922-8167
Through art, music, dance and drama campers ages 4-12 will explore a different theme each week in a creative and safe environment. June 4-Aug. 10. Visit http://www.carrollwoodcenter.org

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Hillsborough Academy of Math and Science
(813) 793-6085
Join us at Hillsborough Academy of Math and Science for eight weeks of summer adventure, excitement and tons of fun! All age groups K- 8! Contact: bmatos@hillsboroughacademy.com.

In The Breeze Horse Academy, Inc.
(813) 264-1919
Not for profit academy. All we do is horses. Our 25th year. "Any day the children are not in school, is camp day at ITB." Theme: swimming with the horses.

Mary Jo’s Performing Arts Academy
(813) 969-0240
Explore the world of performing arts. Dance, sing, and act with our professional instructors. Half/full-day camps, boys bootcamp, musical production, ballet intensives. Evening classes available!

Northwest Hillsborough Family YMCA
(813) 249-8510
Get ready for the best summer ever! Our fun-filled camp options allow campers from preschool age to teens to enjoy sports, arts and crafts, swimming, games and more! http://www.tampaymca.org/bestsummerever

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Smart Start Pre Prep Summer Camp
(813) 855-7333
Our summer camp includes all meals, three field trips per week, an 1,800-sq.-foot game room, a large outdoor playground and fun, weekly educational themes.

West Tampa Wolves Lacrosse
(813) 600-9993
Summer lacrosse? Look no further than West Tampa Wolves Lacrosse Camp, focusing on an introduction to lacrosse as well as skills development. http://www.wtwolves.com for dates!

Westchase Activity Camp
(813) 855-0662
Want your children to enjoy a safe, fun summer right here in Westchase? Come join us for swimming, arts and crafts, field trips, games and sports activities.

Westchase Tennis Camp
(813) 855-0662
Learn the fundamentals of tennis through an action-packed week that will excite your child and inspire them toward a tennis-fitness lifestyle. Serving beginner players through the most advanced players.

The listings on these pages represent paid advertisements in conjunction with the Summer Camp Special. Paid advertising is not an endorsement by WOW, Inc. Interested residents should contact the camp directors and ask all relevant questions prior to engaging their services.

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