What’s in an Age? Dissecting the Science of Camp Age Requirements.

Camp Organizers have a tough job. They are trying to coordinate activities 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 allow campers the ability to thrive in their camp environment. They have done their best to design parameters for their programs with the hope that all will be harmonious once camp starts.

burnoutNow, fast forward to Springtime Wintertime, when parents are desperately trying to find interesting and fun camp activities for their kids, as well as organize the logistics of pick-ups, drop-offs, maybe a vacation, and let’s be honest, keep their sanity. We realize that multiple children come with multiple logistics. Then, once you think have it figured out, 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) the top 14 most difficult LEGO™ sets of late. You pick up the phone to voice your concerns. Some common parent comments are: My child is very mature for his ageHe loves older kidsI need a longer day for them, Can’t you just add her in there?  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.

Here’s some perspective. Let’s say you have a 10 year old who 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 the registration ages of who actually enrolls will vary. We could have three 11 year olds, ten 9 year olds, a couple of 6 year olds and then someone has requested their 4-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 the 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, keep the pace, or they may just be intimidated by the sheer size and energy of an older group of children.

AdobeStock_89941621-495x400Minimum 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, we bet your next response is, “What about children with different learning styles, energy or focus?” Our 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, cohesiveness, and social interaction.

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 and stamina of a classroom setting that makes it very difficult for them to focus on a topic for a longer period of time than they are used to.

019_19At 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. 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, it 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… CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED!!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.