By Tammy Scileppi
The warm bright days of summer seem far away, but they’re too close for comfort if you’re a parent who is wondering: What do we do with the kids once school is over?
Summertime has a special meaning for youngsters. It’s a time to unwind, daydream and forget about schoolwork until the fall. And when you’re young, it seems to last forever.
But for grownups, it’s mostly business as usual. And the summer months always seem to go by way too quickly, unless the kids are home and bored…and then they don’t go by fast enough.
That’s one big reason why summer camp is a great option. Whichever program you choose – and Queens has plenty of offerings that will suit your needs and budget – your kids and teens will soon discover that getting involved in camp activities is way cooler than spending time on those addictive devices and video games.
Beyond sports and swimming, specialty camps offer programs that stimulate creativity and instill a love for learning. Think music, dance, drama, science and even robotics. And going to camp definitely beats those ‘just hangin’ around, doing nothin’ and ‘sometimes getting into trouble,’ blues. In fact, new studies show that physical activity and socializing help youngsters who are feeling depressed. That’s also true for adults.
In addition, recent research suggests that the camp experience can enhance your kids’ and teens’ overall well-being and development, and that children who struggle with challenging conditions seem to do better when they participate in specialized summer programs that cater to their individual needs and help boost their self-esteem and learning abilities.
“Many specialty camps focus on providing the structure and routine, skills, and emotional support to help children develop essential skills through fun experiences,” said Forest Hills-based school and clinical psychologist Kristina Wong Thies, Ph.D., who specializes in children and adolescents (pediatric neuropsychology and learning disabilities).
That type of environment is especially important for youngsters with ADHD, for example. “The summer months are a time for children to cultivate and nurture skills, particularly executive functioning skills,” said Wong. She explained that those with attentional vulnerabilities and emotional difficulties have a tough time mastering these skills, which often include organization, planning, inhibiting behavior, regulating emotions, being flexible, and monitoring one’s own behavior, among others. And those skills are crucial for children’s success in school and beyond.
According to Wong, “The academic demands of school hinder the opportunities to develop these EF skills.” However, a positive camp experience can benefit these kids by helping them carry these skills with them into September and be ready for school.
In a recent article about ADHD and EF, Jerome Schlultz, Ph.D., points out that “efficient executive functioning is critical to all human behaviors.”
He explains that “regardless of the amount of EF potential a child has (and this is not something that we know how to measure yet), the degree to which all children develop these abilities depends on the nature and quality of the experiences they have during infancy, throughout childhood, and into adulthood.”
So, it seems that memorable and exciting summer camp adventures can make a difference in your children’s lives as they learn how to navigate their world.
And when kids become campers, parents and caretakers usually benefit as well, because they don’t have to constantly try to figure out ways to keep the youngins entertained. Plus they can have peace of mind knowing they don’t have to worry about what their teens and adolescents are up to when they’re not around.
These days specialty camps abound and have become extremely popular with parents who would like their children to pursue their unique interests and whatever they’re good at early on. You’ll find a cornucopia of programs aimed at enriching kids’ and teens’ summer months, with curriculums that are designed to boost their social and emotional, as well as physical, language, and cognitive skills. And many offer affordable tuition.
Each well-rounded, individualized learning program is targeted at specific talents and abilities, so future basketball stars and engineers, budding starlets and tech wizards, up-and-coming musical sensations and soon-to-be-famous artists can get a head start on their future careers. Or just have fun finding themselves.
Teachers and staff at these camps provide a rich, supportive and happy environment, where children of all ages can create, explore, and discover new things, while they grow emotionally, socially, and academically.
“Further, camps help children’s brains and mindsets to stay ‘on track’ – whether it be through routines or through camp curriculum,” said Wong. “Some camps offer fun school work, which prevents children from forgetting academic skills that were learned within the past year. Some children may need extra remediation, and the summer is a great time for children to boost their fluency skills (i.e. multiplication facts).”
All summer camps can help youngsters develop their social skills, especially if they’ve had a tough time making friends at school, and if they were bullied or perhaps bullies themselves.
Wong said many children can benefit from learning how to be a good friend, i.e., reading social cues and developing skills for solving interpersonal problems.
She added: “In my experience, children who continue to follow a routine throughout the summer, either in camps or schedules set at home, have an easier time readjusting to school in the fall.”
Here’s a sampling of specialty camps in the borough that may be a good fit for your child. Remember that he or she should be part of the decision-making process, if possible.
At local specialty camps, lucky campers can explore the arts and much more, learn important team skills, while playing a variety of sports, and get ready for the future, with intriguing technology programs or stimulating academics.
All Star Studios (For future performers)
108-21 72nd Ave. (4th fl.), Forest Hills
Sign up now for summer classes–limited space available.
Theatre Arts Center New York
222-05 56th Ave., Bayside
Contact: Robert Laconi
Three great programs for youth and teens to explore Acting, Musical Theater, Dance and the Performing Arts in a supportive, and creative camp atmosphere, with all the benefits of being in the Theater Capital of the World.
Ivy Day School
65-01 Kissena Blvd. Flushing
70-44 Kissena Blvd. Flushing
104-70 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills
Art and creativity, music and dance for ages 2-5. Essential skills for a lifetime of achievements with fun, stimulating activities. Along with access to computer, art and indoor playrooms, kids learn English, math, science, foreign language, social studies, music, and dance.
Rainbow Child Development Center
250-21 Northern Blvd., Little Neck
77-40 164th St., Fresh Meadows
133-20 Avery Ave, Flushing
132-25 Pople Ave, Flushing
Academically challenging, high-quality early childhood programs. Register now for the new summer NYC Gifted and Talented prep program.
36-35 Bell Blvd. LL102, Bayside
Kids can sing, dance, enjoy hands-on experiments, or become chess masters…etc., while improving their cognitive skills, developing character strengths, expanding their creativity and becoming global citizens. Summer academic camp (K-5), and more.
NYU Summer Program for Kids
At The College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle
Enrollment is limited.
The only seven-week, therapeutic day program in the NY area for children ages 7-11 with ADHD. The program is designed to improve children’s self-esteem and help them build confidence in the social, academic, and team sports situations. It also helps children with ADHD and behavior disorders improve classroom behavior, sports competence, rule following, and frustration tolerance, as well as friendship, coping, and problem-solving skills.
The program addresses three key components of a child’s life—home, academics, and recreation environments. Our methods are grounded in the latest research, and our clinical psychologists continually evaluate the program to help each child. Clinical psychologists and qualified teachers supervise undergraduate and graduate-level counselors. Our staff-to-child ratio is 1 to 1.5. The program is directed by Karen Fleiss, Ph.D., a nationally renowned clinical psychologist and expert in the treatment of children with ADHD.
Appletree Day Care Center
73-20 Bell Blvd., Bayside
73-12 197th St., Fresh Meadows
Using developmentally appropriate practices, the camp helps kids succeed socially and academically, (from infants through pre-K)
Lana’s Gymnastic Summer Camps
71-25 Main St., Flushing
Queens Gymnastics Camp
106-06 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills
Christ The King Summer Camps
68-02 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village
Four exciting summer camps for all ages and interests: Soccer, basketball, cheerleading, dance, drama, karate, cooking, arts, water slides. On-site math and ELA programs available. Come for a week or the whole summer!
Samuel Field Y Day Camp
58-20 Little Neck Parkway
Little Neck, NY
Phone – 718.225.6750
Teen Programs (8th-11th Grade); Programs for Children with Special Needs; Tween Camps (6th & 7th Grade); Elementary Camps (K-5th Grade); Nursery Camp.
33-16 79th St., Jackson Heights
Try a different creative theme activity each week. Optional extended day, door-to-door transportation, and flexible three, four, or five days per week available, full- and half-days.