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As summer approaches, so does the excitement of outbound summer camps, i.e. camps that are usually a week long, organised by professional groups in locations away from main cities. If your children have already been to one, there is no doubt they must be hounding you to enrol them in another one this summer. But for the large numbers of parents dealing with the dilemma of outstation camps, we bring you an overview of the five key benefits of these camps and also some tips on how to choose an organiser. To help you make a more informed choice, do also take a look at our list of the leading adventure camp organisers in the country.
1. The physical activity and distance from gadgets: For today’s generation, this is perhaps the best reason for them to get away for a few days. With so many distractions and digital means of entertainment, children are spending most of their leisure time indoors, usually on digital gadgets and virtual worlds. But not at camp, where they will be kept physically occupied all day long with ‘real’ activities. And with no device to plug in, they will still be left with enough time for unstructured play and making friends. “For seven days, children do not have access to any digital gadget and they do not miss it at all. Consider this an Annual Digital Detox, that is imperative for all urban children,” says Nalini Dhariwal, Director Youreka.
2. The confidence building and overcoming fears: Being given new challenges every day and also the independence to work them out on their own, these not experiences children go through in their daily school routines. Every problem solved and every obstacle conquered is a huge accomplishment for children and boosts their confidence higher like nothing else could. Surrounded as they are with their peers trying out new things and supportive instructors, children are encouraged to break out of their fears and go with the flow, not wanting to be left out of anything. The activities are plenty and children always find something of their interest and enjoy the satisfaction of completing it successfully.
3. The enhancement of life skills: For the duration of the camp children are taking their own decisions, managing their belongings, working hard at getting along with others and learning how to achieve best results as a team. All this contributes to building valuable life skills that will stay with children for a long time - independence, responsibility, social skills, teamwork just to name a few. Kushal Soni from Inme gives some insight into this, “Young children come out of their comfort zone to undertake different types of challenges and when the going gets tough, they do feel like quitting. But they persevere and succeed giving a huge boost to their self belief. In our debrief after the camp, we make sure that some transference takes place by going through what they learnt while on camp and what they can take back to their daily lives.”
4. The sensitisation to nature: Most camps are located unobtrusively in the midst of nature and encourage children to experience the best of their natural surroundings. Says Tanvi Thatte, CEO Pugmarks, ‘We have a strict policy of Leave No Trace’ for every camp we conduct and children understand and implement that principle so easily and in fact even take this learning back home. One father wrote to us about how his son does not let him throw around cigarette butts carelessly any longer.”
5. Making friends: When you are out of your comfort zone, the bonding with others in a similar situation is undoubtedly strong. Children come back in the same group for more experiences with their friends or even opt for new groups to make new friends.
If this has helped to convince you in favour of outstation camps, it is only the first step ahead. Your most important task will be to select the right organiser and that will involve some research and decision making, and the sooner you get started the better. Here are some questions you must ask before making this important choice.
1. Is the organiser reputed? Read up as much as you can about the promoters, instructors, their experience and expertise and make sure you speak to parents whose children have been to their camps before.
2. What is the camp’s staff-to-child ratio? An acceptable ratio would be one instructor per 10 children of ages 12 and above but it should be lower for younger children.
3. What measures does the camp take to ensure the safety and hygiene of the participants? Ask detailed questions about their arrangements for fire protection, equipment maintenance, sleeping areas, bathing/toilet facilities, etc.
4. What activities does the camp offer? Ask for a sample daily schedule.
5. What arrangement do they have for food? Ask about hygiene in food preparation and service areas, also for a sample menu.
6. How does the staff deal with issues like homesickness, bullying, depression, lack of confidence, motivation etc?
7. What kind of health care facility/staff is available to the children? Is there a doctor and emergency vehicle available on the campsite?
8. Through the duration of the camp, what is the system of communication with parents? Can children speak to the parents and vice versa, if required?
9. If your child will not have a friend in the camp, ask if you can connect with other participants and let them meet and get familiar with each other before the camp. It will also help you to discuss any apprehensions with another parent.
10. Do not base your decision on phone conversations and the organiser’s website alone. Do visit their office and meet the key people involved to gauge their credibility. Make sure the payment transaction is also done through reliable means.
Also, check out the other interesting summer camps happening in your city.