By Helen Berni & Stephany Olivieri, Co-Directors of River Friends Day Camp at the Shames JCC on the Hudson
Why is camp so important for a preschooler? For one, it may be their first experience of what will become a lifetime of summers at camp. For others, camp may be their first experience of a truly structured day away from their parents before starting school. And for everyone, camp is fun! It’s exciting, engaging, and packed with new adventures every minute. Even something as small as sharing a snack with a friend, or climbing to the top of the slide for the first time, camp provides a foundation for development and growth—which promotes success in school and beyond.
“This year our focus is creation of experiences that are truly unique to camp and exciting for children. We are partnering with professional musicians; setting up STEM challenges with the leading STEM program in the world; designing theme days and field days; building new structures for water-play; bringing in a sensei for karate; and even incorporating mindfulness activities like yoga into the summer,” says Helen Berni, Co-Director at River Friends Day Camp in Tarrytown.
And now more than ever, the benefits of camp are amplified. This year, many young children were exclusively at-home with one or more caregivers. Some children connected with a few others in a “pod” set-up that rotated from one family’s home to another or attended school or daycare in a “bubble” or “closed cohort” model—limiting a child’s interaction with a large circle of people. Fun activities like birthday parties, sports, dance, and family vacations were largely canceled. Camp connects children with peers, resets children’s social dynamics to foster fresh, new relationships and acts as a gentle “on-ramp” to re-engaging in activities outside a home environment.
Stephany Olivieri, Co-Director of River Friends Day Camp adds, “It is virtually impossible for a child to gain these unique camp experiences at school or at home. It is so satisfying to see a group of young children work together to complete a relay race; their faces glow as they cheer on their friends and you know they really feel a sense of camaraderie. And watching a group of 4-year-olds meditate is truly awesome! The children watch and emulate each other, creating a shared sense of calm, peaceful energy – definitely remarkable! Camp kids go home with smiles and can’t wait to tell their parents all about their days.”
Let camp be your child’s favorite place to be this summer and enable them to experience new activities, gain confidence, and develop independence. Children practice determination and take pride in accomplishing goals like climbing to the top of the playground or helping their team play a game. And maybe your child will discover something new about themselves—perhaps your child will find that they love cooking and gardening (and you may gain a new helper in your garden at home!). And fInally, let’s face it—the past year has been anything but fun and we all need some levity. Camp actively invites campers and counselors to be silly and laugh. Camp is for lightning up with spontaneous dance parties, bubbles, making funny faces, and sharing jokes! Having made it through this past year, this is the summer to find a camp program you are comfortable with and to reacquaint your child with fun!
Contact Helen Berni and Stephany Olivieri, co-directors at [email protected]