With more than 14 years of experience in the summer camp industry, you might call Ramzi Sifri a bit of a ‘camp guru.’ The Baltimore dad and Interim Director of McDonogh Summer Programs has watched camps evolve over the past decade and a half (no way would he have predicted a drone camp “flying” with parents and kids fourteen years ago!), but says the core summer camp philosophy has stayed the same:
Fun with a purpose.
That philosophy is exactly why Ramzi suggests parents consider enrolling their child in summer camp.
“Having downtime and structured time are both essential for children,” said Ramzi. “But children who are given loads of free time in the summer don’t often use their time in the creative and productive ways their parents would like. Summer camps can provide the perfect dose of structure in a lengthy summer of downtime.”
But where do you start? There are so many camp options for kids these days — speciality camps, traditional camps, academic camps, and sports camps. How do you choose the right camp experience for your child?
“That is a question many parents struggle with, including me and my wife!” chuckled Ramzi. “We want our eight-year-old son to have a fun and safe experience at camp, but we don’t want him to lose the progress he has made over the course of the academic year.”
The ideal summer experience blends fun with learning. When Ramzi and his team set out to design McDonogh’s more than 80 summer programs, they keep in mind that parents — and campers — are looking for a variety of experiences. A rich mix of programming allows campers to enjoy a different camp every week, from traditional to specialty camps (hello, circus arts!). Children are able to try new experiences as well as immerse themselves in activities that they love.
But parents shouldn’t go it alone when picking summer camps. Involving your child in the camp selection process gives them a sense of agency. Ramzi said that he and his wife review online resources and even chat with other parents about their child’s camp experiences at birthday parties. They then sit down with their son, share the different options, and discuss what he would like to do.
“Of course, my wife and I ultimately make the the decision,” said Ramzi. “Oftentimes what a child likes in December might not be what they like in June!”
Ramzi’s experience as a dad informs how McDonogh Summer Programs are run. After all, no one looks more thoroughly at a summer camp than an investigative parent.
What does your camp offer that distinguishes itself from other camps? How do you choose your summer staff? What type of support system does your camp offer in case of injury or illness? According to Ramzi, these are three important questions that parents should ask a camp before enrolling their child.
In the case of McDonogh, they offer transportation and lunch at no additional cost to campers. A huge convenience for busy families. They are lucky to have very little turnover in staff and when they do have open positions, they receive hundreds of applications. Interviews are conducted over a three month period and all staff members undergo background checks and specialized training. McDonogh Summer Programs has two full time nurses on campus at all times, stationed in a brand new infirmary.
Even when parents and campers are confident in their camp decision, that doesn’t necessarily mean those first-day jitters are less jittery.
“Oftentimes I wonder who is actually more nervous — the parent or the child?” said Ramzi.
Help alleviate anxiousness by visiting the summer camp location a few weeks prior to camp and acclimating your family with the surroundings. If your camp hosts an Open House, be sure to go! For families that might not be able to make it to campus ahead of time, the head counselors of McDonogh’s traditional camps call each parent to introduce themselves. Why? They have found that the more comfortable and prepared the entire family is, the better the experience is for the child.
Let the summer (camp) fun commence!
With a purpose, of course.
about our sponsor: mcdonogh summer programs
Fun, friendship, adventure, and discovery await children of all ages! McDonogh Summer Programs offers over 80 traditional day camps, sports clinics, arts camps, and educational programs run by experienced and caring staff. Transportation and lunch is included at no additional cost. Their beautiful 800 acre campus includes indoor/outdoor riding rings, playground areas, 20 tennis courts, extensive athletic fields, a rock-climbing tower and ropes course, a 54,000-square-foot field house, an Olympic-size pool, two batting ranges, a wrestling room, multiple computer labs and art studios, a 588-seat theatre, and more! View their 2017 Summer Programs
Photos of Ramzi Sifri by Laura Black. Camp photos provided by McDonogh Summer Programs.