Monday, April 30, 2012

Selecting a Summer Camp

Have you been enjoying the warm weather? Thinking summer already? School’s going to be out soon enough and that means it is time to think about summer. Many parents look to summer camps to offer a range of activities and playmates for their children during the summer.

There are two basic types of camps – day and overnight. There are camps designed to meet almost every child’s individual interests and needs – parents have lots of choices when selecting summer programs for their kids. There are camp specialists you can hire to help you choose, websites that list camps and the tried and true – ask your friends where they send their children.
Think of your child’s needs and interests when selecting a camp. What do you hope for your child to take away from a camp setting? If your child is old enough, you might want to have a conversation with them about why they want to go to camp this summer; their ideas have probably changed from last summer’s reasons.   Do a little homework and you’ll find that there are themed camps to meet so many interests – camps that cater to age-groups, learning needs, sports and arts.

Camps should be licensed (in MA camps are licensed through the local board of health department) and have a set counselor to camper ratio. Camps are not required to hire teachers, and often just insist that the e camp leader be a few years older than the oldest camper. Camps often have daily and weekly schedules of activities. Camps run for different lengths – usually by the week, session or month.

Our friends at Home/Health & Child Care Services shared some great
resources for finding the right camp for your child with us. These include their
own FREE referral service – call 1-877-898-1667 or online at  There is also the American Camp Association at or if your child has special needs, check out the Federation
for Children with Special Needs Summer Fun 2012 guide:  

Of course we would be remiss if we didn't mention the Children's Museum'
very own Summer Mini Camps!  They are a great "first time" camp experience
for your littlest ones or a wonderful chance to dig deeper into a great theme
for your older child. Here is the link to all of this summer's awesome

With so many choices and ideas to consider it is probably time to start
planning for the summer  - before you hear the “…but I’m bored…” the day
after school lets out!
Jane Rotondi has a Master’s degree in Special Education, a 
Child Development Associate certification and holds additional teaching 
certificates in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. She is
the Museum’s Outreach Manager and Director of Summer Camps. You
can contact her at

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Make an Earth Day Splash

With Earth Day approaching and our area experiencing near drought conditions, now is the perfect time to teach your child some simple ways to “Save the Earth”, starting with a tangible resource your child uses every day, water.

For starters, help your child realize just how much we use water every day. Young children may only think of really obvious uses, such as drinking or bathing. As you go about your day, challenge your child to notice when you use water: doing laundry, washing dishes, and see what else she comes up with. When outside, notice all the plants and animals that need water as well as its other uses such as washing the car, filling the pool, or even for birds to take a bath.

Next, help your child realize how he or she can help conserve water. One very simple idea that I use in my home is instead of dumping the rest of our water bottles and drinking glasses from dinner down the drain, we use that water to fill the dog’s water bowl and water the plants. We try to remember to turn off the tap while brushing our teeth and turn down the water pressure when soaping up in the shower. Try this: Have your child plug the drain while taking a shower so he or she can observe how much water he uses. Do it again for his next shower, but have him challenge himself to use less.

Take advantage of the lovely spring weather and go for a walk along a nearby pond or stream. The NRT of Easton’s Sheep Pasture has a nice little pond where you can see turtles, frogs, ducks, dragonflies, and plants. You may have a stream in your neighborhood, or try a Massachusetts State Park. Talk about all the plants and animals that need the water. If you can get close to the water, you can make an underwater scope to see what lives under the water too.

Then notice any trash around the water. Talk about what could be harmed by this trash. Could birds or fish eat it, or get tangled up in it? If it is safe, we try to put on some rubber gloves and dispose of the trash in a proper container. The kids always feel good about helping the animals and plants who make this area their home. Remind your child that even litter that is not near the water can eventually make its way to the river by wind or rainstorms, so it is important not to litter anywhere. Even in their small way, kids can make a big difference.

For more Earth Day fun, don’t miss the Museum’s Earth Day/animal related creative movement with Mariah Bradbury on Thursday April 19 at 10 & 11 AM. Or stop by The Children’s Museum’s Wild Place any other Thursday afternoon, 1:30-2:15, through the end of May for "A Wild Time", where we will be exploring nature through science experiments and crafts.

Michelle VanVoorhis is a mom, a licensed elementary school teacher, educator at the Children's Museum where she teaches Summer Mini Camps and many drop-in programs through the year, including "A Wild Time". She contributes to the Museum's blog on a regular basis.