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Snowy Day? Work on Summer Plans for the Kids!

Although the D.C. weather might make us believe otherwise, spring is less than 60 days away. This means that summer — with all of its sunshine, warmth, and dreams of lazy days — is right behind it.

For families, figuring out how your child will spend their summer (and it’s nearly two and a half months of unstructured days) may be as anxiety-producing as planning a wedding. You have questions and concerns about finding the right program and the best ways to “keep them busy.” You may be asking yourself:

  • Should we set goals for them over the summer?
  • Should we find trees to climb or begin piano lessons?
  • Should they have fun or learn?
  • Should we bring a tutor to the beach?

All kidding aside, these are great questions with substantiated concerns. There is quite a lot of evidence regarding “summer slump,” the loss of math and reading skills over the summer when children are not in school. Research suggests that children who participate in summer reading programs and activities that engage cognitive skills perform better in the fall than those who don’t.

This doesn’t mean an end to summer camp for school-age kids. On the contrary, there are so many wonderful programs that give older children both the benefit of summer camp and the ongoing stimulation their growing brains need. If you are considering an overnight camp, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) runs nearly 20 camps across the country, with options that include traditional overnight experiences as well as camps that specialize in the creative arts, science and tech, and sports. See page nine in the February issue of the WHC Journal for more information about the benefits of sending your child to a Jewish summer camp. Regardless of what type of summer experience you choose for your older child, look for programs that speak to your child’s interests, and if warranted, supplement them with your school’s reading list or a family book club. Children who are excited to learn become lifelong learners.

When it comes to younger children — toddlers through preschoolers — research and common knowledge reinforce that play sets the stage for math, science, social, language, and creative learning. Playing with peers increases a child’s esteem while offering them age-appropriate lessons in all areas of learning. Seek out summer programs that allow ample time for play and discovery. Camp should allow outside time for daydreaming, digging in the dirt, watching a bug, splashing endlessly in water, as well as time indoors to listen to great stories, create stage plays, build sets, learn about new cultures, sing silly camp songs, and of course, engage in lots of messy art!

At Washington Hebrew, our Camp Keetov programs are built around the idea that children learn best when they are with their friends and are doing what they love. Camp Keetov, with campuses at both Temple and the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center, has special age-appropriate activities, games, music, messy art, mud, and lots of water play! We also bring field trips to Camp through visiting performers and programs. This summer at Camp Keetov all of this will happen as the campers explore our big, wide, wonderful world. Each week, campers will “travel” to a different country and explore culture through food, architecture, dance, and customs.

Camp Keetov, like our Early Childhood Centers, gives children a sense of belonging and encourages them to be themselves. Camp Keetov has always been fun, and fun makes memories that last. We have had so many former campers come back to work at Camp Keetov as counselors when they are on college break. And after they graduate, some continue and become treasured group leaders. Hearing the memories that the young adults share about their preschool camp experiences, friends, and teachers reinforces how special summers at Camp Keetov are.

As you look at summer programs for your young child, we encourage you to think about their interests and their need for social experiences. If you are looking for a camp, find a place that lets them be young! Send them to a camp that encourages them to play with their friends and explore. Play and exploration are learning, and summer is the best time of year to play and explore.