One of my favorite summer camps as a kid was violin camp. My teacher had a bunch of us work on Corelli concertos every day for two weeks, with a concert for our parents at the end. Corelli’s music is complex and entertaining, yet reasonably easy to play for school kids. I enjoyed it, but my best friend from that camp, Jonathan Dinklage, had such a ball that he wanted to jam even during breaks, grinning away with his violin tucked under his chin. Something apparently clicked, and Jonathan went on to play professionally in hit Broadway plays, with rock bands, and his own groups. Jonathan’s even more famous brother Peter, (star of Game of Thrones), was probably doing theater camp in another part of the building.
While I still languish at the back of the ULL symphony viola section (my career aspirations lay elsewhere), summer camps and activities are important for child development and health. Not every kid will find his life’s passion like Jonathan, but they can still have fun and make summer time fly by.
Leave kids alone and bored long enough, and of course they’ll gravitate to video games. A summer of sitting at consoles, with no school schedule or work to distract them, does these kids a world of hurt. They don’t get up and move around, causing soreness, poor muscle tone, and constipation and ensuing abdominal pain. They don’t interact with their peers face-to-face, leading to isolation, loneliness, and depression. They can develop addictive behavior, wherein they’ll scream, get aggressive, and lie to avoid being torn away from their electronic cocaine.
Get to work on that summer schedule now! A great place to find opportunities is the 2019 Ultimate Guide to Summer Camps In and Around Lafayette. This website has listings for regular day camps, and camps for music, cooking, swimming, theater, science, karate, dancing, cheering, painting, sewing, and soccer. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Programs for Children and Families has academic options in science and engineering. The ULL sports programs have camps for kids too. Individual businesses, like sewing schools and swimming pools, also have their own summer programs.
As a teenager my wife worked at a summer camp in North Carolina. It was frequented by kids of wealthy New Yorkers, and many moms decked out in high heels and designer sun glasses whined about about how they couldn’t take their little darlings anymore after the long school year. Then they breathed perfumed sighs of relief, depositing their kids for the whole summer and heading to Europe.
While most of us can’t afford that kind of summer, there’s plenty of local sleep-away camps that fit most budgets. While parents like a week away from their children, it’s the kids who really benefit. They get to try out a slice of life away from home, have some freedom, get outdoor exercise, and make new friends.
As we mentioned above, spending summers home playing video games isn’t a healthy option. Those kids get weak, develop back aches, and have abdominal pain from slouching around and getting constipated. They complain of headaches from staring at screens all day (and night). They can develop addictive symptoms, screaming and lying when parents try to limit their gaming. These are preventable ailments, easily avoided by real-world physical and intellectual activity.
My favorite summer camp was Boy Scout camp (Mt. Allamuchy). During my first year at camp, at age 11, I was wracked with homesickness, but every year after I had a blast. I learned to cook, canoe, lifeguard, sail, build a tower out of tree limbs, and hung out with my friends around campfires. Overcoming homesickness was a growth experience, and I only half-joke that my leadership skills were learned with the mistakes made as a patrol leader.
Another good option is Camp Hardtner, near Pineville. It’s a church-based camp, and provides scholarships for kids whose families have financial need. Hardtner boasts 4 lakes, along with the traditional cabins, craft shacks, pool, and dining hall. Another great thing about Hardtner is that there’s no phones or other electronics allowed.
So parents and grandparents, make those summer camp plans for your kids now. Ask them what they’d like to do, either at sleep-away or day camps. It’s good for them, and fun, and while you may not get to Europe while they’re gone, maybe Grand Isle instead?