By Kristen H
At different stages of development, kids can have very different needs. Younger children require a sense of security that allows them to explore the world around them and make determinations about their interests and abilities. They’re learning how things work, trying to become more independent, and have many questions that need answering. Older kids, on the other hand, who have achieved a higher degree of autonomy, yearn for the freedom to make their own decisions; they require structure and guidance. It’s important to recognize these differences and adapt for them, which is why Camp W in Melville is broken up into three divisions: Kiddie Camp, Middle Camp, and Upper Camp.
Kiddie Camp is designed for kids in pre-K through first grade. They have their own locker rooms and toys, rugs in all of the rooms, and have lunch together every day. We limit each group to no more than twelve kids and provide more specialist periods for them so that they receive a greater amount of individualized care and attention. They also get their own fields and courts, suited to their levels, a unique “Kiddie Village” to play in, and an additional couple of shows each week, with magicians and others entertainers putting giant smiles on tiny faces. Kiddie Camp kids also get two snacks a day rather than one –in the morning and again in the afternoon – since they need both the rest and the energy. Their accomplishments, meanwhile, are reflected in certificates that they receive each and every week, giving them something to feel good about and bring home to show mom and dad.
Our Middle Camp division is for boys and girls in grades 2 through 4. By this age they’re more aware of their personal interests, so they can choose with their parents two afternoon activities they’d like to do each day. They also advance to larger fields, go from using the smaller, motorized play vehicles to go-karts, and get their own late-night event, with parents able to join us for dinner (and a fine dinner it is, I might add). These camp groups are limited in size to no more than fifteen campers per group, all of whom eat outside together during lunch. We’ve found that this creates an excellent atmosphere for kids of this age bracket to make friends, as they have both the security of a smaller group and the opportunity to venture outside of it at times.
Upper Camp, for kids in grades 5 through 9, has the greatest amount of freedom. They get three choice periods in the afternoon, and they don’t need a note from their parents to switch to a different activity. They also get to decide whether or not they want to see Monday’s show or do something different. Instead of a late-night, they get a sleepover, with kids in grades 7 through 9 – our “seniors,” as we call them – receiving an additional sleepover. The seniors also go on trips to places like Splish Splash and Brownstone Park in Connecticut, and they help run our Water Carnival and end of the summer banquet. Senior groups are broken up into A and B segments, with those preferring more athletics in group A and those with different or more eclectic tastes in group B. Yet our frequent intergroup activities allow both to mix often.
Advancing from one division to the next is considered a significant step, so we have Moving Up ceremonies every year, where kids get awards. Since counselors represent their divisions, we also get some fun and friendly rivalries going on, with kids rooting on their respective representatives at certain special events.
Creating the right environment is one of the keys to ensuring a successful summer. By recognizing the various needs of children at different ages and adjusting our programs and strategies accordingly, Camp W strives to give kids an experience they’ll never forget.
By Evan Wofsy