These days, however, camp must compete with the digital tether (computers, tablets, smartphones) that many kids can't bear to break. But Sheila Hinton, executive director of the Clermont Branch of the YMCA of Cincinnati, looks at it from another perspective.

"I think because (camp) is so different from what they do on a day-to-day basis, it's even more fun for them," says Hinton, who has been involved in the Y's extensive camp program for more than 20 years.

"In their regular life, they're not going outdoors, they're not having activities, there's not that room for spontaneity, for outdoor activities like we used to have like searching for tadpoles or building forts. So I think it's even more exciting for them (today)."

New Experience

Hinton makes a good point. Even though the world is rapidly changing "” or maybe because of it actually "” families enjoy shared experiences.

"Camp is a great tradition," she says. "You see that a lot where parents send their kids to the camp that they went to. It's a nice tradition for a family to start."

The YMCA offers day camps for those as young as 3, while 6-year-olds can attend Camp Ernst, the resident camp in Burlington that has been part of life for thousands of Tristate kids over the years. Each child is different, but Hinton is convinced that the experience is priceless.

"My advice to parents is to tell their kids what it is going to be like, to be away from home, to share a room or cabin with other kids," she says. "It's going to be different from home, but they are going to have so much fun and (do so many things) and be so tired.

"There's always going to be an adult or a counselor there if they need anything, and I would tell the parents to encourage the child to go to that counselor."

Sun-up to Sundown

It very likely that that counselor is a former camper who is familiar with the anxiety of a first-timer or the challenges that arise from managing a herd of kids in a place where there are available activities from before sunup to after sundown.

"The majority of (counselors) are former campers," Hinton says.

"You really want that progression. Some of them "¢ might have started as early as 3 to 6, and we want to ensure that there is something for them until they're ready to be a counselor so we never lose them.

"They can be leaders in training during the summer, then they can be a junior counselor, then a counselor. At some point, they want to give back to the camp that they enjoyed so much."

Although camp can be transformational for some, it can simply be a break from the routine for others. Whether kids use camp as a place to sharpen their skills, pursue a new interest, make new friends, or frankly, get away from the parents for a bit, there is value in the experience.

There are probably as many reasons to attend camp as there are camps to attend.

As a matter of fact, the popularity of Camp Ernst itself has spawned events outside of the regular resident camp. Over the New Year's holiday, campers and counselors spent time in Burlington to reconnect and prepare for another summer of making memories.

New Fun, New Friends

Hinton has seen the value in the camp experience. This is what she tells parents who are thinking about sending their kids to camp.

"(Your) kids' confidence will grow because they are trying new things and doing new things for the first time. They make great friends over the summer. It is a wonderful experience."

There it is, simple and succinct. In today's world, few things can match that.
 

Registration: Sooner rather than later "” book your reservation. Many camps might have openings late into spring, but there's really no reason to take the chance of being shut out.

Accreditation: The American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org) is a great online resource for research. Just because a camp isn't affiliated with ACA is not a reason to dismiss it, but the association's stamp of approval means a camp meets certain standards.

Visit: This is the best way to see if the facility and staff are a good fit for your child.

 

 
Other Camps

Many municipalities, organizations and schools offer summer camp opportunities. If your child is interested in the arts, sports, politics, or just wants to have some fun outdoors, there is a place for them in the Tristate. In the Google age, any family can find the best fit with a few keystrokes. Here are a few camps with broad appeal.

Camp Joy

The Clarksville venue partners with organizations to provide a safe place for kids and families from low-income homes, affiliated with children's services, with medical conditions or who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

www.camp-joy.org

HAMILTON COUNTY PARKS

Summer is meant to be spent outdoors and ages 4 to 17 can find something to pique their interest. From Parky's Farm at Winton Woods to Hooked on Fishing at Lake Isabella to Creepy, Crawly, Scaly, Slimy at Sharon Woods, kids can spend their days with critters of all kinds.

www.hamiltoncountyparks.org

Camp CRC

The Cincinnati Recreation Commission offers a wide variety of summer programs at its recreation centers throughout the city. Activities vary at each site, but could include arts and crafts, outdoor play time, swimming and field trips.

www.cincinnati-oh.gov/recreation

Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden offers a summer of full- and half-day programs for kids 4 to 14 who love being around animals.

www.cincinnatizoo.org

Sports

As athletics has evolved from an avocation to a serious pursuit for many youngsters, colleges have ramped up their offerings. The University of Cincinnati, Xavier, Miami, Mount St. Joseph, Northern Kentucky and Thomas More offer summer camps in many sports, some of them led by the schools' varsity coaches. In addition, many high schools have active summer programs as do sports venues.

Religious

Camp Livington in Bennington, Ind., is resident camp operated by the Cincinnati Jewish community. Activities include arts & crafts, performing arts, athletics, swimming, adventure travel and camping trips, with an emphasis on learning what it means to be Jewish in today's society. Grants and scholarships are available for campers ages 8 to 17.

www.camplivingston.com

Camp at the J

This is an 11-week program offered by the Mayerson JCC on the Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati campus in Amberley Village. It is open to kids in preschool through junior high regardless of religion or race.

www.mayersonjcc.org

Little Red School House

The early childhood education specialists offer a Summer Adventure program for kids up to 9 years old. Each day of the week has a theme that resonates with youngsters to keep them engaged.

www.lrshpreschool.com

Shakespeare

The Cincinnati Shakespeare Company specializes in works by the Bard, and so does its Shakespeare Summer Camp that offers three weeks of specialized training in June. www.cincyshakes.com