LONGMONT, Colo. – Snow is still on the ground in much of Colorado, and for some school districts, spring break hasn’t started yet. Nonetheless, educators say it’s not too early to start thinking about summer camp for children – including day camps for the under-5 set.
Many of the facilities for Colorado’s littlest students offer preschool only during the academic year. Carol Wickham, educational services coordinator at the Tiny Tim Center in Longmont, said parents call her every day, looking for options.
“I think that during the summer months, many, many parents are looking for something that’s going to continue to encourage the child to learn,” she said, “or so that they don’t go backwards.”
At the Tiny Tim Center, the summer program will feature project-based learning, where children will grow vegetables in their own gardens. Programs in other communities include dance, art, swimming and even “princess” lessons at local recreation centers – or, in the community of Niwot, a first-ever community-school-based monthlong preschool program.
Niwot Elementary School preschool teacher Hannah Sigg said it isn’t necessary for summer preschool camps to focus on academic drills for children.
“The academic skills that we acquire in preschool are certainly very important,” she said, “but I really feel like the social skills is what they can lose during the summer.”
Wickham said research shows project-based learning, such as the Tiny Tim Center garden, helps children academically as well as socially.
“It’s a great to incorporate science in a very fun way,” she said, “so they can hypothesize what might happen if we plant a seed outside in the sunlight and we water it, compared to if we plant a seed and we put it in the closet and don’t water it.”
Wickham said children will not only learn how to plant and take care of the garden, but also what to do with the vegetables once they’re harvested.