Ellison Explorers and Little Explorers Summer Camps: Mary Jane Kinkade
Every so often we conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids. We recently exchanged emails with Mary Jane Kinkade, director of Ellison Explorers and Little Explorers Summer Camps in Vineland, NJ. Mary Jane is mom of three young children and simply loves summer camp. She has very fond memories of her days at camp as a kid. She made great friends, did all sorts of crazy crafts, had the best counselors, and went on great adventures. (At least they seemed like adventures to her back then!) When The Ellison School decided to bring back its summer camp, Mary Jane volunteered to help. As Marketing Director there, she has a good feel for what makes a camp great, and she has a great time planning new and different things for the campers to do each year. Her children, of course, also weigh in on field trip choices!
With so many camps available, how can parents find the right camp for their child? Any specific advice on selecting a day camp for younger children?
My advice would be to find a place that offers both fun and learning in the summer. The trick is to squeeze in that learning without the kids even realizing it. We pride ourselves in being able to do that week after week at Ellison. As a parent, I also look for qualified and experienced staff and a facility and grounds that are both clean and safe.
What questions should a parent ask a camp?
I would ask the following:
- Who will staff the camp and what type of experience do they have?
- What’s a typical day like? (I’d want to make sure that my kids had a structured day filled with all sorts of different activities. Babysitting is not what I’d be looking for in a summer camp.)
- What themes/activities do you offer? Are they age-appropriate?
- Will there be field trips? If so, how will the kids be transported? How many staffers will attend the trips? Can parents come along too? How do you prepare when taking children with severe allergies on trips? Do you always take along emergency information?
- What are your facilities like? Do you offer inside and outside activities? Do inside activities take place in an air conditioned setting?
- Can you offer any references? Are there parents I can call to discuss their experiences?
- Do you offer before and after care?
Some kids attend as many as 10 weeks of summer camp. The summer can seem long. Any tips on preventing camp burn-out?
Offering new themes and activities each week is key to keeping campers (and their parents) happy. Parents want to know that their children are safe and having fun. Going on field trips is another way to add excitement each week. Our staff works very hard to make sure that no two weeks are ever the same. Activities, games, crafts, field trips, etc…are new and different each week.
How should parents help kids prepare for camp?
If the children are not familiar with the camp, parents may want to bring them for a tour ahead of time. While touring, the children might even be able to meet some of the staff members (as many of our year round teachers also work camp). I’d also suggest getting the kids excited about all the fun they will have by visiting the camp’s web site and/or reading its brochures. First day butterflies don’t last long at Ellison. Our staff and fellow campers are extremely welcoming…and the camp is great fun.
Tell us what is special about Ellison Explorers and Little Explorers Summer Camp Programs?
What we love most about Ellison Explorers and Little Explorers is the mix of themes and activities that are brought to life by our staff. Our staff goes above and beyond the call of duty to plan out each week. After all, they want to have fun too! They also have seemingly endless energy, which can be very contagious! Our themes, trips and activities are age appropriate and our facilities are safe and very large, giving campers lots of space to enjoy each and every day.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
At Ellison we try to be as flexible as possible by offering both full- and part-time options each week. We are proud of our camp and simply love being with the campers. Over the summer, we get very attached to “our” kids. We’re looking forward to the best summer yet at Ellison and invite you to join us!