Choosing a Summer Camp

Before you know it your kids will be on summer vacation, something they seem to wait all year for. What a great day that last day of school is when they know they will have off for the next several months. Unfortunately this “vacation high” doesn’t last long and soon you hear “Mom, there is nothing to do.”

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Many parents send their kids to summer camp to help alleviate this boredom. In addition to alleviating kids boredom, summer camps serve to teach kids such life skills as leadership, self-esteem and confidence.

Summer camps also provide an excellent environment for kids to learn new skills, get involved in new activities and to make new friends. With so many summer camps out there, all appearing to have something unique to offer, how do you know which is the right summer camp for your child?

Before you start looking at camps you should talk to your child and know their expectations. Are they hoping to learn some special skill like football (football camp) or maybe they have an interest in science and physics (science and math camps, NASA camp etc.) or maybe their interest is with horses.

Whatever their interest is there is a camp for them.  While it is good to let their interests guide you, don’t make your decision based solely on that. Make sure you send them to a camp that they are going to get something out of.

If your child does not have a lot of experience being away from home or staying overnight away from home, day camp is a good place to start. These are local and you can keep a closer eye as to what is going on at camp.

It keeps your child busy and allows them to meet new kids while sleeping in the safety of home. Day camp is perfect for a child who has never been to camp and is just warming up to the whole camp idea. They even have half day camps for younger children who are not quite ready for an entire day.

Overnight camp usually starts when a child is about seven if they are ready. These camps are great for kids who have outgrown the local day camp, who are ready to be independent and have had some overnight experience.

The big question is, “Are you ready for them to be away for a week?” Whether you decide on day camp or resident camp there are tons of camps for almost any interest.

Although you may not have the money to send your kid to camp, some camps offer financial aid and scholarships. If you can, start a camp fund for your kids as soon as possible. Maybe their grandparents can give money as a reward when they get a good grade.

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Some camps give discounts for multiple kids at one camp, for registering early and some offer payment plans. After getting a general list of camps you are interested in, start doing research to decide on the best one.

Talk to parents in the area and see if they have any ones they have found good enough to recommend. Once you have a short list of camps you should call them and ask questions.

  • How many campers for each counselor?
  • How is staff hired, screened and trained?
  • How many campers have returned the following year after camping there?
  • Do kids experience separation anxiety, and if so what do you do?
  • Is there someone to make sure they take their medicine?
  • What are the ages of the counselors?
  • Is there a daily schedule that my child will follow? What is that like?
  • Do you have safety and medical procedures in place? What are they?
  • How do you handle conflict between the campers?
  • What types of discipline do you use?
  • What types of children do well at your camp?

Questions for overnight camps

  • Will my child need money for anything?
  • What type of food do you serve?
  • Do they get three meals a day?
  • How is laundry done?
  • What is a sample menu?
  • Can I send my child care packages?
  • Do kids keep their cell phones?
  • Will my child be allowed to talk to me if they need to?

Before you make your final decision make sure it is accredited by the American Camp Association and try to visit the camp if is close enough to do so.

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